|Regnum Christi members Earnest and Barbara Bentley created the Primavera Foundation to spark a renaissance in art and to support vocations.|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. November 21, 2008. An article posted in The Bulletin, “Philadelphia’s Family Newspaper” tells the story of the
EWTN “Catholic Canvas” series on art and architecture in the
Vatican museums. The series was co-sponsored by the Primavera
Fine Art Foundation and the Vatican Museums´ Patrons of
the Arts. Article reprinted with permission.
Sacred Art Tells Of Salvation
By Mary B. Worthington of The Bulletin
The first episode in a 10-part series on sacred art
and architecture in the Vatican museums will air tonight on
Eternal Word Television Network.
in part by the Primavera Fine Art Foundation of
Norcross, Ga., and the Vatican Museums´ Patrons of the
Arts, Catholic Canvas will examine salvation history through the lens
of the sacred art gracing the Vatican museums.
Mary Shovlain explained the purpose of the series is to
look beyond the erroneous interpretations she has frequently seen of
the Catholic Church´s sacred art.
"I would often see
programs done on sacred art and especially the Sistine Chapel
that were more focused on offering erroneous interpretations of the
artists´ intention in representing sacred events in salvation history, often
bending the message to suit their needs or even using
the art as a way to lead to criticisms about
the Catholic Church or the Vatican, popes, etcetera," Ms. Shovlain
"We wanted to leave all that behind us
and focus on what Michelangelo was trying to tell us
in his frescoes or the message that Raphael was hoping
to convey about Christ or Mary or the angels... They
were evangelizing through art, trying to ´incarnate´ eternal mysteries."
Ms. Shovlain selected professor of Christian art and architecture at
Duquesne University´s Italy campus Elizabeth Lev to host the series.
Prof. Lev has been studying art and architecture for 25
years, earning degrees from Universities of Chicago and Bologna; however,
her appreciation for sacred art was late in blooming.
"After years of only the most secular art history,
I started to study the meaning behind the images," Prof.
Lev said. "Every time I thought about Christian art in
Christian terms it seemed even richer in its design, composition
and iconography. Slowly, I began to realize that it was
Christian truth that made the work beautiful, and this realization
altered my entire approach to art.
years I have been studying art and in the last
10 only did I really see it," Prof. Lev said.
"I have taken thousands of people through the Vatican Museums
and each time I reunite the art and the faith,
I have seen their eyes open to appreciate the works
in a lasting way."
Because in its entirety it
tells the story of salvation history, Prof. Lev´s favorite piece
in the Vatican collections is Michelangelo´s Sistine Chapel.
"Besides having all of salvation history depicted in a single
room, Michelangelo´s astonishing painting on the ceiling and altar wall,
the opportunity to spend hours meditating on the works without
the chaos of tourist traffic was something I never dreamed
I would experience," she said. "It is wonderful that viewers
will able to share in this contemplative side of the
Sistine Chapel in Catholic Canvas."
Other works featured in
the series were done by such great artists as Pinturicchio,
Raphael, Conca and Daddi.
With no particular audience
in mind, Ms. Shovlain hopes that "anyone who watches these
programs will have a renewed appreciated for sacred art. Not
only are we seeing the masterpieces, we are being taught
the entire time by Prof. Lev, who offers us the
history of each piece, information about the artist and unpacks
the fullness of the Catholic message found within."
art has never gone out of style and there is
a reason for that; it appeals to people of all
ages, race and creeds," she said. "Sacred art lifts our
minds and hearts to God and in a world with
so much noise and distraction they are a silent and
profound witness of God´s love story with humanity and how
he has shown that time and time again in salvation
Rev. Mark Haydu, L.C., international director of
the Patrons further explained how exposure to sacred art speaks
to the heart of the American audience.
the U.S., as is increasingly the case in the rest
of the world, the image is taken as the truth
of a product," he said. "It is more important for
a product to appear attractive, than actually be a good
product. This is a ´sign of our times,´ and in
spite of its down side, it can also be seen
as an opportunity. Sacred art taps into that opportunity and
gives a beautiful ´face´ to the profound substance of our
faith. Sacred art not only appears beautiful, but it points
you to the substance that is beautiful as well. This
is what makes it so profound and uplifting.
"Contemplating sacred art not only delights the eyes, but also
feeds the heart," he said. "Pope Benedict said recently in
a talk with a group of priests this summer while
on vacation in northern Italy ´Likewise, if we contemplate the
beauties created by faith, they are simply, I would say,
the living proof of faith. If I look at this
beautiful cathedral - it is a living proclamation! It speaks
to us itself, and on the basis of the cathedral´s
beauty, we succeed in visibly proclaiming God, Christ and all
his mysteries: Here they have acquired a form and look
at us.´ "
Ms. Shovlain further explained how sacred
art is meant to reflect the beauty of God´s goodness
and creation, as well as to explain in a creative
way the mysteries of the Christian faith.
you walk through the halls of the Vatican Museums, you
are struck at the vastness of the spiritual patrimony that,
yes, belongs to the whole world, but in a special
way is ours to claim as Catholics," she said. "Today,
more than ever, we need beauty. Many of the frescoes
and paintings we filmed were created some 500 years ago,
and yet they still cry out to us with God´s
message in a powerful way; they are still wonderful means
of evangelizing a frantic world lost in relativism."
evangelization is part of the mission of the Primavera Fine
Art Foundation, a co-sponsor of the series. The foundation is
creating "a renaissance of fine art in the Church and
society through the commissioning of original works of theological art,"
explains the organization´s web site.
"Primavera Fine Art
Foundation is committed to creating a renaissance of fine theological
art in the Church," chairman and co-founder Earnest Bentley said.
"As our art adviser has said, ´Every great work of
art is a window between time and eternity. When we
learn to contemplate art or come in contact with it,
we actually come in contact with God, a little piece
of His glory.´
"For this reason, the foundation´s bringing
the treasures of the Vatican Museums into the viewers´ living
room is both a privilege and an opportunity to share
with EWTN in this work for the Church."
show will air on EWTN at 6:30 p.m., Thursdays and
re-air at 11 p.m., the following Tuesday for the next
10 weeks. The first show will air tonight. EWTN is
Verizon FiOS channel 285; for Comcast Cable channel number, please
visit www.comcast.com or call 1-800-COMCAST.
Mary B. Worthington
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read another
article about the Catholic Canvas art program, click here.