Sacred Art

The work to which we are dedicated on a daily basis is primarily intended for the liturgical and Eucharistic service of the Church.

Proces tvorby sakrálneho umenia
12 ročný Ježiš v chráme
Proces tvorby sakrálneho umenia
Vysoká nad Kysucou

Proces tvorby sakrálneho umenia

For the sake of celebrating sacraments and sacramentals and for the sake of Eucharistic celebration – for the sake of a sublime celebration of the holy mass. The Church itself formulates its substance, need and function in several documents: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Code of the Canon Law, and the constitution of the Vatican II on the sacred liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The first one of them is the Catechism which says:

1180 When the exercise of religious liberty is not thwarted, Christians construct buildings for divine worship. These visible churches are not simply gathering places but signify and make visible the Church living in this place, the dwelling of God with men reconciled and united in Christ. 1181 A church, “a house of prayer in which the Eucharist is celebrated and reserved, where the faithful assemble, and where is worshipped the presence of the Son of God, our Savior, offered for us on the sacrificial altar […] this house ought to be in good taste and a worthy place for prayer and sacred ceremonial.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Celebration of the Christian Mystery, The Sacramental Economy, Celebrating the Church’s Liturgy, 1180, 1181

For us and for our work perhaps the most important article of the Catechism is the one that follows immediately after these arguments for the need of building beautiful and worthy places of worship. It is namely an expression of the Magisterium of the Church, intuitively connected with our main motto:

In this “house of God” the truth and the harmony of the signs that make it up should show Christ to be present and active in this place.
Cf. The Documents of Vatican II, const. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7: AAS 56 (1964), 100-101, emphasis added by GloriaDei

h2.Sacred art is not “church painting”

Drawing on these crucial texts of the Magisterium of the Church we deduce a simple definition of sacred art, which is sometimes aptly called sacred art or church art.1 Even though this service is incorrectly called church painting (mostly if the activity is not connected with an apostolic effort, but rather if it merely concerns technical reconstruction of plasters using decorative techniques, plagiaristic procedures, and business efforts in ecclesial environment. The Church comments clearly on such an attitude in the point 124 of the constitution on the sacred liturgy.2 Therefore, we will always regard as our own only what the Magisterium requires from sacred art:

All artists who, in view of their talents, desire to serve God’s glory in holy Church should ever bear in mind that they are engaged in a kind of sacred imitation of God the Creator, and are concerned with works destined for use in Catholic worship and for the edification, devotion, and religious instruction of the faithful. … that all things set apart for use in divine worship should be truly worthy, becoming, and beautiful3, signs and symbols of heavenly realities.
Sacrosanctum Concilium, Sacred art and sacred furnishings, 127 and 1223

Thus creation of sacred art is a sacred imitation of God the Creator – in the truth and the harmony of the signs – for use in Catholic worship and for the devotion of the faithful, showing them Christ, and thus instructing them religiously and aesthetically. It is bringing reflection of Heaven, the company of angels and Saints, and Christ and God Himself before eyesight, so that the desires of the soul are stimulated also by the desires of the body.

For such a service one must engage in a continuous education, self-perfection and, most of all, self-reflection at a religious, moral, technical and artistic level. Creating beautiful signs of heavenly realities is a demanding task – after all, beauty itself often collides with a contemporary taste which in many ways influences or is alternated by commissioners, theorists, critics, and believers themselves. That is the reason we attempt to make sure that forms, through which we depict heavenly realities, be inspired by the perfect beauty of the created, visible world as much as possible. We work in a conviction that it is necessary to create in such a way that art, which becomes a mediator between the seen and the anticipated, contain as few obstacles for heart and mind on their path toward the transcendent and invisible beauty of God as possible. So that eyes may truly become the gate of the soul – so that the soul of a believer may focus on God by way of works of sacred art, and does not need to be distracted and concerned about an unattractive or artsy form which thus becomes a mere pagan idol with attributes that should be Christians signs and symbols.

Whether we succeed in fulfilling the intentions of the Church must be judged only by the community of Christians, which encounter our work:

As a heaven on earth can be called a painting of the canopy; thanks to your mastery the church decorated by your hands reinforces living faith. In this gift of creating a God-pleasing sanctuary we experience a piece of paradise!
Parishioners from the church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary in Zavar after the scaffolding has been taken down

We would like to keep up these results of our service. Please remember us in your prayers.

© Peter Čambál Jr., riverstone, 2010

1 In the originally published Slovak translation of the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (which is still to be found, for example, on the website of the Bishops’ Conference of Slovakia) until 2009 there was a slightly different wording than is the actual one, which is probably a translation of the Italian edition of SC. The title of Chapter VII (Sacred art and sacred furnishings) read according to the former version as “Church art and furnishings”, which can be, in the context of the primary purpose of sacred art, regarded as a more accurate term.

2 „Let bishops carefully exclude from the house of God and from other sacred places those works of artists which are repugnant to faith, morals, and Christian piety, and which offend true religious sense either by their distortion of forms or by lack of artistic worth, by mediocrity or by pretense” (In: Sacrosanctum Concilium, 124)

3 In the present Slovak translation of the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, the term beautiful in the point 122 is (characteristically) omitted. (The Latin edition of SC uses three terms: dignae, decorate ac pulchrae; so does the Italian version – dignità, decoro e bellezza, the English version – worthy, becoming, and beautiful, or the German version – würdig, geziemend und schön. Here the original Slovak translation also used the term pekné). In many opinions concerning appropriate forms of sacred art presented in scholarly publications or conferences, and by inconspicuously-strikingly preferred artists and their works (which, as a matter of fact, depopulate churches and often also galleries), there is a kind of latent yet permanently present fear of natural beauty. As beautiful is frequently presented something which we would analogically, making an intuitive esthetical choice (for example, that of a spouse), subconsciously or even consciously reject as unfit, weak, ugly or even hideous. (I believe that the Conciliar fathers have exactly this point in mind as they speak of distortion of forms and of pretense, using the very same words to speak of distasteful kitsch which has been abusing the inability of Hochkunst to offer human eyes beauty for over a hundred years.)

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