Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

bility to Christian purposes. Always practised in the Church from her earliest days, it was impossible that, while oilpainting was undiscovered or little known, the devotional use of pictures could have been what it afterwards became. Hence, in the noble buildings of the middle ages, paintings, as such, have no place. Ornamental painting was a passion;

. and being such, was carried to an excess singularly inconsistent with that remarkable refinement of taste which ruled in the purely architectural works of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; if, indeed, the exaggerated and glaring use of colour was not a corruption introduced in the declining era of Gothic art. It appears incredible that the men who designed the Temple Church in London, Beverley Minster, or the Church of St. Ouen at Rouen, should have proceeded to daub their exquisite windows, columns, and mouldings, with vile compounds of blue, red, and yellow, till all beauty of architectural form was smothered in a bewildering chaos of “patterns." They must have felt that colour in architecture ought to bring out and assist the natural features of a building, and not overpower them in a childish patchwork of flaring paint.

Be this, however, as it may, the mediæval artists had not the means of employing pictures as an important element in the completion of a Christian church; and consequently, those who are content to be their servile imitators never think of designing a Catholic church with a special view to the introduction of pictures, as they are used in the Italian churches of France, Germany, Spain, or Italy. Yet, if we are to catholicise the British poor, and strengthen the Irish in their faith, how repugnant it is alike to Catholic feeling and common sense not to make the abundant use of paintings and images a point of primary importance in our cultivation of Christian art! Their value to all classes cannot safely be overlooked. They are an aid to devotion and a means of instruction, to which minds of every description do homage. Why, then, is not the crucifix, large as life, a prominent object in every church, even in two or three places in every building of any size, so placed that the devout or sorrowing soul may kneel immediately before it, and pour out its prayers to Him whose infinite love it portrays, and kiss and bathe with tears the feet sculptured in representation of those which were pierced for her sins ? Why has not every confraternity in a mission the image of its own particular saint--the Mother of God, or St. Joseph, or St. Vincent of Paul, or any other to whom circumstances have created a peculiar devotion, and these not as mere architectural decorations, but as objects

a

66

of devotion for people to gather round and pray, and to be decorated and illuminated on certain occasions ? There are now but few English Catholics, in comfortable circumstances, who do not act thus in their private devotions. Scarcely a house but has one or more domestic “ oratories," or altars,” furnished with images and pictures, and decorated with flowers and lights, at which those who possess them offer their devotions with a peculiar pleasure and sense of propriety. But the poor man has no oratory. Would to God that this truth could be impressed with intense depth upon the minds of those on whom this world has smiled, and whose wishes are, for the most part, consulted in the arrangement of new churches! It is said that our Catholic poor would not appreciate such advantages if they possessed them. But who says this? Is any one single person who knows the poor, and has given them the opportunity for making the house of God their own, of this opinion? We believe not one.

Undoubtedly, it is not by setting up a sort of æsthetic representation of Catholicism, that the mighty heart of the poor is to be attracted and moved. It is not by fastidious ladies and dilettante gentlemen adorning churches, images, and pictures, that the terrible problem of our day is to be solved. Ladies and gentlemen must adorn churches for their own edification; and they do well and act as faithful Christians in doing so; but the edification will be almost exclusively their own. The altars, the images, the paintings, the sacred spots, which will have the real charm for the poor, are those in whose adorning the poor themselves have the chief hand, and to whose erection they have from their poverty, in some small degree, perhaps contributed. They have their own notions in such matters, and their own feelings; and it is in human nature to wish to share personally in every such expression of faith and devotion. No doubt the artistic taste of the multitude is imperfect, and always will be imperfect. Their ideas are rough and uncultured. They see beauty and meaning where we see none. Our graces and refinements of skill are lost on their perceptions. Yet their souls are as good as ours; and they have (at least) an equal right to have their characters and wishes consulted with ourselves.

Thus it is that in Catholic countries, even in Italy, long the home of the arts, the eye of the travelling connoisseur is so incessantly offended with what he sees in churches and private houses. The taste of the decorations is often atrocious. The people's notions of beauty and spiritual symbolism are horrible. The precise and formal Englishman is at a loss whether to consider the average decorative ideas of Catholics as more vulgar, more frivolous, or more hideous. Would we, then, encourage the British and Irish poor, as yet little accustomed to the devotional decoration of altars, images, and pictures, to adopt notions which we ourselves regard as opposed to all good taste and refined cultivation? Far from it; we claim equal liberty for the few and for the many; for the fastidious lady or gentleman, and for the rude peasant or mechanic. Where it is in our power to refine and purify the poor man's taste, we would do so by all means. We would encourage good taste, but we would force it on no one. As for ourselves, we abominate, and that most cordially, the whole range of what is called pious trumpery and millinery. But God has not made all men like writers in the Rambler. We cannot inspire an Irish hodman or a Yorkshire clown with the same aversion to paint and petticoats which we feel ourselves. Nor, in fact, can we induce all our own equals, friends, and acquaintances, to see these things with our eyes. It is a sad fact, but yet a fact, that highly-cultivated minds in every class of society differ radically from one another in such matters. Often have we been amazed at perceiving how wide-spread is the fondness for what we think trash, and how natural it is to many accomplished minds to express their devout feelings towards the images of our Blessed Lord and the Saints by means which, to our tastes, are positively offensive. But so it is. All the lecturing, writing, talking, and building in the world will never produce uniformity of taste among mankind. We apprehend, therefore, that if ever our Catholic population is so thoroughly imbued with a Catholic spirit as heartily to cultivate Christian art in its churches, we must be prepared for a fearful inroad of æsthetic unpleasantnesses, and must be content to sacrifice the physically for the morally beautiful. The loss will be a gain, nevertheless: for this life is short; and we may console ourselves with the certain conviction, that our enjoyment of the ineffable beauties of the celestial paradise will not be the less keen or elevated for the sacrifices we may here make for the sake of our brothers in Christ.

