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Reflections: Church Tlk.Sctn. (Sacr.Art/Img.)

Gothic Style Catholic Church

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The Crucifix

Rejected Artwork

Repair of Images

Sacred Art

Sacred Images / Veneration of Images

Vatican Art

Who Should / Should Not Participate in the Making of Sacred Art

 

Category
Quotation

The Crucifix

"From what We have already explained, Venerable Brethren, it is perfectly clear how much modern writers are wanting in the genuine and true liturgical spirit who, deceived by the illusion of a higher mysticism, dare to assert that attention should be paid not to the historic Christ but to a 'pneumatic' or glorified Christ. They do not hesitate to assert that a change has taken place in the piety of the faithful by dethroning, as it were, Christ from His position; since they say that the glorified Christ, who liveth and reigneth forever and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, has been overshadowed and in His place has been substituted that Christ who lived on earth. For this reason, some have gone so far as to want to remove from the churches images of the divine Redeemer suffering on the cross. But these false statements are completely opposed to the solid doctrine handed down by tradition. 'You believe in Christ born in the flesh,' says St. Augustine, 'and you will come to Christ begotten of God.' In the sacred liturgy, the whole Christ is proposed to us in all the circumstances of His life, as the Word of the eternal Father, as born of the Virgin Mother of God, as He who teaches us truth, heals the sick, consoles the afflicted, who endures suffering and who dies; finally, as He who rose triumphantly from the dead and who, reigning in the glory of heaven, sends us the Holy Paraclete and who abides in His Church forever; 'Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, and the same forever.' Besides, the liturgy shows us Christ not only as a model to be imitated but as a master to whom we should listen readily, a Shepherd whom we should follow, Author of our salvation, the Source of our holiness and the Head of the Mystical Body whose members we are, living by His very life. Since His bitter sufferings constitute the principal mystery of our redemption, it is only fitting that the Catholic faith should give it the greatest prominence. This mystery is the very center of divine worship since the Mass represents and renews it every day and since all the sacraments are most closely united with the cross." (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947)

"But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table form; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer's body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See." (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947) [Note: 'Reducing to antiquity' does NOT refer to the Traditionalists attempts to restore the traditional Latin ('Tridentine') Mass and pre-Vatican II practices, but to the modernists quest to 'restore' the Church to a 'primitive form' that better corresponds with Protestant sensibilities. In fact, the 'reduction to antiquity' of the Modernists and the restoration sought by the Traditionalists are diametrically opposed. The 'reducing to antiquity' of the Modernists has been condemned by the popes - whereas true faithfulness to tradition has always been guarded in the Church, and is even praised in Holy Scripture. For more information, try the Latin Mass / Catholic Tradition Section.)

Also See: Cross vs. Crucifix (Prayers & Devotions Section)

Note: Categories are subjective and may overlap. For more items related to this topic, please review all applicable categories. For more 'Reflections' and for Scripture topics, see links below.

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Rejected Artwork

"We cannot help deploring and condemning those works of art, recently introduced by some, which seem to be a distortion and perversion of true art and which at times openly shock Christian taste, modesty, and devotion, and shamefully offend the true religious sense. These must be entirely excluded and banished from our churches, like 'anything else that is not in keeping with the sanctity of the place.''' (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947)

"Bishops should be careful to ensure that works of art which are repugnant to faith, morals, and Christian piety, and which offend true religious sense either by depraved forms or through lack of artistic merit or because of mediocrity or pretense, be removed from the house of God and from other sacred places." (Second Vatican Council)

