Benedict XVI's Discourse on cathedrals which, in Europe, are one of the most splendid legacies of the Middle Ages, demonstrates with exemplary clarity what Christian tradition is. Even today this period is often – but wrongly – seen as a succession of dark centuries. The Pope, on the other hand, exalted it and deemed it Christian.
Primarily – but not only – from the historical perspective: the “white mantle of new churches”, described by Rodolphus Glaber, was in fact woven with the financial support of the “whole Christian and civil community”. It is part of an epic that today has been revived in the Sagrada Familia , Antonio Gaudí's moving masterpiece in Barcelona, a building now nearing completion.
The Christian tradition, therefore, not only lives on in the desire for God and love for literature that characterized monastic theology – studied by Jean Leclercq, the Benedictine historian dear to Benedict XVI, who has mentioned him on various occasions. Indeed, this tradition, also in its art, is as luminous as a stained-glass window.
Art has marked Europe with continuity, with traditions and symbols that have been repeated until our day. Like the Cross portrayed in the mid-19th-century in one of the largest halls of the Senate of the French Republic, as it were a seal – a secular one as well – of the country's history.
For many centuries this art made use of the colourful alphabet of the Bible – the Pope said, citing Marc Chagall – which would be incomprehensible if its religious inspiration were not taken into account.
As St Augustine used to say, it was born from the intuition that one of the paths that lead to God is, precisely, that of beauty.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 22, 2019
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