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Rev. Henryk Nadrowski,

Poznań, Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza


It is important, and even essential, to realize that both in the creative and in the perceptive process associated with Christianity one must have the minimum knowledge of theology, the Bible, liturgy, tradition, custom and a general idea of culture and art. Religious art as well as art made for a gallery or museum has a very open character and can even assume the form of an experiment. However, sacred art, which is associated with the space of the church, is an entirely different phenomenon. The latter must have an ancillary and adaptive character: it must serve the community and the individual discovering of the closeness of God, especially during the liturgy. Time, space and man form a kind of triad, which clarifies sacred art.

It is a mistake to build churches without a clear indication of that hic et nunc. Space-time, i.e. realization and concretization, allows not only for considering the time of a given epoch but also for creation and evaluation according to its criteria. The subject matter itself does not prejudge the sacred nature and purpose of a given work of art. What is necessary is deliberate and purposeful creative activity, and an object of worship should be carefully designed.

However, it must not carry a message that is accidental, incoherent, chaotic. It is necessary to restore the idea of the iconographic programme of ​​a sacred object, which will be anchored to the three foundations listed in the title. These, in turn, will guard the dogmatic correctness of a work of art and clearly explain its sense that results from a consistent iconological message.

It is an important task to properly prepare developers, investors, and the faithful-recipients both for the understanding of historical church monuments and for new solutions concerning content and form. However, it is not enough that this space should be correct and functional in its technical or artistic aspect. There is no place for the reification of art. What is important is that the works of sacred art should be imbued with a certain metaphysical depth, a meditative climate or a mystical nature. They should even stimulate a person to meet God. This interpersonal character is crucial: the man-artist establishes a relationship with God in the creative process while and the man-recipient ought to feel this personal relationship with God, which indirectly is also a meeting with the artist. The latter has the role of a priest and prophet, or evangelizer, who is an intermediary leading to the supernatural reality. Moreover, a work of art becomes a meeting place for other people, sometimes even for generations. This is because the spirit of faith and devotion accumulates in it, and the work thus receives a “new life” that transcends not only its time but also the creative idea of the artist.

An artist always expresses himself in some way. At the same time, the author of a work of sacred art does not speak in isolation from his specific environment and circumstances. He does not create art for himself but for the faithful. The very concept of a work and its artistic effect is to invite, even encourage the faithful to visit a given church space, which is to be a foretaste of the heavenly Jerusalem, new earth and new heaven. This eschatological aspect is somehow inscribed in the space of the church.

Art and works of art need their right place, not only in the space of the church, in the catechesis, in homiletics, in pastoral work, but also in theological thought, in the interpretation of the Christian Creed and the Decalogue. Sacred art is even defined as a “theological space.” It is necessary to deepen the theology of aesthetics and art.

An important task is the co-operation of all those jointly responsible both for the appearance and the dignity of the heritage of the past as well as for new solutions in church architecture.

keywords: theology, the Bible, liturgy, Christian identity, personalism, space-time, architecture, sculpture, reification and hominization of art, iconography, iconology, saeculum, sacrum, the profane, Letter to Artists by Pope John Paul II


The history of Latin civilization is inseparably linked with the whole richness of the Mediterranean area. Feliks Koneczny (1862–1949), a historian and creator of an original concept of civilization, refers even to the Attic roots of law, beauty and truth as important factors reflected in the social, political, artistic and cultural life of the contemporary western world.

Social life is strongly based on relations that intertwine, cross and complete one another but are sometimes  contradictory. At the same time, many areas of both individual and collective life are subjected to one another. When analyzing the basis of all definitions, divisions and assessments, one must first specify the axiological criteria. The world of values and, consequently, the quality of individuals as well as communities allow us to treat various areas of life responsibly.

The rich world of communication media, film, music production and information technology are currently shaping the world of culture and art. The media are accessed by both the masses and the intellectual elites. The loss of the roots of one’s own identity is these days becoming a problem in personal and community relations. This is not just the process of identity breakdown, but is a true erosion of identity. It does not only concern industry or commerce, marketing and distribution, but also ideas and science, culture and art as well as the worldview and religion. The increasing consumerism favours extreme anonymity and individualism, and the  society adopts the character of an ‘abstract and universal audience’.[1] Contemporary man with a well-formed personality, especially a Christian, needs to consistently widen and deepen his attitude of influencing the course of events, progress and development, as well as to develop his sense of duty to affect the environment positively.

Important triads

Time is an important category of existence, of the surrounding reality and the human condition. It is God who initiates it, operates and reveals himself in it. God also enabled man to involve himself actively and responsibly in the course of nature and culture. It is man who is able to release time, ‘give it a sense, and fill it with value’.[2] Together with the purely biological triad of birth, life and death, we are also involved in an existential and artistic triad, namely our beginning, heyday and twilight. God and man are active at all times. The reality of the world either develops or disintegrates. Art is expressed and represented in time and space. Throughout time, man-creator prioritises works and products of mind, heart and hands, not only chronologically but also axiologically and soteriologically. It can be said that quality and virtue which are ontically inherent in these works and products define their right place and value. The heritage of both the whole mankind and an individual man includes the three aspects of creation and assessment of particular works: history, the present and the future. The mentioned framework and criteria also refer to the entire heritage of mankind in the fields of spatial activity (architecture), or the fine arts (painting and stained glass window), and also audio-visual (literature, poetry, theatrical and musical) experiences. One can notice that it is with time that the comprehensive perception of the heritage of mankind becomes crystallized, including our historical heritage, contemporary quests as well as our future perspective. The set of criteria from a given time affects the dynamism of events and the transformations of the world. At the same time, one needs to be aware of the ever-changing – in time – set of criteria, mainly the intangible criteria in different fields, including the field of art. This concept of changing time, including historical knowledge, is indispensable when evaluating and interpreting aesthetics and artistry. The concept of changing time is also necessary for the comprehensive perception of an era’s background, the condition of human knowledge and experience. This context of time enables us to notice the arguments from different scientific fields as well as the opinions of theologians[3] and the educational church office in a given era, regarding things which are worldly and those which are timeless, transcendental, and eternal.


The important value which continually contributes to the creation of reality, shapes the way of thinking, and forms one’s conscience is broadly understood art. It is art that creates a peculiar bridge between the two realities mentioned above.

In order to perceive the whole divine-human reality adequately, it is necessary to return to the integral concept of the three areas which permeate and influence each other: God, the surrounding world and man. The metamorphoses of their interplay enable us to see such an integral and comprehensive concept of the universe and the whole reality from the very beginning of mankind. Man stands between God and the world. God’s primacy and priority is indisputable for man. At the same time, according to the Christian concept man does not despise the world, nor does he greedily control it to become its slave. Instead, he is able to enjoy it truly and to express enthusiasm and gratitude to God for everything. Isn’t this attitude expressed in the concept of ‘ideal of religion’ and creative works of people of the Renaissance and Baroque?[4] And how much childlike light-heartedness and humble cheerfulness can be found in the art of the so-called primitives and folk artists? Such a comprehensive idea is rooted not only in the reflection of philosophers and in theological doctrine, but also in entirety of our own culture and art. This idea shapes the thought of art theorists as well as the imaginations of artists. We can say that there is an ongoing comparison of philosophical-theological ideas, or rather their artistic and formal reinterpretation. The Christian doctrine and kerygma are part of a given time and space, and take various shapes and colours. Sometimes there is a clear confrontation between the two, and at other times, a peculiar dependency, a harmonious relationship or symbiosis. Another triad is emerging here: nature, culture and super-nature. The first two of these realities are an important, though relative ‘pre-final value’[5] for Christians and Catholics. But their realization and  ultimate aim is the deepest reality, which means the Absolute, the Creator, and the eternal God. Such hierarchical and integral forms of perception and presentation are reflected in a variety of ways in the works of artists from different eras.

