Tuesday, April 2, 2019

How Catholic Art Saved the Faith

Caravaggio's "Call of St. Matthew"
A book review by Stephanie Mann:
The first two parts of the book, "The Sacraments" and "Intercession" are the most successful demonstration of the premise of the book: that the images and architecture of Counter-Reformation Rome, starting with the reign of Pope Sixtus V helped the Church defend and revive the doctrines and religious devotions codified at the Council of Trent. The Real Presence, the Sacrament of Penance, Holy Orders, Baptism, the Communion of Saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary, prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, miracles, repentance, etc: Lev matches the restated doctrine to certain paintings exactly.

The third part, "Cooperation" did not explore the thesis of how Catholic Art Saved the Faith but how the Church continued our mission to preach the Gospel to the whole world. The hall of maps and Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers are at a remove from the work of the Church in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth century. The chapter on "Faith and Empiricism" also deviates from the thesis as Lev explores the relationship between faith and reason; the Church and science. I don't think she clarified effectively the difference between Aristotelian/Scholastic Empiricism and the modern Empiricism of Locke and Hume.

The later chapters, on the martyrs, the dignity of women, and the war on sin get back on track, and Lev ends her analysis of faith and art with a discussion of Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. She also provides some good hints for making great Catholic art part of our lives; brief biographies of the major artists, photo credits, and a bibliography. (Read more.)

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