The Ministry Of Art
( Originally Published 1914 )
ARCHITECTURE, even in a title, can hardly be disassociated from the other component parts of that wonderful gift of God that, in our indifferent use of words, we denominate "art." In each one of them, whether it be sculpture, painting, or architecture, poetry, music, the drama, or ceremonial, there is, of course, one peculiar mode whereby it manifests itself, the instrument of its operation ; but each of these is but a dialect of a normal language; together they are the Pentecostal tongues through which the Holy Spirit manifests Him-self in a peculiar way to all nations and kindreds and peoples. Art is not only a function of the soul, an inalienable heritage of man, an attribute of all godly and righteous society; it is also the language of all spiritual ventures and experiences, while, more potently than any other of the works of man, it proclaims the glory of God, revealing in symbolical form some measure of that absolute truth and that absolute beauty that are His being.
Through all the varied qualities of this seven-fold mystery of art runs one unchanging and unchangeable principle, and the nature of this principle we must define before we consider the particularities of one art alone and the scope and potency of its service.
In this necessity there is, let us admit, some-thing unnatural. Never in the past has there been a great art that was clearly conscious of its nature : none that by taking thought has added one cubit to its stature. Art that is self-conscious halts on the perilous rim of artifice. The intensive activities of art analysis and art education have brought into being never an art and never an artist of the measure of the artist and the art of a past so absorbed in spiritual adventures and material accomplishments that it lacked the time for self-analysis. And yet, so novel is the basis of our contemporary life, so severed from the spiritual succession of history, so bound by the chains of analysis to the rock of definition, we are compelled by circumstance to analyze and define as never before ; nor can we keep our curious hands from the Pandora's box of very mystery itself, forgetting that the lifted lid means, not the clear revealing of strange and hidden wonders, but their instant and implacable flight.
The curious inquiries of Calvin wrought hopeless havoc with the heavenly vision of St. Augustine ; the insolent brutalities of eugenics are the Nemesis of wholesome humanity; the picking and stealing fingers of the Renaissance broke the Psyche wings of art; and yet, in defiance of precedent, we essay again the excuseless and the impossible. What do we mean by "art," the thing once so instinctive that it needed no more definition than did" thought" or "action" or "prayer" ? Well, we have made of an instinct an accessory, and since such it has become, and since it has almost been lost in the process, we may, in defiance of fate, define again.
Now, none of us, here and now, means what the word has been held to imply since the dawn of the debatable epoch above named. We know it is neither a commodity, a form of amusement, an amenity of life, or even the guinea stamp of civilization. Of course, it is, in a measure, the last, to the extent that it is not a product, but a result of that quality of life that is the manifestation, in time and space, of righteous impulses and modes of human activity. In its high estate it is never a by-product of barbarism; though it sometimes seems so, as in the case of the Renaissance where we find most noble art synchronizing with an almost complete collapse of Christian civilization. The same thing has happened before, and will again, for while all sound and wholesome and well-balanced life of necessity expresses itself in that instinctive art which is the art of the people, this great art product seldom achieves its perfect fruition until after the great impulse that created it has broken down and yielded to inevitable degeneration. Thus we find the most splendid, if not the most noble, Gothic architecture blossoming in the fourteenth century after the high tide of mediævalism had begun to ebb; while painting reached its climax during the unspeakable barbarism of the epoch of the Medici and the Borgia; Shakespeare and his circle — soul-children of the Catholic Middle Ages — weaving the glamour of their divine genius over the decadent era of Elizabeth; and music, most subtle of all the arts, giving to Protestant Ger-many a glory that by her intrinsic nature she could scarcely claim.
In these and the similar cases in earlier history there is no discrepancy, no ground for arguing that art is a natural product either of heresy, immorality, or disorder: born of righteousness of impulse and sanity of life, it is the longest to endure, lingering like the afterglow long past the actual setting of the sun, — a memory and at the same time a hope.
In a time that is curiously prone to false estimates of comparative values, that is positively triumphant in its capacity for misjudging the quality of essentials, we measure nearly all the arts by the dazzling products of the last great geniuses who linger beyond their time, quite forgetting the centuries of less splendid activity that, manifesting, as they did, the art instinct of a people, were intrinsically nobler, and in themselves were the energy behind the coruscating stars of a rocket that had already burst.
In judging art, in determining its function, in estimating its potency, it is necessary, there-fore, to go behind the evidences of Rouen and the chapel of Henry VII, of Botticelli and Tintoretto, of Shakespeare and Marlowe, of Bach and Beethoven, — to name only the latest of the great periods of history, — and to regard that wonder-work of the great centuries from Gregory VII to the exile at Avignon, which is the true product of a triumphant Christian civilization.