Finding the depth of such correlations is the vision of discovering, developing and realising the mistagogical, pneumatological and soteriological idea of human activity. One could say that the distinctiveness of the language of art allows us to express the content of long contemplations or dogmatic maxims in a different and sometimes even more profound way. Art is not only an inseparable element of life but it shapes the spirit in an important way. The whole area of doctrine, dogma, kerygma (and even apologics and apologetics) in their purity defend the fundamental, essential and existential values. Above all, however, they defend the transcendental, eschatological and eternal ones. It is worth delving into some of the most characteristic statements of the popes of our times: Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI[6].

As we are discussing triads, we can also perceive them in the context of our profession of faith, the Creed[7]. The fundamental truth of the Holy Trinity is the basis of the Christian dogma. There are also three theological virtues (faith, hope and love), and three cardinal virtues (prudence, justice and fortitude). We shall add here that the virtue itself highlights ‘the happy medium and the peak between excess and shortage’.[8] Also eschatology emphasizes three final things: death, the last judgment and eternity (heaven or hell). The monastic rules and life are confirmed by the three vows of a religious order: poverty, chastity and obedience. The clergy perform a triple function in church: educational, priestly and pastoral. The living organism of God’s people forms another ecclesiastic triad: triumphing Church (in heaven), repenting Church (in purgatory) and pilgrimaging Church (on Earth). Signs, symbols, murals, sculptures and inscriptions were present not only in the places of burial in catacomb rooms (locculi or grafitto) for the martyrs (martyri), but also for the confessors (confessori). All those signs, symbols and works of art were not only a metrical epigraphy of the buried believers and the signs of remembrance, but above all they were evidence of deep belief in God, communion of the saints,  and the resurrection of body and eternal life (cf. Creed). In order to express the richness of the biblical, dogmatic, sacramental, prayer and ascetic content, the artists sometimes used ‘poetic paraphrase’[9] and interpretation.

Not only the treaties of theologians and documents of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are based on a kind of triad, but also treaties and decisions of councils and synods. The fundamental element is the Bible, (this fact was emphatically stated among Protestants on the basis of the exclusivity rule: sola Scriptura). However, besides the scriptures, the Church also recognizes testimonies of saints, and the visions, revelations and accounts of mystics. Tradition in its wide sense is the third element co-creating the doctrine of the church.

At this point it is worth introducing an important discrimination between fields that are strictly connected with various branches of art that are rooted in Christianity. Owing to what is described as differentia specifica, it is possible to treat the theory and practice of the artistic creation more accurately. Here is another important triad:

–          Theology – a discipline which carries out scientific analysis and synthesis of the revelation of God, church teaching and Christian faith in a methodical and content-related way.

–          Faith – expresses the authentic involvement and declaration to the world of man’s  belonging and love to God, as well as dependence on Him.

–          Liturgy – a participation in the most sacred activity of God’s people, which is a meeting with the word of God and the Eucharist through signs and symbols.

These three spheres of bonds with the supernatural manifest themselves in different times, various environments and cultures, as well as through different languages, symbols, gestures and attitudes. This diversity, the rich variety of forms and media, aims at the most pertinent,  legible and fruitful influence on a human being. It is at the same time ‘a symbol of recognition among Christians’.[10] Indisputably, we touch on the problems of theological anthropology and its humanistic aspects. Analogically we can discuss the issue of humanization, or hominization of art. At the same time, this human cognitive and experiential aspect makes it difficult to access the transcendent entity, or God, because He ‘goes beyond the capacity of man’s mind, that is why we must come to terms with the fact that it is impossible to consider Him in any human measures’.[11]

In this context it is worth noticing certain tendencies and consequences resulting from the negation of God, the refusal to present Him artistically or to personify Sacrum. This is about mental and artistic concentration on the material world, and is the process of reification of representations as well as of man himself. ‘Reification emphasizes dehumanization of man, depriving him of human traits, reducing him to an instrument’[12]. Such an attitude is a real threat to the development of one’s personality and the progress of mankind. Today this attitude permeates various artistic trends, outlooks and religious views.

Rooted in theology

Significantly, the whole article by Wacław Świerzawski[13] (who explains in the subtitle that he means ‘the mature vocation of an artist’), focuses on theological roots. He discusses three issues which are present in the title of the present article. He refers to art connected with the church space as liturgical art, and not as it is commonly perceived, as sacred art. This awareness of its specific character seems to be something obvious, just as its direct functional, ministerial reference. The author also notices that in order to create masterpieces in this specific area, ‘the inspiration together with the exceptional craft’ is not sufficient (p. 221).  What is important here is referred to as ‘a liturgical sense’ or something like the higher level of ‘religious sense’.[14] Both the art of the East (specifically the icon) and that of the West, is not supposed simply to imitate the reality of sacred mysteries, or create something sacred, but rather ‘to show through a masterpiece such depth that the spirit of God has, that permeates all the depths’ (p.225).

Finally, with reference to the teachings of the Mystic Corpus Christi and also to the search for the signs of time, the author emphasizes that ‘a contemporary human being needs to come closer – through beauty – to God, and at the same time beauty brings God closer to man’ (p.227). Even nowadays we need art which expresses mysticism, but even more we need art that is created by artists of deep faith, hope and love, especially artists – mystics (p.229).

What connects art with the liturgy while saintly action is carried out – ars celebrandi, is of a great importance. The whole liturgy consists of two aspects, mediatory and iconic.[15] Various layers and contexts pervading one another (theology, the Bible, liturgy, mystery and art, mysteriousness or even theatricalization,[16] music and singing, gestures, words and silence) contribute to the liturgical spirituality of a Christian,[17] as well as the liturgical spirit as such. Apart from other elements of richness and symbolic depth of the marvellous Paschal Liturgy (with the song Exultet), the role of light and darkness is worth focusing on. At the University of Poznań a postdoctoral thesis[18] was written on the Paschal Candle. The next thesis could perhaps be written about delimitation of the terms lux and lumen within theology, the Bible, liturgy and art (stained glass).

The art and liturgy determine the proportions and borders between temporality and eternity, pervading of the sacrum and the profane, and also transience and eternity. A spectator, observer, recipient or participant is directed not only to metaphysics, transcendence, as a theoretical, disputable matter, but is directed towards personal relations between God – a Person, and man – a person. We tackle here the basic rule of Christian personality. It is also related to a various and multi-coloured image of man, his nature, his mentality and identity. Even when a man puts on a mask, while playing, even when he deforms his face, he never stops being himself. Moments of truth, experiences of drama, scenery of events cannot deprive him of self-awareness or identity. Maria Janion claims that it would be too general to think that the face symbolizes the truth, whilst the mask symbolizes falsehood. The mask can have the role of a specific medium, in order to demonstrate the personality of a man, including his secrets, his uniqueness and originality, especially when it is formed within him, inside his body, in order ‘to hide somebody under the eternal mask of his own face’.[19] Portraits, as well as numerous interpretations of a human being facing the Final Judgment, are in fact meant to reach the ‘naked truth’ about man in the presence of God.[20] Eschatological subject matter with carefulness for the precise detail and the whole composition is not only the form and the content which  thrills human imagination with immense strength, which ‘strokes the strings of emotion’. So when such images were introduced not only in churches but also in court halls, they were supposed to remind all of the people gathered there of the seriousness and dignity of trials and the existence of ethical norms of the highest importance[21], which have their source and relation in God – the Supreme Judge.

This theological and didactic aspect was a message in the form of medieval and baroque masterpieces. Creators, even those contemporary, take up various topics of metaphysical provenance, biblical borrowings and inspirations, or of clearly transcendental, kerygmatic, meditative or contemplative character.