"Can. 1279 § It is not permitted to anyone to place or to take care to place in a church, even an exempt one, or other holy place, any unusual image, unless it has been approved by the local Ordinary. § 2 The Ordinary shall not approve sacred images to be displayed for the public veneration of the faithful that are not consistent with the approved usage of the Church. § 3 The Ordinary shall never allow in churches or other sacred places images of false dogma to be exhibited or ones that do not offer the required decency and honesty or that present an occasion of dangerous error to the unlearned. § 4 If images publicly exposed for venation are solemnly blessed, this blessing is reserved to the Ordinary, who nevertheless can commit it to any priest." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"Now we are aware of the fact that during recent years some artists, gravely offending against Christian piety, have dared to bring into churches works devoid of any religious inspiration and completely at variance with the right rules of art. They try to justify this deplorable conduct by plausible-looking arguments which they claim are based on the nature and character of art itself. They go on to say that artistic inspiration is free and that it is wrong to impose upon it laws and standards extraneous to art, whether they are religious or moral, since such rules seriously hurt the dignity of art and place bonds and shackles on the activity of an inspired artist. Arguments of this kind raise a question which is certainly difficult and serious, and which affects all art and every artist. It is a question which is not to be answered by an appeal to the principles of art or of aesthetics, but which must be decided in terms of the supreme principle of the final end, which is the inviolate and sacred rule for every man and every human act. The ordination and direction of man to his ultimate end - which is God - by absolute and necessary law based on the nature and the infinite perfection of God Himself is so solid that not even God could exempt anyone from it. This eternal and unchangeable law commands that man himself and all his actions should manifest and imitate, so far as possible, God's infinite perfection for the praise and glory of the Creator. Since man is born to attain this supreme end, he ought to conform himself and through his actions direct all powers of his body and his soul, rightly ordered among themselves and duly subjected to the end they are meant to attain, to the divine Model. Therefore even art and works of art must be judged in the light of their conformity and concord with man's last end. Art certainly must be listed among the noblest manifestations of human genius. Its purpose is to express in human works the infinite divine beauty of which it is, as it were, the reflection. Hence that outworn dictum 'art for art's sake' entirely neglects the end for which every creature is made. Some people wrongly assert that art should be exempted entirely from every rule which does not spring from art itself. Thus this dictum either has no worth at all or is gravely offensive to God Himself, the Creator and Ultimate End. Since the freedom of the artist is not a blind instinct to act in accordance with his own whim or some desire for novelty, it is in no way restricted or destroyed, but actually ennobled and perfected, when it is made subject to the divine law. Since this is true of works of art in general, it obviously applies also to religious and sacred art. Actually religious art is even more closely bound to God and the promotion of His praise and glory, because its only purpose is to give the faithful the greatest aid in turning their minds piously to God through the works it directs to their senses of sight and hearing. Consequently the artist who does not profess the truths of the faith or who strays far from God in his attitude or conduct should never turn his hand to religious art. He lacks, as it were, that inward eye with which he might see what God's majesty and His worship demand. Nor can he hope that his works, devoid of religion as they are, will ever really breathe the piety and faith that befit God's temple and His holiness, even though they may show him to be an expert artist who is endowed with visible talent. Thus he cannot hope that his works will be worthy of admission into the sacred buildings of the Church, the guardian and arbiter of religious life. But the artist who is firm in his faith and leads a life worthy of a Christian, who is motivated by the love of God and reverently uses the powers the Creator has given him, expresses and manifests the truths he holds and the piety he possesses so skillfully, beautifully and pleasingly in colors and lines or sounds and harmonies that this sacred labor of art is an act of worship and religion for him. It also effectively arouses and inspires people to profess the faith and cultivate piety. The Church has always honored and always will honor this kind of artist. It opens wide the doors of its temples to them because what these people contribute through their art and industry is a welcome and important help to the Church in carrying out its apostolic ministry more effectively." (Pope Pius XII, "Musicae Sacrae", 1955)

Also See: Beauty & Decorum in the House of God | Goodness / Beauty

Note: Categories are subjective and may overlap. For more items related to this topic, please review all applicable categories. For more 'Reflections' and for Scripture topics, see links below.

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Repair of Images

"Can. 1189 If they are in need of repair, precious images, that is, those distinguished by age, art, or veneration, which are exhibited in churches or oratories for the reverence of the faithful are never to be restored without the written permission of the ordinary; he is to consult experts before he grants permission." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

Also See: Building / Refurbishing of Churches | Disposition of Church Items

Note: Categories are subjective and may overlap. For more items related to this topic, please review all applicable categories. For more 'Reflections' and for Scripture topics, see links below.

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Sacred Art

Also See: Catholic Artwork (Topic Page)

"[T]he religious theme has been among those most frequently treated by artists in every age." (Pope John Paul II, 1999)

"Painting is employed in churches so that those who cannot read or write may at least read on the walls what they cannot decipher on the page" (Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church, 599 A.D.)