And so regarded, we find that art, as I have already said, is neither a commodity, nor a form of amusement, nor an amenity of life, but a wonderful attribute of man who is made in God's image, a subtle language, and a mystery that, in its nature, we may with reverence call sacramental.
This, I believe, is the secret and the function of art. It is a language of divine revelation, the great sequence of mystical symbols that alone are adequate and efficient when the soul of man enters into the infinite realm of eternal truth. To each its proper tongue: to reason, dealing with phenomena and their knowable relations, the language of natural science and of natural philosophy; to the soul, by the grace of God penetrating beyond the veil that limits our mortal sense, achieving the quest of the Holy Grail of ultimate truth, the language of art, which is beauty, sacramentally comprehended, sacramentally employed. Other language there is none : before the Beatific Vision, even though now we see it as in a glass, darkly, even though the symbol alone is all our undeveloped spirituality can apprehend, the language that is so adequate for dealing with the mere accidents and phenomena of the Absolute fails utterly before the dim vision of the substance that lies behind, informing all. Natural science and natural philosophy are sufficient unto them-selves : they need no aid from the Pentecostal tongues of art; but religion, which deals alone with ultimate realities, finds in the "form of sound words" only her panoply of defence against the insolence of insubordinate reason ; for her self-revelation, for the communicating of her infinitely higher and more subliminal reason, she turns to the tongue God gave her to this end, to painting, sculpture, and architecture; to poetry, music, the drama, and ceremonial; to art, the great symbol; to art, the language of the soul.
Postulating this of art in its intrinsic nature, let me say at once that I do not confine the thing itself simply to the great arts already named; as there are seven sacraments defined by the Church, while nevertheless the sacra-mental quality extends, in varying degrees, into infinite ramifications throughout creation, so art itself, which is made up of seven major modes, reaches out into innumerable fields of potent activity. Beauty is the instrument of art; without it art does not exist, and wherever beauty is used either for self-revelation or for the communicating of spiritual energy, there is art, whether it be in the majestic modes of mu-sic and architecture, or in the modest ministry of woodcarving or embroidery. The existence and manifestation of beauty is the one test, the philosopher's stone that transmutes the base metal of reason into the fine gold of spiritual revelation.
Now, I do not mean to involve myself in the perilous definition of this mystical and incomprehensible thing, beauty; says St. Thomas A Kempis, in writing of the sublime Mystery of the Catholic Faith, "'T were well not to inquire too curiously into the nature of this holy sacrament"; and the same warning may well be held in mind when we approach the mystery of beauty. It is, and its operations are acknowledged ; this is really all we need to know. In this paper I am supposed to deal only with this operation, and in the one category of architecture, so all that is needed is the confession we all can make that beauty exists and that it is the great symbolic language of the soul, whether it manifests itself through colour or form or light and shade, through tone, melody, harmony and rhythm, or through any combination of these, or any other of the numberless modes of its expression.
It may be said that not the half of art is thus specifically spiritual in its activity; that in whole schools and for long periods of time art of noble quality is followed and determined solely for the sheer joy of pleasurable sensations. This we may admit, for conscious revelation of higher things is no essential part of art; my only contention is that it alone has been so used, and may be again, even though for generations we may, in our hardness of heart, deny the very existence of any realm of truth beyond that accidental domain of the material and the conditioned, which from time to time obsesses men with the delusion of its own finality. And even here I think the thesis might be defended that this very sensuous satisfaction, as we call it, is not sensuous at all, but the blind answering of an atrophied soul to a spiritual stimulus, the noble nature of which is disregarded or denied. The obvious melodies of popular music, the rudimentary colour-harmonies of popular painting, the superficial jingles of popular verse, are pleasurable to those who like them, not because of some satisfying titillation of the sensory nerves, but because they, even they, are in-formed with some faint and far-blown scent of mystical fields, and strange gardens seen in for-gotten dreams ; because each one, however narrow the vista it reveals, is in some sense one of those
" Magic casements opening on the foam
that are the avenues of spiritual revelation through the mystical agency of art.
On this very matter writes that beautiful soul, Sir Thomas Browne: "For even that vulgar and Tavern-Musick, which makes one man merry, another mad, strikes in me a deep fit of devotion, and a profound contemplation of the First Composer. There is something in it of Divinity more than the ear discovers : it is an Hieroglyphical and shadowed lesson of the whole World, and creatures of God; such a melody to the ear, as the whole World, well understood, would afford the understanding. In brief, it is a sensible fit of that harmony which intellectually sounds in the ears of God."