The quality and depth of art

A question arises: What is of the relation between the two areas of study – art and theology?

There are two known hypotheses:

–          Art is a very precious element locus theologicus, is able to complete, explain, and add to theology, and it also forms an important medium of evangelization or catechizing interpretation.

–          The opposite view: Christian art, its identity, character and code can only be fully interpreted in the light of the Bible, theology and liturgy.

Both points of view are important and rational. Without such bipolar views, reflections and evaluations, it is extremely difficult to talk about a comprehensive and deepened evaluation of creative contributions of  man, or even about human development.

Informative, narrative, and illustrative character of art shouldn’t dominate, as art represents a particular era and the people that belong to it. It is, however, too partial a view  of the role of pieces of art.

Without negating this function of art, we need to notice the opposite option: our knowledge of and familiarity with the aspects and conditions of a certain era should be ‘useful for tour  better understanding of pieces of art in their historical and current aspects’.[22] There is a common misconception made by critics and historians of art, that a particular piece of art is examined according to the current interpretation of the Bible, theology or liturgy. However, not only the knowledge of Latin, but also knowledge of culture, ethnography, customs, astronomy and medicine of that given time in early Christianity (or the Middle Ages), is the key to decoding, comprehending and interpreting art from those periods. I should mention here the unforgettable lectures by professor Tadeusz Dobrzeniecki on the mosaics from Ravenna, in which I had the luck to take part. Although they were monotonous in their form, they were excellent with regard to their academic merit. The lectures took into account the wide background and context of time, the people and events associated with the examined pieces of art. The lectures also included the three previously mentioned title aspects.[23] Isn’t there a profound sense in Max Dvorak’s ‘Kunstgeschichte als Geistgeschichte’[24] theory which was enhanced by Hans Sedlmayer in ‘Kunstgeschichte als Religionsgeschichte’ and ‘als Liturgiegeschichte’[25]? This spiritual aspect, directed more towards symbolism and iconography was shown by Erwin Panofsky, who paid his attention to the similarity of ideas and styles, and their dependence on the art of passed ages, and at the same time emphasized their distinctiveness.[26]

Excluding God from the history of mankind and the attempt to create academic or artistic-aesthetic hermeneutics without theological foundation may lead to perversion. This deformation leaves traces in the mentality and psyche of people, and it also leaves traces in multiple personal references and in deliberate and conscious interpersonal communication. There is also another danger – the fake image of God. Such distortion affects not only literature and art but also the mentality of many people. Jerzy Szymik vividly presented this concept.[27]

Man needs higher values, aspirations and extraordinary anticipations, and at the same time he is subjected to various weaknesses and temptations, which keep him apart from previously mentioned values. God – the eternal word – who became a person of human flesh, enriched man and mankind. There is an ongoing personal and communal dialogue with Christ. The mystery and insignificance of this world meet each other in art, liturgy,[28] and also theology.

Scientific discoveries and new methods of teaching, prophesising, contemplation and praying find their fulfilment and explanations in God himself. This also concerns various aspects of architectural and artistic[29] works, the conservation of works of arts, the description and interpretation of artistic phenomena and aesthetic processes.

In the end, it is also a ministry, a sort of mission, prophetic quest. An artist can be perceived within theological analogies of the mission: the king, the priest, the prophet.  Theology makes it easier to form consciences, to acknowledge and pass on not only the material, the physical outer layer of the artwork, but also first of all its spiritual, internal power and strength of impact. The piece of art itself is also ‘discovered’ according to an old scholastic triad: to acknowledge (the intellect), to experience (senses and emotions), to form your personality (will, implementation in life, ethical/moral application). Hans Urs von Balthasar emphasizes another important aspect of creative and responsible attitudes. He illustrates this, using the example of an actor. He notices that Jan Stanisławski not only provides the actor with a task, but also a ‘super-task’ of ‘horizon of sense, surrounding the role, which is regarded by the actor as ultimate’. Working intensively on his role, the actor should express ‘the whole character’ whilst at the same time supporting his attempt with the sense of  freedom and spontaneity. Balthazar adds: ‘a role of an actor has a fixed and specified form, but under no circumstances is it restricted; it is an open character and the more  eternal it is, the more significance it gains. Due to their openness, roles can always be interpreted differently, depending on the creative potential of an actor’.[30] Yet the real threat (mainly in visual arts) is the overwhelming ‘fetish of originality reduced to the imperative of creating a novelty (…) and finding yourself on the surface of artistic life, in the avant-garde’[31].

This direction to the interior of the man/creator and man/recipient in his best form finds its reflection in liturgy.[32] It can be said that in both of them there is external expression, experience or artistic emanation of beauty. Before that, however, there are personal (or even intimate) meetings and experiences which apply to artistic/aesthetic categories, but also go beyond them. Here we touch upon meditative, mysterious and even contemplative experiences.

The Second Vatican Council recalls evangelical comparisons of the Kingdom of God on Earth (bread leaven, seed put into the ground). The awareness of evangelic mission enters not only catechistic teaching, but also various forms of impact, of involvement among earthly matters, in artistic societies, creators and recipients of art. There is a constant relationship between reality and a believer, Christian culture and theological thinking. Simultaneously, there appear a lack of ideological content, indifference, ethical and aesthetical relativism, aesthetic mediocrity and kitsch. It is worth taking critically these articles and books which, under the pretence of fighting with trash and kitsch among believers, carry out open and hidden fight with God and the church[33].

Relations between sacrum and the profane

The realities mentioned earlier exist beside each other. They are sovereign, but in fact they influence each other’s domains. For instance, it is worth noticing the analogies of experiences and emotions equally on the sacrum and profane levels. They relate to broadly understood ars, and subsequently to actions and attitudes which do not have a direct relation to sustaining functions of the living organism. In particular, they concern the ritual, secular and religious feasting. Historians claim that ‘religion and entertainment have the same source, which is the ritual’.[34] If a cult relates to a person, it is religion, but if it relates to a physical thing, then it is simply magic. This religious aspect exceeds sensual experiences. It becomes one of the factors which create human internal development,[35] and also have social character. Those are not only thoughts, concepts or ideas of isolated or even persecuted individuals, but they take the form of ‘recognisable expression which can be easily summoned in the process of communication between people’.[36] Christianity is closer to facts and reality.  The Catholic  religion does not only show facts and events, but also ‘invites to their thorough interpretation’.[37] According to Michał Heller, sacrum can be festive and ordinary. However, every time the sacrum gives meaning to the whole world we live in, and transforms it. Most importantly, ‘the sacred also reaches the depths of a human being’.[38] It deepens human authenticity and the effectiveness of thinking and acting. As mentioned in the title – theology, the Bible, liturgy and art play exactly this role, amongst others. Christian rituals fill most of believers’ time, but the most important for their faith and piety is the liturgy, which is emphasized by the first document of the Second Vatican Council, i.e. the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. Religious rituals are directly connected with the liturgy[39] itself, with the whole sacramental life and the Church’s activity as well (cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium 37–40). One and the other are supposed to contribute ‘to protection against secularizing influences (…) and revival of our pastoral life’.[40]

Numinosum, fascinosum and tremendum move us towards the reality which concerns different aspects of man’s meeting with God. The philosophical and theological interpretation is penetration into the supernatural reality.[41] We should also add that it is continually accepted, understood and expressed. Man uses various methods and forms, also visible, or even dramatic and emotional means of expression. Among them, there are also signs and symbols. Also the apocryphal sources of numerous themes and motives in art – including the contemplative strength and depth of icons[42] – are important. The biblical and theological interpretations help us decode and describe the evidence of God’s existence and presence, and even His image. Isn’t art, especially sacred art a constant search for God’s image?[43] Where are you, what are you like, in what way do you exist and reveal yourself? These are questions asked not only by philosophers and theologians, but also the people who create art. After the difficult situations that the Church experienced, of which  the dramatic apogee was destruction of all pictures and images of Jesus – the Son of God, and the whole iconoclastic movement, ‘the Byzantine East did not go beyond the theologically codified two-dimensional image (…)’.[44]

