Contemporary sacred art, “meeting culture”?

At the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on December 8, 1965, Paul VI addressed this message to artists: “Beauty, like truth, is what brings joy to the hearts of people, it is a precious fruit. a time that unites generations and makes them interact with wonder.And that’s because of your hands…” a message that is still relevant and constantly remembered by its followers…

The encyclical nearly half a century after the Second Vatican Council Lumen fidei June 29, 2013 will constitute a real relay between the two popes, Benoit XVI and Francis, and at the same time will come to emphasize the enlightened nature of faith and thus the place occupied by art. Faced with relativism multiplied by the power of international communication, which often leads to uncertainty and confusion between good and evil, faith participates in this light, and sacred art can form one of its vectors. Listen to the word of God and work to see the reflection of his image responds to the desire of the Old Testament emphasized in the encyclical:

“The Old Testament combined the two types of knowledge, because listening to the Word of God combines the desire to see His face. Thus, it was possible to develop a dialogue with Greek culture, a dialogue that forms the basis of the Scriptures. Hearing indicates personal calling and obedience, as well as the timely revelation of truth; the landscape provides a complete picture of the entire journey and allows us to situate ourselves in God’s grand plan; without this vision, we would have only isolated fragments of an unknown whole. (Encyclical Lumen fidei no. 29)

Thus, thanks to this power of vision conveyed by art, the “great plan of God” can be understood. It joins this idea, which animates the artists of modern sacred artoculata sprouts The apostles, mentioned by St. Thomas Aquinas, A faith that sees the Risen One.

A faith that sees the invisible God…

This visible Word derives from the belief that Christianity – contrary to popular belief – is not a “Religion of the Book” in contrast to Islam, but the Word incarnate in Jesus. As noted by the great art historian Mrs. Timothy Verdon, the Incarnate Word thus becomes “visible” as it emerges from the Gospel of John: “And the Word became flesh, he dwelt among us, and we his glory, the glory he received from his Father as the only begotten Son, full of grace and truth.” . (John 1:14). As for this embodied word, art considers itself one of the most visible means.

The understanding of this art, which renews the laws of classicism in matters of sacred art, raises the eternal question of ancients and moderns, supporters of tradition and innovation.

However, at the same time, the very idea of ​​the invisible image of God in the sense that Paul understood it in his letter to the Colossians – “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born before any creature”, (Col 1, 15) has given rise to numerous interpretations by modern artists, which sometimes lead to misunderstanding. can it was the same with Christ Produced in 1950 by the artist Germaine Richier for the chapel on the Assy plateau, it aroused objections and mistrust against an art considered “semi-decadent”… The realization of this art renews the canons of classicism in matters of sacred art. poses the eternal question of the ancients and moderns, the proponents of tradition and innovation. Since then, the boldness of modern artists in fields other than the sacred has accustomed public opinion to approaches other than those brought by tradition.

Church of Our Lady of All Graces in Plateau d’Assy (Haute-Savoie).

Fred de Noyelle / Godong

Sacred art, meeting…

The very idea of ​​an encounter evoked by any work of art implies a certain presence and dialogue between the work and its inner being for the believer who discovers the sacred work of art. It is in this sense that at the end of 2021, the first permanent exhibition of modern art was opened in the Apostolic Library of the Vatican itself. In the words of Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, the event opened the doors to an installation by Italian artist Pietro Ruffo, which aims to “support the culture of encounter”. a work called Tutti. Umanità in cammino » directly inspired by the encyclical « Fratelli Tutti A humanity in action with this idea of ​​Pope Francis, a fraternity that leads to “social friendship”, referring to the thought of St. Francis of Assisi.


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