This by the way, for our inquiry is not here, and I try to return to the path that may, in the end, lead at the very last to our subject.
I have said enough to indicate what I mean when I speak of all art as the natural, and, indeed, the only adequate, expression in time and space of spiritual things. If it is this, then it follows of necessity that it is the ordained language of religion, for religion, through theology, is the divine science which is higher than all natural sciences, in that it deals with Absolute Truth through perfectly adequate agencies, while the natural sciences deal only with finite phenomena through agencies adequate to this end and to this alone. It follows, then, that preëminently and in a very special fashion art is, or should be, a matter of absolutely vital importance to religion, since it is ordered by God Him-self as its mode of visible manifestation. As a matter of fact, this always has been so from the very beginnings of recorded history. "God has never left Himself without a witness"; and even in the ethnic religions of antiquity, or the paganism that preceded the Incarnation, or in the pseudo-religious philosophies of the East, the dim witnesses of God have made for them-selves out of art in all its forms witnesses before men of whatever shadowy glimmerings of truth were given to them. Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, all wrought for themselves great art, but always the beginnings were at the hands of priests and prophets, and however great the secular art that ensued, always its greatest glories were achieved in religious service. And so through history, century after century, through the fastidious and exquisite temples of Greece and the half-barbarian "grandeur that was Rome," to the solemn basilicas of Constantine, the golden and glimmering shrines of Justinian, the grave majesty of the churches of Charlemagne, the towering abbeys of Frank and Norman Benedictines, the first fine Gothic of the Cistercian monasteries, to the crowning glory of the mediæval cathedrals of France and the abbeys of England. Even when civilization was breaking down under the assaults of the new paganism after the exile at Avignon and the fall of Constantinople, it was religion, whatever we may think of its momentary condition, that was still, through the visible Church, leading the van in the building-up of a new though fictitious form of art; and it was not until the Reformation that, for the first time in the history of the world, organized religion turned against art, and, denying its virtue or its efficacy, devoted itself to the destruction of what it had created and what had been, in solemn fact, one of its most potent agencies of operation. And then followed, also for the first time in history, that ominous thing, the extinction of all art, of every kind whatever, as an attribute of human life, as a heritage of civilization. Indeed, what actually ensued was worse even than extinction : it was the substitution, first, of something with little beauty and with no art at all in place of the perfect beauty man already had perfectly made manifest; then the wild yet deliberate beating down and utter destruction of these dumb memorials of a great material and spiritual past; and finally, the setting-up, for the worship of degenerate society, of the brazen images of ugliness. A stranger and more ominous thing than this history has hardly recorded. We have seen, and many times, the perishing of great civilizations : the flowering of art during some epoch of splendid development, and its slow dissolution after that epoch had yielded to the law of the world, which is the law of de-generation, in opposition to the law of the spirit, which is the law of regeneration and development. We have seen the exquisite art of Greece go down in the wake of Greek civilization, while the art of Rome that followed on was immeasurably less noble and complete. In its turn we have beheld the fall of Rome and the coming of the Dark Ages, with even here, at the height of such culture as came during a barbarian cycle, art that was art still, though less admirable even than that which developed under "the drums and tramplings of three conquests." Then at last this also was gone with the dying of the "false dawn" of Carlovingian civilization, and night fell again, deeper than ever before; night that was to be dispelled for centuries, a little later, when the mingling of Northern blood with the great life-current of a regenerated monasticism was to make possible the first great triumph of Christian civilization.
Time upon time it has seemed that art has been lost; but even in the deepest depths it has struggled for light, and never once has it been false to its own nature. There might be little, and that little poor, but its impulse was always right, until that great world-drama (the three acts of which we call the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Revolution) took possession of the stage ; and since then the tale has been different. The Renaissance, by its false doctrine of the sufficiency of the intellect, set up a scholastic and artificial theory of the nature of beauty and the function of art ; the Reformation, by its substitution of a manufactured religion for that of God's Revelation, dried up the springs of spiritual energy which are the source of the art-impulse; the Revolution shook the very foundations of religious society and established economic conditions in which art could no longer endure; while all these cataclysms, as a by-product of their activity, annihilated a good half of the monuments of past generations, and denied the virtue of the poor remainder they did not destroy.