Not only the first three commandments, but the whole of the Decalogue are the content, the light, the inspiration and the source for literature and art. Paul Claudel (1868–1955) notices in the Decalogue a kind of ‘huge lexicon’, ‘with the use of which we may decipher and understand our reality and the vision of the world’.[45]

Both liturgy and art deal with the problem of the sacred emanation and its different reminiscence in time and space. The particular indication of the connection of what is earthly with what is heavenly is the interpretation of Jerusalem as a forecast of eternal happiness and unfathomable beauty. We can see, therefore, how important the reference to historical and ethnographic sciences really is, and even to cultural studies as well as to the various aspects of theology, ‘but above all to the history of art, where iconography and symbolism play an extremely important role’.[46]

It happens that saeculum is treated by some like profanum, whereas by others as sacrum. Mixing the concepts easily leads to the relativism and even to the degradation of the sacrum of places and space,[47] and eventually, to the lost of hierarchy and dignity of what is consecrated, sanctified and sanctifying. In the extreme cases it leads to the trivialization of the holy time and place, and also the liturgy.[48]

The decoding of iconography

Iconography concerns itself with illustrating and symbolizing different things or states of reality. These can be also prosaic and secular, such as a ballet dancer, a wanderer, a farmer; a lily, a forget-me-not or a rose; a circle, a gate or a window; a forge[49] or a table; a mirror or a treasure. This obviousness is worth stressing here, because the first part of the concept seems to take us into the reality of the world of icons. This etymological loan can confuse even experts, should they not take into account the context of a particular icon.

The problem also concerns the depiction of religion, the Bible and the liturgy. Pre-iconography of many biblical, hagiographical and symbolic scenes may portray people, objects and things which at first sight concern earthly reality. However, in masterpieces from various epochs the earthly, horizontal level can be combined with a ­‘transcendental dimension’. The strange combination or even coexistence of horizontalism and verticalism can be found in the works of greatest artists. Some of the Dutch still-life paintings are perceived in such a way, where the mundane nature of things and objects, their casualness and economy of colours seem to be permeated by some strange internal light and a touching speech of darkness. Similarly, the works of Olga Boznanska are interpreted as an attempt to ‘show the non-materiality in the materiality of objects’ and to reach the depth of beings presented by means of a paintbrush ‘beyond the ephemeral reality of appearances’.[50] ‘From those contradictions the affirmation of being is sometimes created. The praise of what exists transforms mysteriously into the praise of the One that exists’.[51] Consequently, this integral experience as well as ‘seeing together’ is represented in dozens of secular works.

There are various topics for a work of art which directly coveys a religious message. Sometimes it is a diversified interpretation of medieval thought which became a rule for liturgy: through visible matters (visibilia), it guides us to the invisible ones (invisibilia).[52] Ultimately, it is theologically based iconography that helps us to identify a particular motif or message of a given work of art. The multi-volume Lexikon der Christlichen Ikonographie (LCI), as well as many other studies provide substantial assistance in this matter.[53] A given iconographic situation can be made concrete thanks to its attributes, background and context. Therefore, one person can symbolize moderation, whereas another person can symbolize piety or valour. Figures of saints and angels can be specified owing to their attributes, using their biography or a characteristic or miraculous event from a saint’s life.[54]

Rich Christological iconography allows us to identify the scenes of Christ’s life and Passion[55] and to specify any mistagogical and eschatological motifs related to the Messiah. Worth noting is the fact that the words and deeds of Jesus are strongly connected with the reality of space and time[56]. His teaching goes beyond closed formulae and abstract notions, as it is full of metaphors and parables,[57] existential situations and vivid images. It is ‘a record of the direct intuition, free from any dialectic’.[58] Consequently, we may say that Christian culture and art, or even religious didactics is based on ‘imagery and symbolic thinking’.[59]

In addition to this, Virgin Mary’s theme and iconography deal with various events and dogmas from her life connected with folk piety, tradition and places of pilgrimage. Depicting biblical roots of both artistic work[60] and Marian piety seems very important and appreciated, also by various Protestant factions. Mary’s particular iconographic characteristics (titles connected with her virtues, privileges, dogmas, as well as revelations and sanctuaries) have had a substantial influence on portraying her in iconography. This also concerns regional and local places of cult and piety, including the interior design of modern churches.

The development of iconographic types is also influenced by decrees of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, other official documents from the Holy See,[61] in addition to the decisions of Episcopal conferences and councils. Various speeches by the Pope that provide the so-called ordinary, unofficial teaching (homilies, pilgrimages the angelus) cannot be omitted here. As this ‘voice of Rome’ spreads widely, it stands as a certain option or tendency for the Roman Catholic Church.

The development of theological thought and preference of a given article of faith seems to accelerate artistic experiments and provoke a variety of views and interpretations. This concerns e.g. the blessed and the saints being canonized in a particular period of time. The informational and formational setting which accompanies such events is obviously of fundamental importance. Similarly significant are a variety of regular and occasional radio and TV programmes, in addition to the internet. Numerous publications also play an important role. These can include scientific dissertations, philosophical and theological theses, exegetical studies, artistic and formal analyses as well as hermeneutical[62] syntheses. Therefore, there are multiple realisations or interpretations presenting eucharistic, pneumatological, eschatological and ecclesiastical subjects, or the subjects of  God’s mercy, Christ the King, Passion and Parousia.

There are even views that iconographic and iconological methods are outdated and do not reach the psyche and mentality of the contemporary recipient. Can we really talk about any limitations and breakthroughs in the interpretation of the works of art?[63]

Space-time context

So called social facts influence the artistic process, understanding and explanation of a given work of art; they also influence the evaluation and classification of art. Two substantially different scientific ways of the treatment of art history can be distinguished:

–          Atomization: each piece of art is perceived as ‘only an individual creation of concrete and short-term artistic activity’;

–          Determinism: creative processes are subordinated to the regularities of historical artistic processes, whose one extreme is fatalism, where ‘the artist became a slave to the historical forces in the face of which he was totally powerless’.[64]

The above-cited author believes that the introduction of a new synthesis of art history is needed, which can be facilitated by the introduction of a differentiation between internal and external substructures. In its extreme form this refers to artistic works which present cult-like, sacred values.

Christian art is closely related to current pastoral work, preaching the word and religious instructions of God. It can also be said that the broad definition of the Church’s mission and its evangelical work is deeply rooted in the theological interpretation of art. As theology refers to many sources, it gives explanations and defends its doctrinal correctness and fidelity. At that point it is worth adding that none of the depictions found in the catacombs or in the art of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque or contemporary religious and sacred art can be treated as the only and definitive source of truth.[65] This aspect of openness, accommodated renovation and enculturation (sometimes called acculturation) by all means refers to the liturgy itself,[66] but also to artistic creation, including architecture and sacred art, which is strongly emphasised by Sacrosanctum Concilium (11, 21, 36). It is an appeal, addressed at the believers, ‘o cooperate with celestial grace instead of accepting it in vain’. Preparation for its efficient operation is the appropriate attitude of soul. All church members, both the clergy and the lay, should try to make liturgy be celebrated in a ‘valid and proper’ way, and to make its participants do it ‘consciously, actively and fruitfully’. Also here, beside the unchangeable truths and contents, set up by God, there are such that, with time, can, and should, be altered, ‘if they have been entered by elements which do not entirely suit the internal nature of liturgy, or if these contents have become less appropriate’. It is the competent territorial Church authorities that are to decide about the methods of adapting the visible signs (rituals, books, and the language) ‘to signify the invisible reality of God’. It is the local Church (also in missions) that is obliged to specify, for various tribes, people, and nations, the form, the particular style, or material in music and church art. The Church should continue to fulfil the role of ‘an arbiter in the matters of art, judging which of the artists’ works are in agreement with faith, piety, and traditional values, and are appropriate for sacred applications.’

