My outlook on religious art — and on everything, really — is traditionalist; that is to say, I believe that there is an objective content to religious art that is knowable from the way things were done in the past. The greatest merit of medieval art is that it honors this content.
In the art called Gothic, the traditions are vigorously presented. The Gothic artists managed to be both faithful and creative. Patristic exegesis informs every composition, and the theological and liturgical order is obvious. But otherwise Gothic art doesn’t look like anything that came before it; its inventors didn’t imitate an ancient precedent. It’s astonishing how quickly they mastered new technologies and new media, such as monumental sculpture and stained glass, and how quickly their influence spread among the Catholic nations.Share
I don’t think of Gothic as a mere historic style characteristic of a certain time and place; that would make of it a very boring thing. Rather, I think of it as the best example of an art made according to Catholic principles — principles that are enduringly true. Paradoxically, because Gothic art is indigenous to Christendom, it can communicate with the art of other traditional cultures especially well; the essential religious content is protected and the style is defined by something other than a chronological or national boundary. (Read more.)