Friday, June 24, 2016

Dominican School Offers Formation for Artists- Now Including Sacred Geometry and English Gothic Illumination Practicum

Here is a reminder (with some additional details) of a four-course certificate intended as a formation for artists in any creative discipline. It is an exciting new course offered by the The Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, which is part of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley University in California. The Certificate in Theological Studies is a Master’s level, four-course (12-unit) certificate which is recommended for those who already have a working knowledge of a specific medium (visual arts, music, architecture etc.), and wish to increase their expertise with a specialized focus in the relationship of the fine arts to Catholic worship and culture. These courses are open to people not otherwise studying at the DSPT.

The new information is that I have been invited to teach the elective in the Spring 2017, which will be a practical course including the creation of a Gothic image in the style of illuminations from the 13th century School of St Albans, and sacred geometry. In the geometry course, students will construct a traditional geometric pattern as found in Cosmatesque floors of the period. In support of the practical skills, I will teach the supporting theory as described in my book, the Way of Beauty.

The approach to this certificate program assumes the “cross-disciplinary approach” between philosophy and theology that uniquely characterizes all DSPT curricula. Furthermore, in this particular program there will be a focus on the integration of theory with praxis, particularly as it applies to Catholic worship and culture. An emphasis of the outcomes of this course is on the evangelization of the culture through a well-discerned engagement with contemporary cultures, so that the artist’s creativity may be directed towards the engagement of contemporary man, without compromising the core principles of a traditional Christian culture.

The Certificate program of studies is organized by the Academic Dean of the DSPT, Fr Chris Renz; readers may remember that I highlighted his excellent article on liturgy and culture recently published in Antiphon.

Fr Renz will use my book the Way of Beauty as one of the texts for the opening course of the Certificate program. Anyone who has read any of my writings over the years will see why I am enthusiastic about this – these themes of inculturation, worship and fresh creativity are at the heart of my own ideas about the evangelization of the culture.

The first course of the four to be offered this coming Fall is called the Foundational Principles of Catholic Liturgy and Worship. To complete the Certificate in Theological Studies program with a specialization in Sacred Arts, the student must complete the four courses indicated below, typically over two or more semesters.
1. Foundational Principles of Catholic Liturgy and Worship (next offered Fall 2016)
2. Liturgical Piety: Anthropological Foundations of Catholic Worship (next offered Spring 2017)
3. One elective offering from any advisor-approved Religion and the Arts course. These are the courses that will particularly focus on practical elements, such as painting.
4. Christian Iconography (offered Fall 2016)

The format for all courses is once-per-week for just under 3 hours. They will typically be offered on a weekday, which means that you have to be within traveling distance of Berkeley, California in order to take it.

The named goals are:
• to imbue students with an understanding of sacred art and its relationship to sacred liturgy;
• to provide students with the philosophical and theological foundations for the anthropological as well as the transcendent aspects of art;
• to provide basic principles for using the fine arts as a vehicle for “preaching the gospel” to the contemporary culture.

Application Process 

Applicants must complete the DSPT Certificate of Theological Studies application (found at the DSPT website), including a statement of purpose, official transcript, and two letters of recommendation. Application is on a rolling admission process.

Tuition and Fees 

Tuition rate for 2016-2017 academic year is $715 per semester unit (all courses are 3 units). For further information, contact Fr. Chris Renz, O.P. at, or 510-883-2084. You can read about this course on the DSPT website at

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