"The image is the book of those who cannot read, and even the learned may gain more from an instant's gazing at an eloquent picture than from the prolonged study of many volumes." (Gueranger)

"In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colors, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery. The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images in his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the unseen God." (Pope John Paul II, 1999)

"The art which Christianity encountered in its early days was the ripe fruit of the classical world, articulating its aesthetic canons and embodying its values. Not only in their way of living and thinking, but also in the field of art, faith obliged Christians to a discernment which did not allow an uncritical acceptance of this heritage. Art of Christian inspiration began therefore in a minor key, strictly tied to the need for believers to contrive Scripture-based signs to express both the mysteries of faith and a 'symbolic code' by which they could distinguish and identify themselves, especially in the difficult times of persecution." (Pope John Paul II, 1999)

"We declare that we preserve intact all the written and unwritten traditions of the Church which have been entrusted to us. One of these traditions consists in the production of representational artwork, which accords with the history of the preaching of the Gospel. For it confirms that the incarnation of the Word of God was real and not imaginary, and to our benefit as well, for realities that illustrate each other undoubtedly reflect each other's meaning." (Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.)

"If anyone does not confess that Christ our God can be represented in His humanity, let him be anathema. If anyone does not accept representation in art of evangelical scenes, let him be anathema. If anyone does not salute such representations as standing for the Lord and His saints, let him be anathema." (Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.)

"Those, therefore, who dare to think or to teach otherwise or to spurn according to wretched heretics the ecclesiastical traditions and to invent anything novel, or to reject anything from these things which have been consecrated by the Church: either the Gospel or the figure of the Cross, or the (representational) picture, or the sacred relics of the martyr; or to invent perversely and cunningly for the overthrow of any one of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church; or even, as it were, to use the sacred vessels or the venerable monasteries as common things; if indeed they are bishops or clerics, we order (them) to be deposed; monks, however, or laymen, to be excommunicated." (Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.)

"The fine arts are rightly classed among the noblest activities of man's genius; this is especially true of religious art and of its highest manifestation, sacred art. Of their nature the arts are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands. Their dedication to the increase of God's praise and of his glory is more complete, the more exclusively they are devoted to turning men's minds devoutly toward God. For that reason holy Mother Church has always been the patron of the fine arts and has ever sought their noble ministry, to the end especially that all things set apart for use in divine worship should be worthy, becoming, and beautiful, signs and symbols of things supernatural." (Second Vatican Council)

"[T]he great masters of Christian arts became interpreters, not only of the beauty but also of the goodness of God, the Revealer and Redeemer. Marvelous exchange of services between Christianity and art! From their Faith they drew sublime inspirations. They drew hearts to the Faith when for continuous centuries they communicated and spread the truths contained in the Holy Scriptures, truths inaccessible, at least directly, to the humble people...In truth, artistic masterpieces were known as the 'Bible of the people,' to mention such noted examples as the windows of Chartres, the door of Ghiberti (by happy expression known as the Door of Paradise), the Roman and Ravenna mosaics and the facade of the Cathedral of Orvieto. These and other masterpieces not only translate into easy reading and universal language the Christian truths, they also communicate the intimate sense and emotion of these truths with an effectiveness, lyricism and ardor that, perhaps, is not contained in even the most fervent preaching. Souls ennobled, elevated and prepared by art, are thus better disposed to receive the religious truths and the grace of Jesus Christ. This is one of the reasons why the Sovereign Pontiffs, and the Church in general, honored and continue to honor art and to offer its works as a tribute of human beings to God's Majesty in His churches, which have always been abodes of art and religion at the same time." (Pope Pius XII, 1952)

"What We have said about music, applies to the other fine arts, especially to architecture, sculpture and painting. Recent works of art which lend themselves to the materials of modern composition, should not be universally despised and rejected through prejudice. Modern art should be given free scope in the due and reverent service of the church and the sacred rites, provided that they preserve a correct balance between styles tending neither to extreme realism nor to excessive 'symbolism,' and that the needs of the Christian community are taken into consideration rather than the particular taste or talent of the individual artist. Thus modern art will be able to join its voice to that wonderful choir of praise to which have contributed, in honor of the Catholic faith, the greatest artists throughout the centuries. Nevertheless, in keeping with the duty of Our office, We cannot help deploring and condemning those works of art, recently introduced by some, which seem to be a distortion and perversion of true art and which at times openly shock Christian taste, modesty and devotion, and shamefully offend the true religious sense. These must be entirely excluded and banished from our churches, like 'anything else that is not in keeping with the sanctity of the place.'" (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947)

