"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Searching for Sacred Images

Aidan Nichols is a prolific fellow, as we have long known. Just a couple of weeks ago I featured his new book on sophiology, and now we have another devoted to iconography, a topic of perennial interest to Christians both East and West: In Search of the Sacred Image (Gracewing, 2020), 288pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
What sacred images should surround the faithful at worship and be available to them for instruction, in meditation and in prayer? This historical study is driven by questions of catechetical, doctrinal and liturgical urgency. Aidan Nichols, one of the most respected and prolific Catholic writers of our time, has investigated the relation between Christianity and the visual arts in a number of books covering the history of Christian art from its beginnings through to the partial triumph of the Modernist movement in the 1950s. Now he looks in detail at the development of spiritual art in Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He traces how in Russia the great tradition of classical iconography from the mediaeval period came to be preserved, paradoxically as a result of its very persecution, and then rediscovered. Simultaneously, artists in Western Europe were re-appraising the so-called 'Primitive' artists of mediaeval Italy, Flanders and Byzantium, while in Britain the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood revolutionized art and aesthetics. This fascinating study of these parallel movements sheds new light on the spiritual art of the period. More importantly, it asks us to look again at that art and its role in divine revelation, to see what riches are there and what lessons may be learned for a reinvigorated sacred art today.

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