As the divisions separating individual academic disciplines have progressively dissolved over the past few decades, the scope of possible research has widened accordingly and new perspectives have emerged, especially within the broadly understood humanities. A lively methodological exchange has provided scholars with more refined tools to tackle phenomena that have thus far eluded scientific description and analysis. At the same time, the growth of information technology has set an incredibly fast pace on the circulation of ideas and brought about an intensification of research.
The situation has also opened new avenues for the exploration of spiritual issues, especially of religion and its accompanying phenomena in culture and the arts. However, the symptoms of animation and creative zest long present in other branches of the humanities have taken a long time to penetrate into the disciplines that study the spirituality of the modern man and related cultural issues. It is only in recent years that a change could be observed; new initiatives have appeared, such as panels and conferences that popularize this type of research, e.g. “Esthetics and Spirituality: Places of Interiority”, a conference organized by the University of Leuven in 2013.
One of the more frequently addressed research topics is the issue of sacred interior as a venue for special religious and artistic events. Melded together by liturgy, literature and art are just an element of a broader phenomenon rooted in man’s quest for transcendence and contact with the Absolute. A comprehensive approach to the phenomenon has thus far escaped the traditional tools of scholarship, particularly, as mentioned above, due to the rigid separation between individual academic disciplines. The traditional toolbox of the art historian, literature theorist or theologian is too limited to allow an analysis of image, word and event that function within the natural context of sacred space.
The complexity of the subject matter attracts the increased attention of scholars; suffice it to mention the international seminars organized by the Italian Comunità di Bose, a community of clergy and lay people of various Christian denominations. The outcome of their regular meetings is two volumes of texts, Liturgia e arte. La sfida della contemporaneità (2010) and Ars liturgica. L’arte a servizio della liturgia (2012). Similar issues were also addressed by the participants of “Człowiek w przestrzeni sakralnej. Liturgia, literatura, sztuka” (“Man in Sacred Space. Liturgy, Literature, Art”), a conference organized by the University of Rzeszów and the Pontifical University of John Paul II in Cracow, which took place in Rzeszów in the fall of 2013.
When considering the broad spectrum of cultural phenomena that occur in sacred space, it is vital to devote attention to the anthropological perspective, which classifies the esthetic dimension of liturgy under the currently fashionable category of performance (cf. publications by Kamila Baraniecka-Olszewska and others).
The architectural space of the sacred is also the leading theme of the current issue of “Sacrum et Decorum”. The article by Grażyna Ryba discusses several different examples of how sacred space is created in present-day art, while Przemysław Michalski addresses the reception of the church interior in contemporary English-language poetry. The literary expression of artistic and religious experience is also taken on by Katarzyna Szewczyk-Haake in her article.
Research on contemporary sacred art relies heavily on publications whose documentary ambition is to introduce interesting but previously unknown works of art and conceptions into academic circulation. It is very important to reconstruct the context in which these works were created, usually through interviews with remaining witnesses, and on the basis of archival sources, which are often numerous and well-preserved thanks to the short time that has elapsed since their issue. Such valuable publications in the current volume of “Sacrum et Decorum” include articles on monumental paintings from the second half of the 20th century in Wrocław. Krystyna Czerni, a consummate expert on the oeuvre of Jerzy Nowosielski, discusses the artist’s stained-glass windows and polychrome paintings in the churches throughout the city. Quoting previously unpublished sources, the scholar traces the circumstances surrounding their creation and discusses their reception by the public. Also of interest is the article by Anna Siemieniec, which discusses the stained-glass windows of Wrocław by Adam Stalony-Dobrzański, a compelling artist whose oeuvre has not yet been covered by a monograph. The aficionados of stained-glass art might be engaged, at this juncture, to look at the first volume of Korpus witraży z lat 1800–1945 w kościołach rzymskokatolickich metropolii krakowskiej i przemyskiej, recently published by Danuta Czapczyńska-Kleszczyńska and Tomasz Szybisty in cooperation with Paweł Karaszkiewicz and Anna Zeńczak (within a series edited by Wojciech Bałus and Tomasz Szybisty). Devoted to the stained-glass windows in the churches and deaneries of Cracow, the monograph deserves separate discussion, which will be published within these pages in the future. In the meantime, the readers of “Sacrum et Decorum” will surely enjoy Inge Scheidl’s article on the sacred architecture of Vienna at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. While the study is primarily based on a book published by the Austrian scholar over a decade ago and can be described as a sort of authorial presentation, the new form in which Inge Scheidl casts her old theories allows a more synthetic survey of the development of church-building in the capital of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire; we hope, therefore, that it will be interesting also to those among our readers who are not engaged in the study of the architecture of Austrian historicism on a daily basis.
Of special interest, however, is the last article of the volume, by Andrzej Betlej, devoted to the previously unknown letters of Henryk and Karol Marconi from the collections of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. By way of exception, the letters, as primary sources, are published here in their original language.
We hope the current volume of “Sacrum et Decorum” will meet with interest and appreciation equal to its previous issues.
Translated by Urszula Jachimczak