Uniwersytet Rzeszowski
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On the 5th and 6th of October 2007 a scientific symposium: „Research on the sacred art of the 19th and 20th centuries. Methodology. Results. Perspectives.” took place in Rzeszów. It was organized by the University of Rzeszów under the auspices of its rector and the local church, state and self-government authorities. During the  conference inauguration, an exhibition of the works by professor Wiktor Zin was opened in the Townhall Gallery. Professor Zin, who died several months before, was a scientist and artist closely connected with Rzeszów, especially in the years before his death.  He fostered the appreciation and culture of fine art, including knowledge on sacred art.

The symposium inaugurated the planned cycle of meetings of art historians with representatives of scientific institutions whose research concentrates on the sacred art of the last two centuries. Future meetings will be accompanied by events related to sacred art, including exhibitions of religious art.

The participants of the first meeting strongly supported the idea presented by the organizers of establishing a magazine devoted to the popularization of research on sacred art, particularly on works of art from the 19th and 20th century.

Exhibitions, contests (like Sacrum – Fine Art Triennale in Częstochowa) and scientific sessions on the contemporary sacred art are organized in Poland, but there is no magazine that presents the results of current research in this field. Therefore, the idea of creating such a magazine was received enthusiastically. Its title was chosen by the forming editorial staff: Sacrum et Decorum. Materials and studies on the history of Polish sacred art.

It is the intention of the editorial staff, consisting of the members of the founding committee of the Rzeszów symposium, that the articles published in the magazine be mainly related to the art of the last two centuries. What is characteristic of this period is a gradual division between sacred and secular art and occurrence of numerous peripheral phenomena as a result of artists discovering the sphere of transcendence and expressing their experiences independently of the forms accepted in the institutional structures of particular religions. Therefore, the subject matter of the articles published will not be limited to sacred art but, taking into account the broad cultural and social context, it will also include religious art, religion-inspired art or art involving metaphysical pursuit.

The magazine will be published annually or possibly every six months, depending on the amount of material. Its subsequent issues, edited thematically, will also include regular sections, devoted to the discussion of current artistic events or relevant publications.

Sacrum et Decorum is modelled on foreign magazines (for instance Christliche Kunstblätter and L’Art Sacré), whose character can be described as scientific and popularizing. The editorial staff of the new periodical hopes that it will be possible to develop cooperation with the editorial staffs of the afore-mentioned foreign magazines and to draw on their long experience in publishing. The Polish annual magazine will be published in two language versions: in the original language of the article and in English. Such a form of edition as well as cooperation with the similar magazines being published around the world will help to develop the knowledge of Polish sacred art not only in Poland but also abroad.

Paradoxically, in the Polish tradition there were only few periodicals devoted to sacred art and they may be classified as ephemeral publications as they were published for only several years. Currently, there is no such magazine on the Polish publishing market. The editorial committee ofSacrum et Decorum and the members of its Scientific Board hope that the new specialist periodical will fill the void in the market of Polish magazines on art history.

The Scientific Board consists of people who are authorities in the subject matter of the magazine and at the same time represent various scientific institutions. The editorial staff believes that this thoughtfully created team will guarantee a high academic level and cross-regional character of the magazine.

The title of the journal – Sacrum et Decorum – is related to the local tradition of research on sacred art. In the 1980s, a branch of the Association of Art Historians in Rzeszów organized a cycle of seminars devoted to sacred art, mainly to the Christian iconography. Its title was Sacrum et Decorum.

Sacrum et Decorum published twenty years after the initiative of the art historians from Rzeszów, though originally planned to be a national magazine, will be edited and published under the auspices of the rector of the University of Rzeszów, within the editorial work of the Publishing Office and with financial support of Ars Sacra Moderna association, numerous private sponsors, the local town, self-government and state authorities, as well as the institutions operating in Rzeszów.

The first issue of the magazine contains articles of the diagnostic and postulatory character. Grażyna Ryba aims to synthetically describe the character of sacred art with reference to the general conditions of art development of the last two centuries. The author presents a risky hypothesis that the generally accepted idea of crisis of the sacred art of the 19th and 20th centuries is not completely true and has originated as a result of negligence in both research and popularization of religious art from this period. Such negligence results mainly from the commonly accepted criteria relating to the evaluation of a work of art, which ignore the specificity of sacred art. The author suggests starting comprehensive interdisciplinary research aimed at creating new methodological bases that would enable better incorporation of sacred art into the history of modern and contemporary art.

