The Catholic Church has a rich history in artistic achievement throughout the ages. Beginning in the early Church the faithful began crafting art which was aimed at inspiring one to love God and His Church. Over the past 2000 years up until about the sixty years or so ago, we have a witnessed a rich development and inexhaustible wealth of devotional images in Catholic churches across the world. Although being Italian I have an affection for the Italian art in Italy, my personal favorite devotional art, especially when it comes to statuary, is in the Spanish renaissance and baroque style. The realistic and inspiring statuary found in Quito, Ecuador are among the finest I have seen.
When it comes to art however, it is not just an external appreciation of the beauty of the art itself that we should be concerned. Although art can be emotionally moving, it is primarily the internal devotion it inspires in the viewer that is most important. Many Catholic art historians would argue that the iconography of the early Church until about the time of Giotto was the best and most pure representation of sacred art. Thus many would separate iconography as sacred art, and the art following the time of Giotto to be religious art. Although there is some merit to the argument, we must not forget that any art that brings us closer to God and His Church is worthy of being in the sacred space of a Church. Although the later Western art often invokes more emotion from the viewer than iconography, one can still orient themselves beyond the art to the what the art actually represents. This also goes for statuary, which many purists in the Orthodox Church adamantly oppose. I think that well done statuary can bring one closer to the person it represents, as can be seen in the images below.
I was going through my pictures from Quito, Ecuador that I took a couple of years ago during my pilgrimage. I thought I would post some of my favorites. I wish we would see a revival among Catholics today to bring this type of art into our modern churches and replace the lifeless pathetic imagery that wee prevalent today.