Lex credendi, lex orandi and also lex videndi and lex vivendi are characteristic collections of rules and rituals which co-create reality, integrity and the consequences of being a Christian. The decision of faith, holding on to it, broadening it and developing occur through the paradigm of rite, prayer and visions. They pervade and complement each other. The theory and religious experiences enrich the life of man; find, bring up and shape human personality through beauty and order.[67] The special value of the Word and Picture, the latter being a support and complement to the former, is particularly commemorated in the Christian East.[68] At the same time, the picture helps in handing on, memorizing and strengthening our faith. Picture plays an informative, justifying, and instructional role in addition to its other functions. However, the trouble is that the artistic source shouldn’t be treated as a faithful and inviolable faith transmitter. At this point we need to tackle the problem of reinterpretation of a given act of faith. ‘Licentia poetica’ is a long lasting factor and in this case it is the artistic imagination, which tries to convey a certain religious message. Consequently, the artist plays the role of a mediator between theories, dogmas of faith, historical interpretations, modern creative tendencies, the style of the epoch or the recipient’s perception.[69] The artist not only can but needs to reinterpret a certain biblical event, the dogma or an existential situation in the language of his era. The creative attitude is an essential condition of real art. It also concerns the religious or sacred art. The experience of the previous century when modern, avant-gardist artists[70] (even the controversial ones) were engaged to work for the church, can be used as an example of invention. The French Dominicans played an incredibly significant role in the introduction of the ‘novum’ process, and directly connected with this process were A. M. Cocagnac and P. R. Regamey, connected with the avant-garde artistic world before taking vows. They both contributed greatly to the pioneering of the pre-ecumenical council’s dialogue with modern artists, through numerous meetings, conferences, religious recollections, and publications. Regamey even ventured to write a multi-faceted masterpiece about the sacred art of the twentieth century, in which the title-aspects of this article are leading themes.[71]

One of the methods of bringing religious and sacred artistic creation closer to a wide recipient audience is to present it at exhibitions or vernissages. A few years ago monthly expositions of artist’s works were organized, which represented this kind of art. The artwork that was presented was inspired by the Holy Bible and included works of art by: Marc Chagall (1887–1985), Salvador Dali (1904–1989), Otto Dix (1891–1969), Gustave Doré (1832–1883), Godefroy (Gottfried) Engelmann (1788–1839).[72]

However, a certain problem arises when it comes to understanding the artist’s role and tasks in the mediation process. It is impossible to experiment on
so called living recipients. The medial or artistic experiment cannot be an aim itself. The awareness of the prophetic and ancillary role should be the motive in artist’s creations, especially in the specific religious and sacrum ethos.

The theology of a certain epoch puts catechetic as well as artistic emphasis on chosen contents and its interpretations in a given time. One should not fail to mention the study of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and her connection with redemption and crowning.  Another multithreaded subject, which was visibly present already in early Christianity, is the worship of martyrs and saints, and their presentation in art, which was reflected in the movement ‘Peregrinatio Christiana’.[73]

A particularly ‘popular’ subject was the presentation of different aspects of the so called ‘final things’. Descriptions of the apocalypse constitute peculiar content and interesting matter for an artist. Characteristic elements of interior furnishing in times of early Christianity were  tombs with interesting sepulchral iconography and reliquary. Amongst inscriptions placed in tombs were poems, quotations and epigrams. The cross is one special motif which pervades architectural structure as well as interior furnishing. The crosses of triumph are also presented, especially the so called crux gemmata. The motif of the cross is found in church ornaments, liturgy equipment and garments. At the same time the cross should not be misunderstood and misused as only a part of the decoration.

Watching the work of art without getting into the symbolism and the context of the space-time may lead to unclear, or even wrong interpretation of a given piece of artwork. For example, when we admire the three winged characters in the work of Andrei Rublev, there is not much to say without any reference to theology, iconography and the Bible. The context of eastern Christianity and the comments left by the author make us see not only angels, but an archetypical, as well as theological trinitarian interpretation of this Old Testament motive. Because of this, Rublev entitled his work ‘The Holy Trinity’.

In a similar way, we look into biblical texts that are concerned with the symbolic numbers: four, seven, ten, and twelve…; the symbols of four Evangelists, or five wise women and five foolish ones. The symbolic tower of Babel is something more than just a building.

We can also perceive similarly the rich symbolism of both flora and fauna. The rooster that is placed on the steeple of a church is not a decoration but refers to the Church as a living organism that is based on the apostles’ foundation but is marked with Peter’s renouncement (Matt. 26, 72; Luke 22, 57; John 18, 25–27). The symbolic meaning of a pelican, dove, fish or lamb is especially rich, theologically and liturgically.

Guides with poor theological knowledge, critics or artists interpret vegetable elements almost exclusively as a part of decoration, supplement, and ornaments. It is worth looking back at Christian symbolism to see not only the form but the hidden message, specific content and theological and iconological significance. It is not only possible, but often required to recall the rich kerygmatic and didactic symbolism of what we refer to as pictura docet. Also complex analyses of particular items are necessary: brags and wreathes, garlands and rosettes, ears of cereal plants, palms, roses, lilies, the tree of Eden or the fig tree, or even mustard and sycamore. In new church buildings we probably won’t be going back to Biblia pauperum, but we will use its contemporary reminiscence. It is important not to go too far, not to exceed a clear limit between what is suitable for a holy place and what is its profanation. Eventually, it is all about the attitude of ‘appropriateness’. Surprisingly, the new view on ‘texts’ and ‘contexts’ in artwork of different eras was introduced by George Kubler’s inconspicuous book, which is currently being translated into Polish.[74] The clarity of form, legibility of the message and theological-liturgical priority combine to guarantee the kind of space shaping that leads to God.

Practice of theology and art

The word ‘to practice’ in its original meaning (to cultivate) is associated with the nurturing of plants and gardens. To practice a profession means to prove one’s skills and perfection in a given area. With reference to theology and art, the verb ‘to practice’ seems to combine the two previously mentioned aspects: showing precision and gentleness (like with plants) as well as using something with experience, that means with consistent professionalism. Theology ‘very clearly differentiates from other discipline… because of its specificity we can say that it is rather wisdom than science. However, it possesses its own roots, goals, subject and methods, like other domains of knowledge’.[75] The same author rightly admits: ‘It seems that theologians use not enough of the sacred art as a theological place’.[76]

Synthesis, or rather symbiosis is required not only for architects, painters, sculptors, and stained glass makers, but also for theoreticians, critics, and art historians. It especially concerns those who concentrate on theological roots of liturgy and art. Its consequence in liturgy is mystagogical trait and in the work of art it is the most vital sense that is included in its iconology. Some explanations are required here:

1) The core and the beginning of etymology of the word iconology is icon, and in its original meaning iconology concerns theological analysis of only an icon, and defines ‘its place in theology, liturgy and clergy’[77].

2) Jerzy Nowosielski concentrates on the formal analysis, structure, and artistic values of an icon, and on this basis he tries to infer its main theological thought.