The complexity of the relation between art and sacrum is presented, mainly from the theological point of view, in the article by the Rev. Henryk Nadrowski – an art historian, theologian and a representative of the Catholic clergy. Because of his position, education and scientific interests, the author presents a multi-aspectual discussion of the topic, trying to analyze the significance of art in the relationship between man and God, and the world. Rev. Henryk Nadrowski attempts to arrange these relations by grouping them in triads of concepts and within them analyzing the individual functions of art. The author pays special attention to the relations between art, theology and liturgy and the problems related to the Christian iconography. He also mentions the artist’s mission and, relating to a wide historical context, he perceives the hazards of the contemporary civilization .

A significant element in determining the condition of the contemporary sacred art is the opinion of the writing artist – Stanisław Rodziński – who evaluates the discussed phenomena, taking into account the practical aspects and specific factors, often unknown to art theoreticians, which considerably affect the final version of the work of art. The article mentions negative influence of the socio-political situation of the PRL – communist period (until 1989) on the development of sacred architecture and the design of church interiors. Quoting the texts of religious authorities, chiefly popes, he concludes that currently the following factors determine the level of sacred art: inner predispositions of the artist, participation of theologians in shaping the iconographic programme of the church and the appropriate preparation and involvement of the investors.

Architecture is probably one of the most important fields of the contemporary sacred art, that is why it is the subject of the first section of detailed considerations in this magazine issue. The articles focus mainly on the architecture of the 20th century.

In the first article of this section, Konrad Kucza-Kuczyński – an architecture theoretician and one of the most famous Polish architects – analyzes the criteria of typology of the contemporary sacred architecture, used in Poland and abroad. The result of these considerations is a synthesis of the presented classifications in a new, open typology based on two coordinate axes – style of architecture and liturgical criterion (construction plan).

The text of an art historian – Julia Sowińska – presents a variety of interpretations of the traditional form and symbolism of a Christian basilica, on the example of several religious buildings constructed recently in Poland. Among the constructions discussed by the author, there are both realizations which are a creative continuation of a centuries-long tradition and unsuccessful buildings, erected thoughtlessly, sometimes for reasons departing far from the idea of Christian sacrum.

An interesting complement of the opinions of the authors mentioned above are the reflections included in the article by Andrzej Białkiewicz, on the formal and procedural factors and socio-political realities of sacred architecture.

The section devoted to stained glass windows continues the considerations of the contemporary sacred architecture. It is opened with the article of Danuta Czapczyńska-Kleszczyńska, a researcher from Kraków. She analyzes the relevant literature and tries to summarize the research on stained glass painting in Poland of the last two centuries, and to specify the directions of further analyses.

The text by Tomasz Szybisty suggests that the gaps in research on stained glass painting are considerable. The article is devoted to the Polish oldest stained glass paintings in the 19th century. Hitherto it was believed that his type of art reappeared in Poland as late as in the second half of the 19th century. However, the author managed to prove that the growing fascination with the Middle Ages at the beginning of the 19th century entailed an interest in stained glass painting. Evidence for this were the imported works as well as modest and somewhat experimental works of the local craftsmen.

The contemporary sacred stained glass windows discussed by Maria Żychowska are also little known. The artists presented in her article undoubtedly belong to the contemporary canon of Polish sacred art, and the solutions suggested by them, though sometimes conservative, may be interesting also in the context of the European and world art research. The author also makes an attempt at showing the differentia specifica of Polish contemporary stained glass painting.

We hope that the first annual magazine “Sacrum et Decorum” will be received kindly by the readers and will help to present not only the scientific aspects of sacred art and its contexts, but also the reflection on the spiritual condition of the previous centuries as well as the present times.

The editors wish to express their gratitude for help in publishing this first issue to: Mr Tadeusz Ferenc, the President of Rzeszów, Mr. Eugeniusz Rydzik, the director of the Language Teacher-Training College ”Promar”, Mr. Mieczysław Janowski, the EU MP, the Foundation of the Krygowski Family, and all kind supporters owing to whom this periodical has been created.

translated by Piotr Mierzwa

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