"Sacred Scripture has thus become a sort of 'immense vocabulary'... from which both Christian culture and art have drawn. The Old Testament, read in the light of the New, has provided endless streams of inspiration. From the stories of the Creation and sin, the Flood, the cycle of the Patriarchs, the events of the Exodus to so many other episodes and characters in the history of salvation, the biblical text has fired the imagination of painters, poets, musicians, playwrights and film-makers. A figure like Job, to take but one example, with his searing and ever relevant question of suffering, still arouses an interest which is not just philosophical but literary and artistic as well. And what should we say of the New Testament? From the Nativity to Golgotha, from the Transfiguration to the Resurrection, from the miracles to the teachings of Christ, and on to the events recounted in the Acts of the Apostles or foreseen by the Apocalypse in an eschatological key, on countless occasions the biblical word has become image, music and poetry, evoking the mystery of 'the Word made flesh' in the language of art. In the history of human culture, all of this is a rich chapter of faith and beauty. Believers above all have gained from it in their experience of prayer and Christian living. Indeed for many of them, in times when few could read or write, representations of the Bible were a concrete mode of catechesis. But for everyone, believers or not, the works of art inspired by Scripture remain a reflection of the unfathomable mystery which engulfs and inhabits the world." (Pope John Paul II, 1999)

Also See: Beauty & Decorum in the House of God | Goodness / Beauty | Reverence | Sacred Images / Veneration of Images | Rejected Artwork | Who Should / Should Not Participate in the Making of Sacred Art | Sacred Music

Note: Categories are subjective and may overlap. For more items related to this topic, please review all applicable categories. For more 'Reflections' and for Scripture topics, see links below.

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Sacred Images / Veneration of Images

Also See: Catholic Artwork (Topic Page)

"We admit that images should be venerated. Those of us who are not so minded we subject to anathema." (Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.)

"[I]t is lawful to have images in churches, and to pay them honor and respect, since this respect is referred to their prototypes... the uninterrupted observance of this practice down to the present day has been attended with great advantage to the faithful" (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"Those, therefore, who dare to think or to teach otherwise or to spurn according to wretched heretics the ecclesiastical traditions and to invent anything novel, or to reject anything from these things which have been consecrated by the Church: either the Gospel or the figure of the Cross, or the (representational) picture, or the sacred relics of the martyr; or to invent perversely and cunningly for the overthrow of any one of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church; or even, as it were, to use the sacred vessels or the venerable monasteries as common things; if indeed they are bishops or clerics, we order (them) to be deposed; monks, however, or laymen, to be excommunicated." (Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.)

"[T]he images of the Saints are placed in churches, not only to be honored, but also that they may admonish us by their examples to imitate their lives and virtues." (Catechism of the Council of Trent)

"If anyone does not confess that Christ our God can be represented in his humanity, let him be anathema." (Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.)

"If anyone does not accept representation in art of evangelical scenes, let him be anathema." (Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.)

"If anyone does not salute such representations as standing for the Lord and his saints, let him be anathema." (Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.)

"The worship of religion is paid to images, not as considered in themselves, nor as things, but as images leading us to God incarnate. Now movement to an image as image does not stop at the image, but goes on to the thing it represents." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"[T]he image itself, considered as a thing, is not to be venerated in any way at all." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Can. 1188 The practice of displaying sacred images in churches for the reverence of the faithful is to remain in effect. Nevertheless, they are to be exhibited in moderate number and in suitable fashion so that the Christian people are not confused nor occasion given for inappropriate devotion." (1983 Code of Canon Law)

"Can. 1280 Precious images, that is, those outstanding by virtue of age, art, or cult, exposed in churches or public oratories for the veneration of the faithful, if sometime they should require repair, shall never be restored without consent from the Ordinary given in writing, who before granting this permission shall consult wise and expert men." (1917 Code of Canon Law)

"These are the footprints left by the saints in their journey homeward, that guided by them we might follow them into glory.' In order that we may be helped by our senses, also, the Church wishes that images of the saints be displayed in our churches, always, however, with the same intention 'that we imitate the virtues of those whose images we venerate.'" (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947)

"The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God." (St. John Damascene, Doctor of the Church)