3) The school of Panofsky broadens this term: it also concerns the third phase of interpretation of a work of art, which Jan Białostocki simply describes as discovering the sense of a work of art, its ‘internal sense’.[78]

4) A consequence of the above is talking about iconology, as well as iconography, with regards to every work of art, plot or motive: ‘iconic’, therefore, is associated with ‘pictorial and photographic’, and it has nothing to do with an icon in religious or sacred meaning. We can talk about iconography and iconology of laic matters and things, ordinary, or even prosaic and scandalous ones.[79] The encyclopaedic description of this diversity is included in the famous work of Cesare Ripa, which Andrzej Borowski, in the introduction in the Polish edition, calls ‘the museum of imagination’.[80]

5) The problem that should be considered in the context of the four title domains of human piety and creativity is the analysis of hierophany concepts and symbolic, as well as semantic and semiotic paradigms.[81]

6) Theology is in a way anchored in the whole, rich earthly world with man-created so called ‘humanistic facts’. They include spiritual and material culture. ‘Understanding God through research is currently possible only indirectly’.[82] Revelation as well as liturgy takes place by means of words and symbols. A man himself relies on the heritage of ancestors and takes advantage of their experience. Man, by things that are ‘connected with each other… creates cultures and civilizations,… but at the same time he also satisfies the need of expressing oneself, ostentation, passing on acquired values, and finally expresses his attitude to transcendence’.[83] It is commonly known that a specific symptom of material and spiritual culture is art in different forms.

I put forward a thesis that the biggest sense of a work of art should be reserved for the discipline which slowly crystallizes: ‘ars theologica’. However, others talk about an international cooperation in Christianity to crystallize modern ‘theologia artis’ in Catholicism. It is important to specify the range and structure of this discipline. It would consist of the whole of plastic arts and architectural creativity. It would not only concern the 19th or 20th century, but also the most contemporary works, perceived and assessed with theology of art in mind. I regret to say that the works of western authors, which mention in their titles architecture or modern art, only partially tackle religious and sacred creativity.[84]


A kind of summary of the above argument could be the paraphrased title of my paper, which was presented during the international meeting of architects. Fides, ratio and ars are all important and essential, but not only in historic churches.[85] They are significant in every situation, for example, when an architect designs a village or town church, a church for students, one in a proletarian district, or for the people of the mountains or the sea. Surely they cannot be ignored by an artist who is interested in interior decoration, and they should be a motive for a parish priest who leads his parish community and for one who invests in its development. The sociological, artistic and pastoral task of careful merging of all the elements factors and criteria is required to create a valuable, precious and even perfect work. This goal can be reached through cooperation of all who decide about and co-create a sacred work of art. Its basis is careful and extensive perception of human habitat, nature, surrounding architecture and urban elements, from which the idea, concept, and program of the work can emerge. This is the most important phase of creation. Its consequence and effect will be the project and, eventually, its realization. This is not only the introduction of new architectural objects, but a conscious and responsible creation of art hic et nunc. The artwork should be close to a particular congregation, human friendly and communicative… It should be community-forming. This is a lot to ask, but is it enough?

It should be, above all, space dedicated to God, referring to established terms of ritual sacralization – ‘dedicatio ecclesiae’. Everything that creates this specific space and reality, where God is true and real also beyond liturgy, must be worthy and valuable. So the value of a given artwork should not be based on its size or precious materials.[86] Along with artistic and aesthetic values, there is a need to take care of legible and clear hallmarks, which can not only identify an object as sacred but also incline visitors or passers-by to worship God, to talk to him, adore or simply contemplate. This is very important irrespective of the kind of materials that were used, or the kind of creative tendency represented by the artist.

Not only professional artists but generally all of us are the addressees of this wise and deep Letter to the artists of John Paul II.  This text, published on the 4th of April 1999, that is, almost symbolically at the turn of the century, is a guideline to the new times for many people connected with artistic activity. Or maybe it should be treated as inspiration, or as a prayer book of sacrum and beauty, inviting us to what John Paul II described as ‘commune with beauty’. Władysław Stróżewski (in his text to the jubilee work dedicated to John Paul II) writes about the transcendental. At the end of his work he talks about beauty: concluding everything with Norwid’s verse. ‘Art does not create beauty but beauty creates art. And because it makes it exist. I know that what I am saying about beauty is old- fashioned. I know that today’s artists do not solicit this. But I believe that beauty is the most important thing, and it is going to be the only thing that will survive in music, art, architecture, poetry, and in the truth and good, which the ancients called kalokagathia.

Richness diverse will vanish and pass,Treasures and powers will perish, all will tremble,

Of the things of this world only two will remain,

Two only: poetry and goodness

We should treat John Paul II’s appeal personally, to make a talent and duty our task and obligation. The appeal ‘to enquire with creative intuition into mystery of God’[87] is not simply a meditation. This is a very strange task which awaits us not only on occasion but every day, during strenuous creative work, but most of all – in creative thinking and creative attitude.

We face a task of taking care of a appropriate iconographic programme and artistic and realizational standard of our churches. It is a great cooperative and co-responsible task for theologians, biblists, and liturgists. I hope they will join the artists to help create works of art that are entirely modern, but at the same time pervaded with the depth of spirituality and the atmosphere of sacrum.


translated by Anna Gajewska and Dagmara Filip-Simpson

[1] D. Strinati, Wprowadzenie do kultury popularnej, Poznań, 1998, pp.190ff.

[2] D. M. Turoldo, Misterium czasu, Kraków, 2000, p.24. “You and Him participate in creation which lasts; you are becoming God’s collaborator, you co-create with God”.

[3] K. Bracha, “Teolog-intelektualista i duszpasterz w państwie średniowiecznym”, in: Kolory i struktury średniowiecza, ed. W. Fałkowski, Warszawa, 2004, pp.136–154.

[4] J. S. Pasierb, Człowiek i jego świat w sztuce religijnej renesansu, Warszawa, 1999, pp.37ff.

J. Sokołowska, Spory o barok. W poszukiwaniu modelu epoki, Warszawa, 1971, p.47.

[5] K. Adam, Natura katolicyzmu, Warszawa, 1999, p.186.

[6] Jan Paweł II, Wiara i kultura. Dokumenty, przemówienia, homilie, Rome, 1986.

Jan Paweł II, Pamięć i tożsamość. Rozmowy na przełomie tysiącleci, Kraków, 2005.

Jan Paweł II, Fides et ratio, Poznań, 1998.

Jan Paweł II człowiek kultury, eds. K. Flader, W. Kawecki, Kraków, 2008.

J. Ratzinger, Służyć prawdzie. Myśli na każdy dzień, Poznań–Warszawa–Lublin, 1983.

J. Ratzinger, Duch liturgii, Poznań, 2002.

[7] Symbol Apostolski w nauczaniu i sztuce Kościoła do Soboru Trydenckiego, ed. R. Knapiński, Lublin, 1997.

[8] A. Dylus, “Cnota”, in  Słownik teologiczny, ed. A. Zuberbier,  Katowice, 1998, p.96.

[9] K. Drzymała, “Katakumby rzymskie”, Ruch Biblijny i Liturgiczny 28 (1985) no.1, p.61, pp.64–73.

B. Filarska, Początki sztuki chrześcijańskiej, Lublin, 1986, pp.15–22, 31ff.

[10] R. Etchegaray, “Nasze Credo, in Wiara Kościoła. Biskupi francuscy komentują wyznanie wiary, Warszawa, 1985, p.9.

[11] R. Hind, Twarze Boga, Warszawa, 2005, p.7.

[12] S. Wysłouch, ”Wizualność metafory”, in Miejsca wspólne. Szkice o komunikacji literackiej i artystycznej, eds. E. Balcerzan, S. Wysłouch, Warszawa, 1985, p.218.

[13] W. Świerzawski, “Zakorzenić sztukę liturgiczną w teologii (o dojrzałe powołanie artysty)”, in Sztuka w liturgii, ed. W. Świerzawski, Kraków, 1996, pp.221–230.

