Catholic Art Saved the Faith, Here's Why and How – EpicPew

Catholic Art Saved the Faith, Here’s Why and How

Though we are not all artists (at least I am not!) or are art experts, every Catholic can appreciate the beauty in art. Art is a wonderful expression of what we believe, how it makes us feel, can tell a story, and also may invoke a memory.

Admiring beautiful works of art in a museum or even graffiti on a wall can stir up raw emotions of pain, joy, suffering, happiness, or sadness. During the Reformation when factions warred against the Catholic Faith, the best artists were tasked with creating beautiful works to stir up these emotions depicting Salvation History. Some of these works of art and artists are highlighted in How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art by Elizabeth Lev.

In the book, Liv explains, as the title suggests, how art prevented many from leaving the Faith, and furthermore, how it preserved unalterable truths for generations to come.


Sacred Spaces

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While Catholic Churches have always been filled with statues and stain-glass windows, it was during this period when the medieval veils and separations were removed to bring the people closer to the Eucharist. The Church of the Gesù was the first of these new church’s to remove these physical separations to bring the people closer to communion with the Body of Christ.


Spiritual Food and Painting

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Many artists created beautiful works of art focusing upon the Eucharist. For example this amazing picture of St. Jerome taking his final Communion created by Domenichino, focusing upon an awaking of the spiritual life as the physical life fades away.


Baptism of Christ

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Images of Jesus being baptized are usually of him standing tall while John is shown as the emaciated zealot. This image of Annibale Carracci’s Baptism of Christ instead shows a humble Jesus taking the first step of his mission and a stronger John the Baptist. In the background we even can see parents bringing their baby to the water, highlighting infant baptism.



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There were also beautiful images of angels created during this period of time. The image here, Guardian Angel Protecting a Child from the Empire of the Devil by Domenico Fetti shows us how our angels are constantly protecting each of us from evil.


Our Mother in Sacred Art

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Protestants reformers took direct aim at Mary, trying to move her to a more passive role rather than as our greatest intercessor to her Son and our spiritual mother. The images created during this time highlighted her role as “Theotokos” or “God-Bearer”, many focusing upon the Immaculate Conception, the first one by Guido Reni and the second by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo.


Images of the Saints

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Many of the images of the saints intertwine our earth with the heavens, giving us a glimpse of what is to come. In The Vision of St. Philip Neri by Marco Benefial, we see him being lifted up, literally, as he sees the image of Mary with the Christ Child and heavenly hosts.

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This is Noli Me Tangere by Lavinia Fontana, who was the first professional female painter in Catholic history showing Mary Magdalene mistaking Jesus for a gardener.


Heaven and Purgatory

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While up to this point in history, it was believed that there was a place between heaven and hell, the Protestants removed or ignored this teaching. This belief is restored in this painting of An Angel Frees the Souls of Purgatory by Ludovico Carracci.


There are so many amazing and breath-taking images shown throughout the book, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art by Elizabeth Lev. It tells the story of how our faith was literally saved by drawing people back into the Church through images depicting the beauty and fullness of our faith.