"This most Holy Synod deliberately teaches this Catholic doctrine and at the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered, and the practices and exercises of piety, recommended by the magisterium of the Church toward her in the course of centuries be made of great moment, and those decrees, which have been given in the early days regarding the cult of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed." (Second Vatican Council)

"Movement towards an image as such is referred to the thing represented by the image...the movement towards an image is, after a fashion, towards the thing, yet the movement towards the thing need not be towards its image. Wherefore reverence paid to a person as the image of God redounds somewhat to God: and yet this differs from the reverence that is paid to God Himself, for this in no way refers to His image." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Moreover, in the invocation of saints, the veneration of relics, and the sacred use of images, every superstition shall be removed, all filthy lucre be abolished; finally, all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust; nor the celebration of the saints, and the visitation of relics be by any perverted into revellings and drunkenness; as if festivals are celebrated to the honor of the saints by luxury and wantonness." (Council of Trent, Twenty-fifth Session)

"[W]e utterly rebuke the detestable abuse and horrible impiety of those who treating with irreverent boldness crucifixes and images or statues of the blessed Virgin and other saints, throw them to the ground in order to emphasize the suspension of divine worship, and leave them under nettles and thorns. We forbid severely any sacrilege of this kind. We decree that those who disobey are to receive a hard retributive sentence which will so chastise the offenders as to suppress the like arrogance in others." (Second Council of Lyons)

"And if any abuses have crept in amongst these holy and salutary observances, the holy Synod ardently desires that they be utterly abolished; in such wise that no images, (suggestive) of false doctrine, and furnishing occasion of dangerous error to the uneducated, be set up. And if at times, when expedient for the unlettered people; it happen that the facts and narratives of sacred Scripture are portrayed and represented; the people shall be taught, that not thereby is the Divinity represented, as though it could be seen by the eyes of the body, or be portrayed by colors or figures." (Council of Trent, Twenty-fifth Session)

"If we have previously disapproved of the error of those who would wish to outlaw images from churches on the plea of reviving an ancient tradition, We now deem it Our duty to censure the inconsiderate zeal of those who propose for veneration in the Churches and on the altars, without any just reason, a multitude of sacred images and statues, and also those who display unauthorized relics, those who emphasize special and insignificant practices, neglecting essential and necessary things. They thus bring religion into derision and lessen the dignity of worship. Let us recall, as well, the decree about 'not introducing new forms of worship and devotion.' We commend the exact observance of this decree to your vigilance." (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947)

"The mysteries of our Redemption, as they are expressed in pictures or in other likenesses, instruct and encourage the people to call to mind habitually and go over the articles of faith. Let them also teach that this great benefit is realized from all sacred images not only because the people are reminded of the favors and of the gifts which were given to them by Christ, but also because through the saints of God miracles and salutary examples are put before the eyes of the faithful, so that they may give thanks to God for them, that they may fashion their lives and their actions in imitation of the saints, and that they may be spurred on to adore and love God and to cultivate piety." (Council of Trent)

"[T]here arose in the early centuries a bitter controversy known to history as 'the iconoclast crisis'. Sacred images, which were already widely used in Christian devotion, became the object of violent contention. The Council held at Nicaea in 787, which decreed the legitimacy of images and their veneration, was a historic event not just for the faith but for culture itself. The decisive argument to which the Bishops appealed in order to settle the controversy was the mystery of the Incarnation: if the Son of God had come into the world of visible realities - his humanity building a bridge between the visible and the invisible - then, by analogy, a representation of the mystery could be used, within the logic of signs, as a sensory evocation of the mystery. The icon is venerated not for its own sake, but points beyond to the subject which it represents." (Pope John Paul II, 1999)

"Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be placed and retained especially in the churches, and that due honor and veneration be extended to them, not that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them, for which they are to be venerated, or that anything is to be petitioned from them, or that trust is to be placed in images, as at one time was done by the gentiles, who placed their hope in idols [cf. Ps. 134:15 f.], but because the honor which is shown them, is referred to the prototypes which they represent, so that by means of the images, which we kiss and before which we bare the head and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ, and venerate the saints, whose likeness they bear. This is what was sanctioned by the decrees of the councils, especially that of the second council of Nicea, against the opponents of images." (Council of Trent, 1563 A.D.)