[14] Cf. L. Giussani, Zmysł religijny, Poznań, 2000, p.170: ‘Deep self-awareness suspects the existence of Someone Else at its foundation. That is what prayer is: deep self-awareness, which collides with Someone Else. In this way prayer is the only human gesture in which the human greatness exists entirely’; p.174: ‘The world is like a word, logos, referring to something else, something beyond oneself, something above. In Greek the word ‘higher’ (above) is aná. This is the meaning of the word ‘analogy’, similarity: a form of a collision between a human being and the reality gives birth to an internal voice which attracts him to the meaning which is farther, higher, aná.’

[15] H. Nadrowski, “Liturgia – kontekst mediatyczny oraz ikoniczny”, in Laudate Dominum. Księdzu Profesorowi Jerzemu Stefańskiemu z okazji 65-lecia urodzin i 40-lecia kapłaństwa, ed. K. Konecki, Gniezno, 2005, pp.77–99.

[16] The common and different elements were paid attention to during the interdisciplinary conference “Teatr–Kultura–Liturgia”, Opole–Wrocław, 16th–17th March 2005, cf. E. Mateja ,“Sprawozdanie z konferencji naukowej Teatr–Kultura–Liturgia“, Liturgia Sacra 11 (2005), no.2, pp.423–425. Also cf. Obraz i kult. Materiały z konferencji “Obraz i kult”, KUL–Lublin, 6–8 października 1999, eds. M. U. Mazurczak, J. Patyra, Lublin, 2002.

[17] P. Petryk, “Liturgia a duchowość chrześcijańska”, Liturgia Sacra 12 (2006), no.1, pp.14ff.

[18] K. Lijka, Rewaloryzacja roli paschału w odnowionej liturgii Wigilii Paschalnej, Poznań, 2007, p.296.

[19] M. Janion, “Maska. Maski. Ontologiczne nieszczęście Człowieka Śmiechu”, in Maski , vol.2, eds. M. Janion, S. Rosik, Gdańsk,1986, p.399.

[20] H. Nadrowski, “Prawda o Bogu i człowieku przez sztukę”, Międzynarodowy Przegląd Teologiczny “Communio” 7 (1987), no.4, pp.68–69.

[21] M. Walicki, Hans Memling Sąd Ostateczny, the unfinished manuscript completed and edited by Jan Białostocki, Warszawa, 1981, pp.16.

[22] A. Maśliński, Humanizm w sztuce. Antyk i człowiek, Kraków, 1978, pp.57.

[23] It’s advisable to examine a relatively short, but interpretatively and bibliographically rich text, concerning the  mentioned motive: T. Dobrzeniecki, “Haec porta Domini: justi intrabunt in eam. Contribution to iconography of Hans Memling’s Last Judgement”, in Ars auro prior. Studia Joanni Białostocki sexagenario dicata, Warszawa, 1981, pp.187–192.

[24] H. Wölfflin, Podstawowe pojecia historii i sztuki. Problem rozwoju stylu w sztuce nowożytnej, Wrocław–Warszawa–Kraków, 1962, p.307.

K. Piwocki, Pierwsza nowoczesna teoria sztuki. Poglądy Aloisa Riegla, Warszawa, 1970, p.338.

[25] S. Pazura, “Structura i sacrum. Estetyka sztuk plastycznych Hansa Sedlmayera”, in Sztuka i społeczeństwo. Vol.1: Ocalenie przez sztukę, ed. A. Kuczyńska, Warszawa, 1973, pp.91–165.

[26] E. Panofsky, Studia z historii sztuki, Warszawa, 1971, p.29.

[27] J. Szymik, “Piękno Boga, piękno człowieka”, in  Chrześcijaństwo i kultura XXI wieku, ed. A. Jarmusiewicz, Kraków, 2002, p.211: ‘That stereotype has its source in the fracture of the world in Paradise, in the scene of tempting Adam and Eve, when Satan makes them suspect God, suspect that His intentions when forbidding them to taste the fruits from the tree were not pure. As a result, this stereotype has its source in the fake image of  God, which has its satanic roots- because it’s a lie about God. This exists in the thousands of human images in various mutations, e.g. The image of the god-watchmaker who winded the world but is not interested in it; the image of god who is looking at human pain with the folded – presumably  almighty – arms; the image of god (even more brutal), who is playing with the world and people, ,moving them like pawns on the chessboard of history, or last but not least, the image  (very popular in various versions) of the cage made by god with the aid of commandments. In the cage, all human freedom, happiness and development is imprisoned.’           

[28] A. Rouet, “Art et liturgie”, La Maison-Dieu (1991), no.186, pp.73–88.

[29] P.-M. Gy, “Espace et celebration comme question théologique”, La Maison-Dieu (1978), no.136, pp.42ff.

[30] H. U. von Balthasar Teodramatyka. Vol.1. Prolegomena, Kraków, 2005, pp. 259–260.

[31] B. Bakuła, Człowiek jako dzieło sztuki. Z problemów metarefleksji artystycznej, Poznań, 1994, p.13.

[32] E. Manfredini, “Riflessi della riforma liturgica sull’architettura della chiesa”, Fede e Arte (1965), no.2, p. 246.

[33] An example may be the following work by an ex-Dominican: H. C. Zander, Ecce Jesus. Zamach na religijny kicz, Wrocław, 1993.

[34] A. N. Whitehead, Religia w tworzeniu, Kraków, 1997, p.35.

[35] Ibid., p.39.

[36] Ibid., p.44.

[37] Ibid., p.57.

[38] M. Heller, Wszechświat i słowo, Kraków, 1980,  p.53.

[39] A. Chupungco, “Adaptation de la liturgie à la culture et aux traditions des  peuples”, La Maison-Dieu (1985),  no.162, pp.26ff.

[40] I. Celary, “Polskie zwyczaje religijne”, in Liturgia Sacra 8 (2002), no.2, p.284.

[41] A. Nossol, “Teologiczny wymiar sacrum i profanum”, in Człowiek – dzieło – sacrum, eds. S. Gajda, H. J. Sobeczko, Opole, 1998, pp.14ff.

A. Basista, “Teologiczna wymowa współczesnych budowli sakralnych”, in Budownictwo miast i wsi. Budownictwo Sakralne ’98. Białystok 78 maja 1998. Konferencja Naukowo-Techniczna. Białystok, 1998, pp.10ff.

[42] L. Bastiaansen, Ikony Wielkiego Tygodnia, Kraków, 2003, p.11.

[43] Hind, p.7.

[44] A. Flis, Chrześcijaństwo i Europa, Kraków, 2003, p.217.

[45] G. Ravasi, Przykazania w Piśmie Świętym i sztuce, Kielce, 2003, p.24.

[46] S. Kobielus, Niebiańska Jerozolima. Od sacrum miejsca do sacrum modelu, Warszawa,1989, p.8.

[47] A. Stauffer, “Inculturation et architekture d’eglise”, La Maison-Dieu (1989), no.179, p.98.

A. M. Szymski, “Symbolika formy a idea konstrukcji w emocjonalnym odbiorze przestrzeni sakrum”, in Budownictwo miast i wsi. Budownictwo sakralne ’96. Białystok 1011 Maja 1996. Konferencja Naukowo-Techniczna. Białystok, 1996, pp.195ff.

[48] J. Plazaola, Kościół i sztuka. Od początków do naszych dni, Kielce, 2002, p.11.

[49] M. Poprzęcka, “Kuźnia – postscriptum”, in Ars auro prior…, pp.735–738.

[50] A. Dombrowska, „Martwa natura Ślewińskiego, Boznańskiej i Wyczółkowskiego w opinii krytyki”, in Roczniki Humanistyczne 36–37 (1988–1989), no.4, pp.36.

