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Document Details :
Title: The Value of Christian Art
Author(s): NAVONE, J.
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 14 Date: 2004
The National Gallery of London's extraordinarily successful exhibition in 2000, entitled ‘Seeing Salvation’, is the point of departure for this reflection of the value of religious art. Great collections of European painting are inevitably great collections of Christian art, reminding us that after classical antiquity, Christianity has been the predominant force shaping European culture. People seeking a comprehensive understanding of religious art must focus attention on the purpose for which the works of art were made, and explore what they might have meant to their original viewers. The very difficulties that Christian artists have had to resolve make it possible for their images to speak now to those who do not hold Christian beliefs.
Art and the Holy, the first of four subdivisions in this essay, explores the relationships between the Christian mysteries by symbolically indicating their connects, by picturing the moral life that results from them, and by interpreting their meaning by portraying them in the changing circumstances of different eras.It considers how religious art relates our present life to the goal of our existence by providing images of home, exciting desire for the transcendent horizon, and intimating the eternal as the source of meaning for the temporal. Word and Image, the next subdivision, is based on Karl Rahner’s observation that word and image have complementary functions in embodying and conveying revelation. Images that serve as meditations of the Christian message for the community necessarily require verbal explanation.
Didactic and Sacramental Functions of Religious Art treats of the two categories of religious pictures – narrative and iconic – associated with two major religious functions of the image: the didactic and the sacramental.
Images of Religious Hope, the final section, underscores the particular relation that the visual image has to the object of religious hope.