"Indeed let the bishops diligently teach this, that by the accounts of the mysteries of our redemption, portrayed in pictures or in other representations, the people are instructed and confirmed in the articles of faith which should be kept in mind and constantly pondered over; then, too, that from all sacred images great profit is derived not only because the people are reminded of the benefits and gifts, which are bestowed upon them by Christ, but also, because through the saints the miracles of God and salutary examples are set before the eyes of the faithful, so that they may give thanks to God for those things, may fashion their own lives and conduct in imitation of the saints, and be stimulated to adore and love God, and to cultivate piety. But if anyone should teach or maintain anything contrary to these decrees, let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"And that these things may be the more faithfully observed, the holy Synod ordains, that no one be allowed to place, or cause to be placed, any unusual image, in any place, or church, howsoever exempted, except that image have been approved of by the bishop: also, that no new miracles are to be acknowledged, or new relics recognized, unless the said bishop has taken cognizance and approved thereof; who, as soon as he has obtained some certain information in regard to these matters, shall, after having taken the advice of theologians, and of other pious men, act therein as he shall judge to be consonant with truth and piety. But if any doubtful, or difficult abuse has to be extirpated; or, in fine, if any more grave question shall arise touching these matters, the bishop, before deciding the controversy, shall await the sentence of the metropolitan and of the bishops of the province, in a provincial Council; yet so, that nothing new, or that previously has not been usual in the Church, shall be resolved on, without having first consulted the most holy Roman Pontiff." (Council of Trent, Twenty-fifth Session)

"We decree that the sacred image of our lord Jesus Christ, the redeemer and savior of all people, should be venerated with honor equal to that given to the book of the holy gospels. For, just as through the written words which are contained in the book, we all shall obtain salvation, so through the influence that colors in painting exercise on the imagination, all, both wise and simple, obtain benefit from what is before them; for as speech teaches and portrays through syllables, so too does painting by means of colors. It is only right then, in accordance with true reason and very ancient tradition, that icons should be honored and venerated in a derivative way because of the honor which is given to their archetypes, and it should be equal to that given to the sacred book of the holy gospels and the representation of the precious cross. If anyone then does not venerate the icon of Christ, the Savior, let him not see his face when he comes in his Father's glory to be glorified and to glorify his saints', but let him be cut off from his communion and glory; likewise the image of Mary, His undefiled Mother, and mother of God, moreover, we also represent the images of the holy angels just as divine scripture depicts them in words; we also honor and venerate those of the highly renowned apostles, prophets, martyrs and holy men as well as those of all the saints. And whoever does not hold thus, let him be anathema from the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." (Canon 3, Fourth Council of Constantinople)

"We, continuing in the regal path, and following the divinely inspired teaching of our Holy Fathers, and the tradition of the Catholic Church, for we know that this is of the Holy Spirit who certainly dwells in it, define in all certitude and diligence that as the figure of the honored and life-giving Cross, so the venerable and holy images, the ones from tinted materials and from marble as those from other material, must be suitably placed in the holy churches of God, both on sacred vessels and vestments, and on the walls and on the altars, at home and on the streets, namely such images of our Lord Jesus Christ, God and Savior, and of our undefiled lady, or holy Mother of God, and of the honorable angels, and, at the same time, of all the saints and of holy men. For, how much more frequently through (artistic representation) they are seen, so much more quickly are those who contemplate these, raised to the memory and desire of the originals of these, to kiss and to render honorable adoration to them, not however, to grant true latria according to our faith, which is proper to divine nature alone; but just as to the figure of the revered and life-giving Cross and to the holy gospels, and to the other sacred monuments, let an oblation of incense and lights be made to give honor to these as was the pious custom with the ancients. 'For the honor of the image passes to the original'; and he who shows reverence to the image, shows reverence to the substance of Him depicted in it." (Second Council of Nicaea, 787 A.D.)

"But it is neither wise nor laudable to reduce everything to antiquity by every possible device. Thus, to cite some instances, one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive table form; were he to want black excluded as a color for the liturgical vestments; were he to forbid the use of sacred images and statues in churches; were he to order the crucifix so designed that the divine Redeemer's body shows no trace of His cruel sufferings; and lastly were he to disdain and reject polyphonic music or singing in parts, even where it conforms to regulations issued by the Holy See." (Pope Pius XII, "Mediator Dei", 1947) [Note: 'Reducing to antiquity' does NOT refer to the Traditionalists attempts to restore the traditional Latin ('Tridentine') Mass and pre-Vatican II practices, but to the modernists quest to 'restore' the Church to a 'primitive form' that better corresponds with Protestant sensibilities. In fact, the 'reduction to antiquity' of the Modernists and the restoration sought by the Traditionalists are diametrically opposed. The 'reducing to antiquity' of the Modernists has been condemned by the popes - whereas true faithfulness to tradition has always been guarded in the Church, and is even praised in Holy Scripture. For more information, try the Latin Mass / Catholic Tradition Section.)

