Beauty, Art, and Image in Catholic Thought

Beauty, Art, and Image in Catholic Thought

The magnificence of the Catholic faith has motivated and established some of the greatest performs of art in background. From the artwork of Michelangelo and Donatello to crucifixes and rosaries, the use of artwork and symbols are an indispensable portion of understanding Catholicism.

Usually too, art and photos supply a route to bringing folks to the Catholic religion as effectively as disposing people to worship. Still, their use has also been met with criticism and controversy. 

In the following exposition, I will take a look at the numerous types of art, symbols, and pictures utilised by the Catholic Church and person Catholics. Lastly, I will study the needs and benefits of their use and explore the demand of idolatry in their use.  

Artwork And Images In Catholicism

There have been lots of definitions of art. For Plato, it was mimetic (imitative) and meant to stand for the Sorts. For Kant, art was an conclusion in by itself. The Aristotelian view saw artwork as imitating the essence of nature. 

For the needs of this function, I will determine art in just the context of elegance and beauty inside the framework of the transcendentals. Transcendentals specific a unique attribute of every single becoming insofar as it exists, revealing one thing exceptional about the character of all actuality. As this sort of, they are foundational to all matters. Attractiveness is the home that helps make a factor pleasing to behold. In this perception, elegance gets objective given that a matter is wonderful to its creator, which is God.

Depictions of elegance in the Catholic custom can just take several kinds. Elegance can be witnessed in architecture, as in the Sistine Chapel or Chartres Cathedral, or it can be observed in art, as in Raphael’s Transfiguration or Michangelo’s statue of David. The reasons of this art can also have diverse uses.

The use of visuals can usually predispose one to develop into open up to the spiritual knowledge whilst also acting as aids to instruction and devotion. Additionally, art can connect the fact of Catholicism as a result of natural beauty. For this cause, Saint John Damascene wrote, “The attractiveness of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God.”

As the mystical entire body of Christ, the Catholic Church is what Cardinal Avery Dulles known as a “revelatory image.” That is, the Church can be a form by which God reveals Himself to human beings. This is finished predominantly by the sacraments. In addition, art can be employed to display screen anything of the magnificence of the Kingdom of God, as a result drawing individuals to the Church, and by extension, to God.

The use of images and art can be useful to the specific Catholic, as properly. These can usually acquire the form of crucifixes, rosaries, the Stations of the Cross, and the veneration of relics. Though these acts of devotions are not supposed to change the liturgy, they can support one’s spiritual improvement. 

The Value And Function Of Images And Artwork

In reaction to disputes in excess of the use of religious artwork, the Council of Nicaea in 787 formalized and consecrated the use of sacred images. The Council identified that the use of art must be afforded the very same degree of sacredness presented to the cross. This intended that Church buildings had the correct to show art and images as objects of veneration. 

As founded by the Council, sacred visuals could be painted, created in the form of mosaics, carved, or woven. The veneration of holy photographs progressed around the centuries in a lot of forms of preferred devotion and has unquestionably contributed substantially to the unfold of the Catholic religion.

Artwork can idealize, glorify, counsel and notify the story of Catholicism. Their use keeps traditions alive and can make it simpler for individuals to visualize a principle or function that is if not challenging to picture as a result of mere words and phrases. Artwork and imagery can talk to the minds and hearts of distinct folks. For the reason that of this, they are indispensable in worship, prayer, and catechesis. 

Inspite of the rewards that art and natural beauty can have in bringing men and women to God as perfectly as aiding in the individual non secular existence, the use of art and illustrations or photos have not been devoid of criticism.

Does The Use Of Artwork Represent Idolatry? 

A person of the most popular assaults on the Church is that the use of pictures quantities to idolatry. Idolatry is worshiping a designed factor alternatively of God (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2113).

Exodus 20:4-5 is frequently cited to attack the Church’s use of illustrations or photos. The verse reads: “You shall not make for oneself an idol or a likeness of nearly anything in the heavens previously mentioned or on the earth under or in the waters beneath the earth you shall not bow down ahead of them or provide them.”

There are two factors to deal with pertaining to Exodus 20:4-5. 1st, the command is not universal. As an example, I will level to Exodus 25. This chapter describes how God instructs the Israelites on the developing of a Menorah, as effectively as how the Ark of the Covenant is to be made. The guidance include building gold cherubims that are to adorn the Ark of the Covenant. (See Exodus 25:18-19). 

Numbers 21:8-9 give an additional Biblical case in point of the use of an graphic. When snakes plague the Israelites, God tells Moses to “make [a statue of] a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole and every person who is bitten, when he sees it shall are living. So Moses created a bronze serpent, and established it on a pole and if a serpent little bit any gentleman, he would look at the bronze serpent and reside.” As a single experienced to glimpse at the bronze serpent to be healed, it is distinct that God enables the ritual use of visuals (in this case, a statue). 

All of this is to issue out that the use of art is not illicit. What is forbidden is the worship of just about anything that is not God. For the historical Israelites, idolatry typically concerned worshiping the a variety of pagan gods. Modernity has changed those people pagan gods with items this sort of as income, ability, and enjoyment. For this motive, the Catholic Church teaches that “An idolater is someone who transfers his indestructible notion of God to something other than God” (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2114).


The Catholic faith is breathtakingly wonderful. This elegance is not in vain. The different images, artwork, and sacramentals have a remarkable effect on bringing men and women to Catholicism and, by extension, bringing them to God.

In the preceding perform, I have sought to examine the uses and positive aspects of art and beauty to the Catholic practical experience. I have also demonstrated why the claim that their use is a kind of idolatry is without benefit. Without a doubt, depictions of attractiveness can carry persons to God, and is that not what Catholicism is all about?