In Search of the Sacred Image
Fr Aidan Nichols, OP
Aidan Nichols, one of the most respected and prolific Catholic writers of our time, has been interested for many years in the relation between the Christian religion and the visual arts. As long ago as 1980 he explored the suggestion that painting might be a useful ‘model’ for understanding how divine revelation works. The emergence of a Christian art in the sub-apostolic and patristic periods confirmed the linkage. The Word of God had stepped into the realm of the visible.
Subsequently he considered how major writers (such as Maritain, Balthasar, Bulgakov, and Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI) had taken the Christian art-image as a topic for theological reflection in its own right.
When in 2016 he brought out a full-length study of Ruskin as a religiously-motivated critic of art (All Great Art is Praise: Art and Religion in John Ruskin), he felt the need to contextualize what I had learned from Ruskin’s writing in a fuller study of the fate of sacred art in Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The present book is the outcome. It draws to a close just when the topic became a neuralgic one in the Catholic Church: that is, in the early 1950s. I have told the story of that ‘quarrel over sacred art’ in Redeeming Beauty. The crisis of the 1950s was never fully resolved by Catholic architects, artists, and patrons. In Search of the Sacred Image looks at the story of what was attempted in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in the period before the partial triumph of (aesthetic) Modernism in the latter, and asks what riches are there, what lessons may be learned.
Aidan Nichols, OP is an English Dominican, at Blackfriars, Cambridge.
978 085244 926 4 260pp Illustrated £15.99