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figure of the Saviour, with the golden nimbus round His head and His right hand uplifted in benediction, overshadow priest and altar like a cloud of fire. So it was, "and the House of the Lord was filled with Glory of the Lord."
The churches were thus great repositories of art work, in one sense like our modern museums, but in many respects very different, for every picture, statue or other thing in the former was placed in relationship with every other, so as to give unity to the whole, while each owed much of its significance and impressiveness to its situation and surroundings. Very many of the productions in which the churches abounded were ex-voto offerings. No offering was more acceptable to the patron saint than a picture of him or her, subscribed with a prayer for his or her intercession. No memorial of a deceased parent or child, husband or wife, was so much esteemed as a mortuary chapel, or at least a statue or a pict
The CHURCH was the nursery of all kinds of artists, because it was the patron of all kinds of art. Not merely the architect, the sculptor and the painter were in requisition, but the workers in metals and glass, the wood carver, the enameler, the illuminator, the musician and musical instrument maker, and not the last or least, the lace makers, embroiderers and tapestry weavers.
The works of the needle and the loom—what may be called the feminine arts -took rank with the works of the goldsmith, the enameler and the mosaicist, and justly retain that rank.
The primary purpose of this infinite art exuberance was not merely to please the eye and ear or attract the crowd, but to glorify God, and next, to honor the Blessed Virgin and saints, instruct the laity, touch all hearts with sentiments of piety and devotion, and especially to strike the souls of sinners with the terrors of Judgment, Purgatory and Hell. But æsthetic considerations were not overlooked. On the contrary, they had great weight, and in many instances were supreme, as the following inscription on an ex-voto in St. Clement's would indicate: “That this picture may outshine the rest in beauty, behold the priest, Leo, studied to compass it!” The artist worked as he had been taught in conformity with the aesthetic canon which was of Pagan origin, but the ecclesiastics who ordered the work (the priest himself was often the artist) and under whose superintendence it was carried on, took good care that he also conformed to the sacred canon. With them, probably, beauty qua beauty was but the secondary motive. They were intent on higher things, thus pluming Art and preparing her way for higher flights than any she had yet achieved. The artist may, and, it is earnestly hoped, will express the new ideas with a'l the brilliancy, grace and elevation that he may, but he must in no degree depart from the traditions of the Church, nor reject the ethical standards or physical types that have grown up in her bosom. There was much wholesome restraint and reticence in early Christian art, owing to the contiguity in time and place of idolatry and the irreverence and profanity of the Roman populace and other Pagan communities. The morbid fear of idolatry which gave rise to the Iconoclasts—a sect which in after times inflicted great damage on the Church and irreparable disasters on ART, was not felt in the Apostolic age. But of that hereafter.
| All through the Christian epochs down to the modern times a great many ecclesiastics of all ranks were artists. We quote the following from Rio,“ Formes de l'ArtPeinture”: “ L'alliance des hautes dignités ecclésiastiques avec la prééminence dans le culte des beaux-arts fut encore plus fréquente dans le onzième siècle, époque d'activité redoublée pour les imaginations que l'attente de la fin du monde avoit engourdies. Heldrıc et Adélard, l'un Abbé de St. Germain d'Auxerre, l'autre Abbé de
The rapid decline of the Rome of the Cæsars involved the decline of Roman art. Paganism as a vital form of worship had virtually died out, and so had the old Roman virtues. An era of military tyranny and violence set in, and worse evils followed. The city and social life, from the highest to the lowest, were inundated by a flood of inexpressible corruption, licentiousness and depravity. The last breath of poetic inspiration had mingled with the air. Technique fell away. This is plainly visible in works still extant. But though technique was failing, the Christian ideals, or rather the types and figures which represented them, continued to grow in number and ethical power. In fact a new style of pictorial art, which gave promise of a vigorous life, appeared at this time. Later, when Rome became the prey of Goth and Vandal ; when the Western Empire was overthrown, and ruin marked Italy for its own, nothing remained firmly standing and broadly visible, above the succession of cataclysms, but the Church. It was now the sole sanctuary of art, which fled before the face of the barbarians and took refuge, with what remained of classic culture and literature, in the cloisters. The Popes, always the guardians of arts and letters, were able to save the basilicas and some of the older buildings from the general wreck. Power and virtue went out from their right hand and the outstretched fingers of their right hand, and checked the architects of ruin. To the pontiffs we are indebted for such memorials of ancient and early Christian Rome as have escaped the thousand years of catastrophes from Alaric to the Connétable de Bourbon.