Also See: Beauty & Decorum in the House of God | Reverence | Kneeling / Prostrating / Bowing / Genuflecting | Proper / Improper Church Attire | Silence in Church | Goodness / Beauty | Sacred Furnishings | Sacred Music | Images (Topical Scripture) | Non-Catholics Section (apologetics)

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Vatican Art

Also See: Catholic Artwork (Topic Page)

"From here can be heard the voice of Michelangelo who in the Sistine Chapel has presented the drama and mystery of the world from the Creation to the Last Judgement, giving a face to God the Father, to Christ the Judge, and to man on his arduous journey from the dawn to the consummation of history. Here speaks the delicate and profound genius of Raphael, highlighting in the array of his paintings, and especially in the 'Dispute' in the Room of the Signatura, the mystery of the revelation of the Triune God, who in the Eucharist befriends man and sheds light on the questions and expectations of human intelligence. From this place, from the majestic Basilica dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles, from the Colonnade which spreads out from it like two arms open to welcome the whole human family, we still hear Bramante, Bernini, Borromini, Maderno, to name only the more important artists, all rendering visible the perception of the mystery which makes of the Church a universally hospitable community, mother and traveling companion to all men and women in their search for God. This extraordinary complex is a remarkably powerful expression of sacred art, rising to heights of imperishable aesthetic and religious excellence." (Pope John Paul II, 1999)

Also See: Vatican View Section

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Who Should / Should Not Participate in the Making of Sacred Art

"Moses, the divine spokesman, clearly declares in his law that what is right should also be rightly executed, since a good act is not good unless it is carried out in accordance with reason. So it is indeed good and very advantageous to paint holy and venerable images as also to teach others the disciplines of divine and human wisdom. But it is not good nor at all profitable for any of these things to be done by those who are unworthy. For this reason we declare and proclaim that those declared anathema by this holy and universal synod may not, on any account, work on sacred images in holy places of worship nor teach anywhere at all, until they are converted from their error and wickedness. Whoever, therefore, after this directive of ours, admits them in any way to paint sacred images in churches, or to teach, must be removed from office if he is a cleric; if he is a lay person, he must be excommunicated and debarred from taking part in the divine mysteries." (Canon 7, Fourth Council of Constantinople)

"Since the freedom of the artist is not a blind instinct to act in accordance with his own whim or some desire for novelty, it is in no way restricted or destroyed, but actually ennobled and perfected, when it is made subject to the divine law. Since this is true of works of art in general, it obviously applies also to religious and sacred art. Actually religious art is even more closely bound to God and the promotion of His praise and glory, because its only purpose is to give the faithful the greatest aid in turning their minds piously to God through the works it directs to their senses of sight and hearing. Consequently the artist who does not profess the truths of the faith or who strays far from God in his attitude or conduct should never turn his hand to religious art. He lacks, as it were, that inward eye with which he might see what God's majesty and His worship demand. Nor can he hope that his works, devoid of religion as they are, will ever really breathe the piety and faith that befit God's temple and His holiness, even though they may show him to be an expert artist who is endowed with visible talent. Thus he cannot hope that his works will be worthy of admission into the sacred buildings of the Church, the guardian and arbiter of religious life. But the artist who is firm in his faith and leads a life worthy of a Christian, who is motivated by the love of God and reverently uses the powers the Creator has given him, expresses and manifests the truths he holds and the piety he possesses so skillfully, beautifully and pleasingly in colors and lines or sounds and harmonies that this sacred labor of art is an act of worship and religion for him. It also effectively arouses and inspires people to profess the faith and cultivate piety. The Church has always honored and always will honor this kind of artist. It opens wide the doors of its temples to them because what these people contribute through their art and industry is a welcome and important help to the Church in carrying out its apostolic ministry more effectively." (Pope Pius XII, "Musicae Sacrae", 1955)

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