One word more in reference to the supposed incompatibility of Gothic architecture with such plans and decorations as have been introduced into the Church since the Reformation. To assert that such an incompatibility exists, is either a libel on Gothic art, or a device to hinder its employment for Catholic purposes. No architect who understands his business, and who really wishes to design a home for Catholic faith and devotion in the true spirit of the living Church, ever ventures on such a statement. The history of art does

not record a more transparent fiction. If we once knew our own minds, and had formed a distinct conception of what a church ought to be, and what we intend to do with it and in it, we should soon find architects in abundance who would not rank themselves either among the unwilling or the incapables. Italian architecture has its peculiar merits, so has Roman, so has Greek, so has Byzantine ; but in point of adaptability to every purpose, Gothic stands pre-eminent. Those who think otherwise have taken their ideas from manufacturers of Gothic, and not from Gothic artists.

Reviews.

HOFER AND THE TYROLESE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE.

1. Memoirs of the Life of Andrew Hofer. Taken from the

German. By C. H. Hall, Esq. Murray. 2. The History of Germany. By Wolfgang Menzel. Bohn. The records of war are ordinarily the records of little else besides misery and crime. Even when the amount of abstract injustice is not equal on both sides engaged, there is little to honour or admire in the animating principles of the belligerents; while in the actual conduct of their deadly rivalry there is rarely any thing to be discerned but a contest of passion, blood-thirstiness, and selfishness. For the most part, nations quarrel like children, and fight like devils.

What are popularly termed “religious wars” are no exception to the rule. However holy the professed object of one party involved, the conduct of such wars has been almost always, to a considerable extent, unchristian and detestable. Purity of motive and uprightness and mercy in action have been usually confined to a small handful of individuals. The dominant spirit has been entirely that of this world, even while its watchwords have been most distinctively the language of the Gospel and the Cross.

Here and there, however, the eye of the historian detects a brighter spot in these long dismal annals of darkness and horror. It is possible to point to episodes in the wide history of bloodshedding, when men have fought like Christians, and not like beasts or devils; wielding the sword not only in word, but in reality, “in the name of God;" penetrated with a sense of the awful responsibility they had undertaken, and with

emotions of love and mercy beating in their hearts, while their arm has been lifted up to strike, and their countenance has shown no trace of fear.

To the Catholic it is consolatory to reflect, that it has been under the influence of the faith that the most striking exhibitions of this really Christian warfare have been displayed to his fellow-creatures. Insulted as we are by the vilest imputations of cruelty, licentiousness, and disregard of all ties of patriotism, it is a glorious thing to turn silently and read the histories of wars in which, under the direct sanction of Catholicism, human nature has shown itself courageous, enduring, patriotic, and merciful, to an extent altogether unapproached by those who taunt us with every degrading vice. While it is daily dinned into our ears, till we are well-nigh stunned, that under the dark influence of Popery the world must necessarily go backwards, and all our powers be paralysed, until, by the sheer repetition of extravagant charges, we begin almost to suspect that we are rogues without knowing it, it is soothing to let the imagination wander back to countries where Catholicism has been embraced and really acted on, unmolested either by Protestant preacher or liberal statesman; where it

l has shown its vivifying power over the soul, unaided and unhindered either by royal patronage or aristocratical wealth. While the world is driving on at its own chosen rate of “ progress, it is instructive to turn and watch the ways of other and humbler races, whose civilisation has not consisted in railways, crystal-palaces, screw-steamers and the penny-post; but

in simplicity, hardihood, comparative poverty, and unmitigated “ Romanism."

For, after all, “ progress" is not necessarily progress to happiness and greatness. There is a knowledge which is more stultifying than ignorance; there is a power which is more degrading than weakness. It is possible to be great, glorious, and heroic, with very simple appliances; and the utmost amount of material civilisation, comfort, and order, is perfectly compatible with a very low degree of excellence in all that is most honourable in man, as man, and in woman, as woman. It is not crabs alone that can progress” backwards.

Perhaps no spot in Europe is more suggestive of the reminiscences of a noble yet simple civilisation than the mountainous district of the Tyrolese Alps. Bordering upon Switzerland, that country of pretence, hypocrisy, and tyranny, for

, generations has been found a race where faith and patriotism have dwelt in intimate alliance, and the achievements of labouring mountaineers have rivalled those of the most celebrated soldiers of the world. The traveller, reeking from the hot and

a

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »