Monday, October 29, 2012

Via Pulchritudinis: Art and Faith

Why do I love being Catholic? One of the reasons is that it is probably the only religion in the world, and certainly the only kind of Christianity that recognises the central place of Beauty in the search for the Ultimate Real. Nothing can be beautiful which is not true, as our friend John Ruskin said, and this hints at something more important, that the more a thing, particularly a person, approaches that Final Real the more beautiful and attractive it becomes. Catholicism knows what beauty is for, and how it points to God.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the completion of the Sistine Chapel ceiling decoration by Michelangelo, and the Vatican Museums have produced a film to commemorate it called the Art and Faith: Via Pulchritudinis, the "Way of Beauty".

The Pope attended the premier screening on Thursday (perhaps somewhat ironically held in the painfully ugly Paul VI Audience Hall that boasts what is probably the most hideous object of contemporary religious "art" anyone has ever seen.)

Here's what the Pope had to say about the film's premise:

It could be said that the artistic heritage of Vatican City is a sort of large "parable" by which the Pope speaks to men and women from all over the world, and therefore many cultural and religious affiliations, people who may never read a speech or a sermon. It makes you think about what Jesus said to his disciples, "To you the mysteries of the Kingdom of God are explained, and those outside everything is announced in parables (Mk 4,10-12)".

The language of art is a language of parables, with a special openness to the universal: the "Way of Beauty" is a way capable of leading the mind and heart to the Lord, to elevate them to the heights of God