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The reawakening of radical questions

· The Sacred in Art: Current Forms of an Ancient Theme ·

We publish below excerpts from the introduction to the book , E’ Dio il vero tema. Cesare Cattaneo e il sacro (“God is the real theme. Cesare Cattaneo and the sacred”) – Cernobbi, Archivio Cattaneo, pp. 190, 14 euro

In the last century, the Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade defined the sacred as that permanent dimension of human conscience, thanks to which man separates out gestures and things from the fluid context of life and uses them as means or conditions in his rapport with divine reality; a rapport which goes beyond phenomenal and transitory data of sensible experience but which is expressed through it; as well as a rapport in which such a reality is perceptible, in hierophanies, or breakthroughs of the sacred into the world. In this way, man finds an anchor, a stable reference point, a sense of the meaning of his existence, where he concretely touches that which he perceives as the foundation of the real, as the ultimate reality which is communicated in signs.

More recently, Julien Ries, following his illustrious predecessor, clarified that the religious phenomenon is primordial within every culture and every civilization, because man has always experienced the encounter with the divine as a fundamental in his life.

That primordial emphasis, irreducible and always present in man, although not always with the same degree of intensity nor present in the same way, in recent decades has shown itself in Western art and architecture in the form of the question of the destiny of man’s salvation and his need for symbols of what is to come – signs that are characterized by a collective recognition, a means of liberation from solipsism, desperation and fear of the future.

Sometimes, reflection on the rapport between art and the sacred, between the sacred and the production of images, between architecture and the sacred or between architecture and liturgy in a Christian context, have become the object of research which offers theoretical contributions and historical documentation of great value.

Nonetheless, more generally, the current renewal of interest in the sacred is often accompanied by ambiguity and uncertainty about its meaning. For example, the inherent relationship of the sacred to the context of life lived in community, in which religious experience develops in a common sentiment, is not considered. Or one makes due with a sacrality subjectively understood, which produces pseudo-symbols.

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