The state of research on monumental painting in sacred interiors (wall painting, mosaic, sgraffito, stained glass) created in the period from the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first is highly varied. Alongside the imposing projects dedicated to stainedglass made before 1945, undertaken by Kraków researchers, there are serious omissions, particularly glaring in the field of wall painting. At the same time, due to the impermanence of contemporary painting techniques, large groups of valuable paintings are destroyed, sometimes incompetently renovated, and most often removed. It should be emphasized that the greatest destruction affects works created in the last half-century, which often approach their subject in an innovative way and are therefore difficult for most viewers to accept, as they expect art that replicates traditional forms in their churches.
In this situation, it is extremely important to document works that are often valuable, but not yet protected by conservation regulations, as well as to collect and preserve materials that would allow reconstruction of works that have not been preserved but are important for the research on monumental painting. However, it is only by interpreting the style and iconography of each set of works, as well as the oeuvre of their creators, and then creating an overview of the entire subject, with regard both to its theoretical basis and practical realization, that we will be able to assess the whole phenomenon as objectively as possible. In this context, special attention should be paid to the relationship between this type of realizations and the historical and contemporary forms of architecture.
A discussion of the above issues will be one of the leading themes in the current and subsequent editions of the „Sacrum et Decorum” yearbook, in the hope that in this way we will contribute to the popularization of interesting artistic achievements in the field of contemporary sacred art, often unfairly overlooked and disregarded, including by the congregants and administrators of the buildings in which they are located.
So far, this topic has appeared in the pages of our yearbook only sporadically in the form of monographic articles, which are presentations of individual sites. The texts collected in this volume have a similar character, referring to specific examples of paintings. The article by Beata Studziżba-Kubalska discusses the unrealized project of painting decorations in the John III Sobieski Chapel on the Kahlenberg. This text is a follow-up to the article discussing the history of the chapel and its decoration that was published in our yearbook two years ago.
Zofia Szot is a new addition to the list of our authors who have discussed the works of Jerzy Nowosielski, with her text on the Orthodox church in Biały Bór. An insightful analysis, rejecting the traditional division between architecture and painting, shows this unique work of Nowosielski not only as a summation of his artistic output, but also as a reflection of the artist’s attitude to religion and the significance of art in the Christian church.
Among the most recent works in the field of monumental painting, of particular interest is the decoration of the burial crypt of the Katowice bishops in the vault of the Silesian Cathedral, designed and executed by Joanna Piech and Roman Kalarus, and described by Fr. Leszek Makówka. The only text in this volume discussing a group of church paintings outside Poland was written by Fr. Ryszard Knapiński. The author focused on reading and interpreting the rich iconographic program of the Basilica of the Heart of Jesus in Lugano, Switzerland, pointing to the dogmatic and mystagogical content of the Italian artist Vittorio Trainini’s work, which is characteristic of the doctrine of the Catholic Church in the post-Trent era.
An example of the integration of arts in a sacred space is the interior design of the church in Bilcza near Kielce, designed by the sculptor Maciej Zychowicz and the painter Adam Brincken. This latest realization of the artists, who for years have been successfully working together to visualize the tenets of faith in the language of contemporary man, was presented by Adam Organisty. The interior decorations of the church in Bilcza bring to mind the subject of religion-inspired sculptural compositions. In this volume, this issue appears as an aside to the main subject in the essay by Jerzy Fober, a sculptor whose works are an artistic meditation inspired by the author’s Bible readings, and they are so subjective that so far they have been exhibited only in gallery spaces. The artist’s informal commentary on his own work and the meaning of the metaphysical motifs, differing in its construction from the one generally accepted in academic writing, appears for the first time in our journal as a form of source material and a significant addition to the texts written from the perspective of an art scholar.