Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sacred art history through its proper lens: the liturgy

CHIESA, Sandro Magister: An American in Florence Rewrites Italian Sacred Art

In three large volumes, two millennia of Christian art are recounted for the first time in their original context: the liturgy. The author of the work is Timothy Verdon: the art historian whom Benedict XVI wanted at his side during the last synod of bishops

[Excerpts from the piece:]

"A solely aesthetic analysis of Christian art is misleading. Christian art is not made for the museums, but for the liturgy. An altar screen can be understood only if it is viewed together with the Eucharist celebrated on that same altar.

For example, why is it that in so many ancient churches, the altar is flanked on the one side by the archangel Gabriel making his annunciation, and on the other side by Mary who is responding to this, with the divine dove up above in the center?

The reply is simple: every time the Mass is celebrated, what the figures show in images is carried out on the altar at the center. The Son of God is announced again, and becomes truly present among men “by the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Thanks to the celebration of the Eucharist, the three images take on life in a way that is unimaginable for those who look at them apart from the sacramental rite.

Timothy Verdon, "L'arte cristiana in Italia. 1. Origini e Medioevo [Christian Art in Italy. 1. Origins and the Middle Ages]", San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo, 2005, 400 pp., 99 euro.

Timothy Verdon, "L'arte cristiana in Italia. 2. Rinascimento [Christian Art in Italy. 2. The Renaissance]", San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo, 2006, 400 pp., 100 euro

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