Passing by the revival in Ravenna under the Exarchate and the Arian Goths, with the acknowledgment that the church mosaics
St. Tron, étaient célèbres de leux temps comme peintres de miniatures, et ses fonctions episcopales n'empêchaient pas Saint Berword, évêque d' Hildesheim, de peindre luimeme les murs et les plafonds de son église et de former des s."
there surpass all others in magnificence, if not in beauty, and outnumber those in Rome itself, we find that the next great epoch in the history of art was ushered in by the edict of the Emperor Leo the Isaurian against the "worship of images." An iconoclastic taint, contracted originally from the synagogue, had long infected the Eastern Church; but it was not until Leo ascended the throne that it became the policy of the State, and took the shape of a formidable persecution. Mohammedanism had rapidly risen to glory and dominion in Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Northern Africa and Spain. The ominous shadow of the Prophet fell broadly on Europe, as well as on Asia and Africa, and spreading westward threatened to wrap the Christian world in darkness. The Caliphate was a conquering and seemingly irresistible power, that had subjugated in one brief century various kingdoms, tribes and tongues, and now ruled an empire nearly as extensive and populous as the Roman in its palmy day. The conquest of Europe, with its corollary, the extirpation of Christianity, was the supreme object of Moslem ambition, and this it ostentatiously proclaimed and audaciously attempted. The Moorish power in Spain with its Egyptian and African allies poured its fanatical myriads through the passes of the Pyrenees who, winged “with fiery expedition,” never stopped until they watered their horses in the Loire.
More than half of France was overrun, and scourged and blasted with fire and sword. His battle-line there, on the plains of Tours, was, however, the high-water mark of the Saracen's power and progress in the west. There he was met by the Franks and their German allies under Charles Martel and driven back with great slaughter. The prestige of invincibility, which hitherto had attached to his banner, and the prestige of Mohammed as the Prophet of God, were eclipsed forever in the eyes of the northern nations.
But in the East the Caliph exalted his horn higher than ever. Persia and part of Asia Minor were added to his realm, to be followed later by larger additions in both directions. The wars of Islam were holy wars—a ruthless physical-force propagandism. The destruction of the Infidel, if he refused to be converted, was enjoined by the Koran, and rewarded by the joys of Paradise. Where Mohammed prevailed the churches were despoiled or demolished, or eviscerated of their artistic contents and turned into mosques. The ruins of four thousand religious edifices marked his progress in the Orient. The cross was pulled down and supplanted by his standard, which, "fanned by conquest's crimson wing,” waved defiantly in the skies of Asia, Africa and Europe. Bagdad's and Cairo's shrines of fretted gold, but exempt from the hated likeness of living thing, now more than vied with those of Rome and Constantinople.
