Thursday, April 03, 2008

Name that Cathedral

~Fr. Dwight at Standing on my Head is running a "Name that Cathedral" Quiz. Oh, boy! A fine sampling of that modernist idea of "form before function". I wonder sometimes what goes on in the minds of architects that design such wretched places of worship.

Go there now. I'm glad to see a cleansing post on "Beauty and Truth." Just in case some of those structures traumatized you, how about an online visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

I invite you to read Via Pulchritudinis, from the Pontifical Council on Culture's Plenary session in Rome in 2006. Here's an excerpt:
Beginning with the simple experience of the marvel-arousing meeting with beauty, the via pulchritudinis can open the pathway for the search for God, and disposes the heart and spirit to meet Christ, who is the Beauty of Holiness Incarnate, offered by God to men for their salvation. It invites contemporary Augustines, unquenchable seekers of love, truth and beauty, to see through perceptible beauty to eternal Beauty, and with fervour discover Holy God, the author of all beauty.

All cultures are not equally open to the transcendent and welcoming of Christian Revelation. Not all expressions of beauty—or moments which pretend to be so—favour an acceptance of the message of Christ and the intuition of His divine beauty. As their artistic expressions and aesthetic manifestations are marked by sin, cultures can attract and imprison one's attention until it folds in on itself creating new forms of idolatry. Are we not confronted too often by phenomena of real decadence whereby art and culture are denaturalised and hurt man in his dignity? Beauty itself cannot be reduced to simple pleasure of the senses: this would be to deprive it of its universality, its supreme value, which is transcendent. Perception requires an education, for beauty is only authentic in its link to the truth—of what would brilliance be, if not truth?— and it is at the same time "the visible expression of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical expression of beauty."[6] And again, "Is not beauty the surest route to attain the good?" asked Max Jacob. Although accessible to all, the Way of Beauty is not exempt from ambiguity, deviations, errors, detours etc. Always dependent on human subjectivity, it can be reduced to ephemeral aestheticism and let itself be instrumentalised and made servile to the captivating fashions of consumer society. Priority must also be given to learning to discern between the uti and the frui, that is between a relationship with things and people based uniquely on functionality (uti) and an authentic and trusting relationship (frui) solidly enrooted in the beauty of gratuitous love, according to St Augustine in his De catechizandis rudibus "Nulla est enim maior ad amorem invitatio quam praevenire amando - There is no greater invitation to love than to love first" (Lib. I, 4.7,26).

It is necessary to clarify just what is the via pulchritudinis, and of what it is made. Which is the beauty that favours the handing on of the faith by its capacity to touch people's hearts, to express the mystery of God and of the human person, to be an authentic "bridge", an open space for a pathway for the men and women of our times who already know beauty, or wish to learn to appreciate it, and help them meet the beauty of the Gospel of Christ, which the Church has for its mission to announce to all people of goodwill?


frival said...

I can't believe some of the ones he has up there were even built, let alone that they are cathedrals. I know the world's understanding of beauty has been off the rails now and then but ... ouch ...

As a counterpoint to that, my wife and I have agreed that we would love to see built a new church (or even cathedral!) in the fullness of the Baroque tradition. Yup, that's right - gargoyles, massive statuary, intricate carving, the whole thing. Wouldn't it be a glorious counterpoint to some of the ugliness that's been foisted on us?

In lieu of that, we at least have places like the Galveston-Houston Co-Cathedral and many of the works of new architects like Duncan Stroik. There is hope for church architecture yet...

Argent said...

I think there is a yearning for a return to architecture that connects with our tradition. And certainly, with the architecture school at Univ. of Notre Dame that is active in teaching a new generation of architects, slowly but surely, we'll have the restoration. We've lived through a kind of iconoclastic period (ripping out high altars, altar rails, and statuary...what is that if it isn't very much in the spirit of iconoclasm?) and the Church recovered from that, Deo gratias.