[51] A. Olędzka-Frybesowa, Patrząc na ikony. Wędrówki po Europie, Warszawa, 2001, p.298.

[52] It is beautifully expressed in numerous prayers, e.g. the Christmas preface: ‘In the wonder of the incarnation

Your eternal Word has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of Your glory. In Him we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see’. These two realities are also mentioned in the preface of Dedication of a Church: ‘Lord, You allowed us to build this visible edifice, in which You protect Your people in their pilgrimage and give them the sign and the grace of unity with You. In this holy place You build Your temple of living stones which are Your people and You make the Church growing all over the world develop as the Mystical Body of Christ until it reaches its fulfilment in blessed peace of celestial Jerusalem.  Also the preface of Christian Death emphasizes the relation of these two worlds: the earthly, transient, and the celestial, eternal one: The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. Lord, for Your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death  we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.’

[53] At least two elementary publications should be mentioned here:

Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie, ed. E. Kirchbaum. Vol.1–8,  Rome–Freiburg–Basel–Wien, 2004;  and

D. Forstner, Świat symboliki chrześcijańskiej, Warszawa, 1990.

Other works worth mentioning here are:

Leksykon – hitoria, sztuka, ikonografia, being currently published by ‘Arkady’, an excellently prepared series of illustrated thematic volumes (Old Testament; New Testament; Angels and demons; Symbols and allegories; Astrology, magic and alchemy; Nature and its symbols plants and animals);

J. Seibert, Leksykon sztuki chrześcijańskiej. Tematy, postacie, symbole, Kielce, 2002.

J. E. Cirlot, Słownik symboli, Kraków, 2007.

[54] B. Balicka, Święci, relikwie i patroni, Białystok, 2003, pp.9–17.

[55] A. Boczkowska, Tryumf Luny i Wenus. Pasja Hieronima Boscha, Kraków, 1980, pp.5–19.

[56] E. Weiler, Jesus Gottessohn. Begegnung und Bekentniss, Leipzig, 1975, pp.5–8, 57–63, 138–149.

[57] S. K. Stopczyk, Biblia Rembrandta, Warszawa, 1960, pp.16ff.

M. Roztworowski, Rembrandta przypowieść o miłosiernym Samarytaninie, Warszawa, 1980, pp.74–78.

[58] Whitehead, pp.60ff.

[59] J. Suchecki, Między nauką, religią i sztuką. Nieeksplanacyjne wartości nauk społecznych, Warszawa,  1993, p.80.

[60] S. Michalski, “Widzialne słowa sztuki protestanckiej”, in Słowo i obraz. Materiały Sympozjum Komitetu Nauk o Sztuce Polskiej Akademii Nauk. Nieborów, 29 września 1 października 1977, ed. A. Morawińska, Warszawa: PWN, 1982, pp.178ff.

[61] T. Chrzanowski, “W poszukiwaniu nowej  ikonografii”, in Sacrum i sztuka. Rogóźno. Materiały z konferencji zorganizowanej przez sekcję Historii Sztuki KUL. Rogóźno 1820 października 1984, Kraków, 1989, ed. N. Cieślińska,  Kraków,  1989,  pp.15ff.

[62] P. Ricoeur, Egzystencja i hermeneutyka. Rozprawy o metodzie, Warszawa, 1975.

K. Klauza, Teologiczna hermeneutyka ikony, Lublin, 2002.

C. Rogowski, Hermeneutyczno-dydaktyczny wymiar symbolu i implikacje pedagogicznoreligijne. Studium pedagogicznoreligijne w wymiarze interdyscyplinarnym, Lublin, 1999.

[63] E. H. Gombrich,  “Ziele und Grenzen der Ikonologie”, in  Ikonographie und Ikonologie. Theorien – Entwicklung – Probleme. Bildende Kunst als Zeichensystem, vol.1, ed. E. Kaemmerling, Köln, 1979,  pp.396–435.

[64] J. Kębłowski, “Problem syntezy w historii sztuki. Głos antycypujący dyskusję”, in: Ars auro prior…, p.35.

[65] K. Czerni, „Antysacrum – czyli o konflikcie współczesnej sztuki z religią”, in: Sacrum i sztuka, pp.190ff.

[66] B. Ugeux, “L’inculturation de la liturgie”,  La Maison-Dieu (1996), no.208, pp.83ff.

[67] H. Nadrowski, “Obraz, symbol, słowo. Inspiracje i kreacje”, Studia Laurentiana 3 (2003), no.1, p.150.

[68] L. Heiser, Das Licht aus der Höhe. Verkündigung, Glaube, Feier des Herren-Mysteriums in der Orthodoxen Kirche, St Ottilien, 1998, pp.30–35.

[69] G. M. Roers, “Lesbarkeit der Kunst”, Geist und Leben 4 (2000), pp.304ff.

[70] M. De Micheli, Az avantgardizmus, Budapest, 1978, pp.65–74, 95–104, 122–130.

[71] P. R. Rgamey, Art sacr au XXe siècle?, Paris, 1952;

A. M. Cocagnac, “Le vrai renouveau commence dans le coeur”, L’Art Sacr (1963), no. 11–12, pp.5 –17;

A. M. Cocagnac, “Rouault”,  L’Art Sacr (1964), no. 5–6, pp.7–32.

[72] Biblia w sztuce. Wystawa w Muzeum Śląskim w Katowicach, Exhibition in the Silesia Museum in Katowice, 29th October – 29th November 2004.

[73] B. Pawłowska, Urbs Sacra. Pielgrzymki i podróże religijne do Rzymu i w starożytności chrześcijańskiej (IVVII w.), Kraków, 2007, pp.63–76, 82–91.

[74] G. Kubler, Kształt czasu. Uwagi o historii rzeczy,Warszawa, 1970; see also: J. Białostocki, Sztuka i myśl humanistyczna. Studia z dziejów sztuki i myśli o sztuce, Warszawa, 1966, pp.135–145.

[75] S. C. Napiórkowski, Jak uprawiać teologię, Wrocław, p.10.

[76] Ibid., p.151.

[77] K. Wolsza, “Ikona i doświadczenie religijne. Próba analizy fenomenologicznej”, in Ikony Niewidzialnego, eds. M. Lis,  Z. W. Solski, Opole, 2003, p.23.

[78] J. Białostocki,  Symbole i obrazy w świecie sztuki, Warszawa, 1982, pp.15–22, 28.

J. Białostocki, Historia sztuki wśród nauk humanistycznych, Wrocław, 1980, p.91.

[79] K. Olechnicki, „Obrazy w działaniu – obrazy w badaniu”, in Obrazy w działaniu. Studia z socjologii i antropologii obrazu, ed. K. Olechnicki, Toruń, 2003, p.9.

[80] A. Borowski, “Cesare Ripa czyli muzeum wyobraźni”, in C. Ripa, Ikonologia, Kraków, 1998, pp.V–XIII.

[81] Suchecki, p.81.

[82] J. Majka, Metodologia nauk teologicznych, Wrocław, 1991, pp.83, 90ff.

[83] Ibid., pp.85, 90.

[84] S. Ferrari, Sztuka XX wieku, Warszawa, 2002, p.192.

[85] H. Nadrowski, “Relacje fides, ratio i ars w zabytkowym kościele”, Zeszyty Naukowe Politechniki Białostockiej: Budownictwo (2006), no.30, pp.289–306.

[86] I. Ullman, “Sacrum a kicz – obcość czy powinowactwo?”, in Budownictwo sakralne i monumentalne ‘2002, Białystok 910 maja 2002. IV Międzynarodowa Konferencja Naukowo-Techniczna, Białystok, 2002, pp.390ff.

[87] John Paul II, List do artystów, Poznań, 2007, p.25.

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