This terrible propagandism, with its absolute proscription of pictures and statues, profoundly affected opinion among the Greeks. Success is supposed to be the sign of Divine favor, and the worshipers of success belong to every creed and clime. The Mos lem triumph gave a new and powerful sanction to the Iconoclasts. The Iconoclastic spirit was abroad; it was the spirit of the age. The fanaticism spread through the Greek world and swayed the untutored mind and dictated the revolutionary policy of the Isaurian. He put all the powers of the State in motion against the clergy and laity who adhered to the ancient practice. His edicts and the bloody enforcement of them vitally affected Byzantine art, and more than art. Then and thus began that conflict which detached Rome and Italy from the empire and developed the schism which ultimately separated the Greek from the Catholic Church. The remote cause of the conflict was doubtless the contrary opinions of the Greek and Latin doctors of the Church on the personal appearance of our Saviour and the Blessed Virgin. The latter maintained that they were the most beautiful of human beings, while the former maintained they were insignificant in figure and ugly in face. St. Augustine was the leading champion of the Roman doctrine on this question, but was re-enforced by St. Ambrose and St. Jerome, and also by St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory of Nyssa, of the Eastern Church. St. Cyril, following Tertullian, was the chief exponent of the Byzantine theory—a theory which would have proved fatal to Christian Art if it had not been condemned by Pope Adrian I., who pronounced Jesus Christ the new Adam and perfect in face and form. Evidently the Byzantines were out of line in more things than in the doctrine of the Trinity. But our concern is with the consequences of the artistic feud. Steam, we are told, is susceptible of a triple and a quadruple expansion, and is, therefore, capable of exerting power a third and a fourth time. The proscription of images by the Moslems was the chief cause of the ascendency which the Iconoclasts at last obtained among the Greeks; and this in turn exercised a pernicious influence on Christian art far beyond the confines of the empire. The emperors were still, in the eyes of men, the greatest and grandest of human figures. Constantinople was the capital of the world, and shone with the blended majesty of Rome and Athens, with the lustre of ancient and contemporary renown.
When the imperial government anathematized "image worship" and proceeded to destroy the painting and statuary which had illuminated the churches for ages, the blow resounded far and wide, and was felt as a disaster in the work-shops and art-centres of Italy and Gaul. But Gregory II. and his successors were equal to the crisis, and boldly confronting Leo and his successors in the purple, with all their pomp
and prestige, saved the cause of art by maintaining intact the ideas, usages and traditions of the Roman Church. This victory of the Popes over Iconoclasticism and Cæsarism brought about, in the course of time, the greatness of the mediæval Papacy and the mediæval Church, but the immediate influence of the schism on art was a detrimental one. The monumental remains of the period show a rapidly growing degeneracy—a wider and wider departure from the ancient standards. Other causes contributed to this deeper decadence. The tides of barbarian invasion had not ceased to flow. Pagan tribes from beyond the Danube and the Volga and the Scandinavian shores of the Baltic, continued to pour into Europe. The savage Bulgarians and Hungarians, Mongol nations, and the Slavonians, an Arian nation, followed in the steps of the German barbarians, and gathered the gleanings, if gleanings there were, of the field which had been long shorn of the golden harvest of Greek and Roman civilization, or swept, as the case might be, with the besom of destruction. The fiercer Northmen, sea and land robbers, worshippers of Thor and Odın, carried the raven banner through England, Ireland, Scotland, France, and round the shores of the Mediterranean for over two hundred years, proving themselves deadlier enemies of monasteries, churches, and Christianity in general, than the fanatics and nomads of the east. These were what are called the “ Dark Ages,” but perhaps they were not quite as dark as they are painted. In the depths of the darkness, such as it was, another form of Christian art sprang up and flourished. In the shelter of the cloister, where it was cherished, it attained to rare excellence. This was the adornment of manuscripts with illuminations and miniature paintings. Like mosaic painting, it was no new invention, for it was known to the Egyptians, as the Book of the Dead in the Turin library shows; but it now received a development far beyond what Egyptians, Greeks or Romans had given it. Christianity exalted and refined whatever it touched. The monasteries had kept alive the embers of ancient learning, and preserved the masterpieces of the Greek and Roman poets, philosophers and historians, which were preserved nowhere else except in Constantinople.
But the Holy Scriptures were their chief treasures, and on these and on Missals, Books of Hours, and kindred works, they lavished a wealth of illustration and ornament of such quality that miniature painting rose to an equal rank with other branches of the pictorial art. The whole cycle of Biblical subjects and “Lives of the Saints” was once more reproduced in brilliant and fascinating colors, on the parchment pages of the chief books of the Old and New Testament, the Mass books, prayer books, hymn books, and all kinds of religious works. The classics were adorned in the