Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Contribution to the Development of a Schema of Art for Churches of the Roman Rite

Here is a document created by Lyn Rooney from St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a booklet containing 21 art works that portray Salvation History through direct quotations from Scripture and the Catechism, and her own words.

[Booklet here]

It occurred to me first that this is the sort of work that would allow the development of a schema of art for the Roman Rite, as I have described in the essay Creating a Canon and Schema for Art for Churches of the Roman Rite. (We explore this topic further in the Pontifex University Masters in Sacred Arts.)

A development that I would like to see come from this would be to find a way to engage with this art directly in the context of the liturgy. For example, I think of processions, during which one might stop to incense relevant images on the feasts that commemorate the theme. This might be done at the entrance, recession or, in the Novus Ordo, during the offering of the gifts which, I think, might be extended into a procession like that which takes place in the Eastern Rite.

Lyn describes the development of the project as follows:
Last year my pastor agreed to allow me to build an art gallery along a long hallway in the classroom wing (I have a Masters in Biblical Theology from the Augustine Institute and am a long-time catechist for adult RE). I saw it as a wasted space that could be filled with beauty and religious art so students and those who never went to classes could be captured by it. The Holy Spirit has such a sense of humor though, since I know very little about art, but I decided to imitate the churches in Europe with the New Testament mysteries on one side and their Old Testament prefigurations on the other, so the art itself could teach the typological understanding of the written Word of God.
I used a variety of religious art and incorporated explanations beside each piece to illuminate the event depicted by the artist and its place in Salvation History. We called it The Art of Salvation (indicating that Salvation History is illuminated by the art but also that God Himself created the artistic masterpiece of Salvation History and the artwork is "sub-created' by man created in God's image). I have attached the booklet of the explanations that we have available for anyone interested for you to see the scope of it. It ended up with 21 pieces of large and beautifully framed prints (10 on each side of the hallway, separated into 3 and 7 by doorways - how do you like those symbolic numbers the Holy Spirit happened to devise!?) with the Dali Christ as the introduction.
This is great art catechesis. She is choosing good art from great artists such as Fra Angelico, Lucas Cranach and Raphael, and linking the themes to those of salvation history. There are quite a few that were new to me and I was excited to see, such as David Before the Ark of the Covenant by the 18th century Italian artist Giovanni Battista Pittoni.

Looking at her style of presentation, it occurred to me also, that this could contribute to the development of a canon of art along with a schema for churches of the Roman Rite.

There is a video here in which she introduces the art and the booklet to her church.

Most of her choices in art are from the mainstream of tradition, in the Gothic or Baroque style. Here is an example, a painting by the English artist Augustus John, Moses and the Brazen Serpent, done in 1898.
When I was a boy, Brooke Bond tea included collectible cards; these would come in sets of 50 and have a picture on one side and a short life story with highlights and achievements on the other. In the set of 50 Great Britons was the artist Augustus John. I remember asking my parents about him. Here is the card!
Augustus John is virtually unheard of nowadays and deserves to be better known in my opinion. His sister Gwen John was also a good artist.

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