It was the greatest break-down on record, and the results were commensurate with the cause. Art was gone, for the first time in history; and with the opening of the nineteenth century not only was the world more empty than ever before, but there were false gods in every shrine, hideous idols of the worship of ugliness and lies. Here and there was a voice crying in the wilderness, but when it became audible over the din of an uncouth saturnalia, it was the voice of a painter, a poet, or a musician; sculptor and architect had "none so mean as to do them reverence."
And now the wheel has come full turn, and everywhere is a feverish effort at artistic restoration. We are ashamed, and we seek for the wherewithal to cover our aesthetic nakedness; more than this, the old virus is working itself out: the fruits of the Renaissance, Reformation, and Revolution have been eaten, the good is by way of being assimilated, the evil rejected, and the gray dawn of a new day lightens on the hills. In spite of the curial ineptitudes of Rome, the invincible Erastianism of the East, the uncertainties of our own estate ; in spite of the momentary triumph of atheism and anarchy in France, the outbreak of unearthly heresies and superstitions in Russia and New England, and the apparent victory of secularism in education; in spite of the ethical, political, industrial, and economic disorder, the doom of the post-Renaissance era is sealed, and in the midst of all our uncertainties one thing is gloriously certain, and that is that a new epoch is dawning when religion will once more achieve its due supremacy over man and nations, the Catholic Faith regain its beneficent dominion over the souls that God made in His own image.
It is this conviction, whether avowed or hidden, whether conscious or latent, that lies at the base of the great turning of religion to art once more in these latest days. Not the desire of emulation, not the hunger for refinements of culture, but the dawning consciousness that each one of the arts is by right a paladin of the new crusade, that they are all, by the nature given them by God, soldiers of the Cross, and that their hearts and their swords are not lightly to be despised in the new winning of the world to Christ.
Michelet has somewhere said that "history is only a series of resurrections" ; and this is what the Church is doing today -- returning to the old and tried methods of the past, when the builder and painter and carver, the musician and poet and maker of liturgies, marched side by side with the prophet and monk and missionary into the strongholds of barbarism and infidelity, putting into visible and audible form the faith they practised„
No other course was possible. Since beauty is the revelation of all that lies beyond the horizon of our finite vision, art, which is beauty organized and made operative, becomes the great language of the soul, and therefore it is crushed, mutilated, impotent when it remains in bondage to material things, while without it religion is shorn of one of her greatest agencies of self-expression and of influence. This is the meaning of the wonderful revival of religious art of every kind that began simultaneously with the spiritual upheaval of the Oxford Movement, and has kept pace, step by step, with the growing consciousness of her Catholic heritage which, for now three quarters of a century, has penetrated the Church of the English-speaking race. This is the meaning of the new life in religious painting and sculpture ; in glass-making and metal-working and embroidery; in architecture, music, and ceremonial. We look, sometimes with amusement, sometimes with horror, on the ecclesiastical fabrics of the early nineteenth century, on the barren and hideous forms, the apologetic music, the thin and enervated ceremonial. Now we, and not we alone, but all Protestantism with us, are building churches as near in spirit and in form to those of the great Middle Ages as the somewhat limited capacities of our architects will permit: we demand the glass of Chartres and York, the sculptures of Amiens and Wells, the gold and silver and brass and iron of Hildesheim and Venice and Dalmatia, the pictures of Umbria, the music of Milan, the vestments of the treasuries of Spain. Daily our ceremonial grows richer and more beautiful, and its widening ring takes in, one after another, men and places that but a few years ago were staunch defenders, if not of Calvinistic theology, at least of Calvinistic art. Even the old shibboleth of "Romanizing, Romanizing," is heard no more, for its absurdity is recognized, and the basic impulse of religious art is seen to be other than a preliminary symptom of disaffection. It is not because we want something that Rome alone has got, but because at last we know we have it also, the thing itself, that we return to our sister, Beauty, and call upon her once again to cry to all the manifold products of God's hand, "O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord, praise Him and magnify Him forever."
The theological peculiarities of Geneva and Edinburgh can adequately be communicated by the spoken and unadorned word : the marvellous mysteries of the Catholic Faith breathe themselves into the spiritual consciousness through the mediumship of art.
To every movement, then, toward the restoration of diplomatic relations between religion and art, the Church must give her earnest support. Everywhere the artist and the craftsman are looking wistfully toward the old-time mistress of their art. Usually they have lost their faith, and they are not wholly to blame for it; but in their art lies the possibility of their conversion, or at least the assurance that, accepted, it will be easier for those that follow to regain their faith, or hold it whole and intact. To all the workers in all the arts the Church must now go, saying, "We made you; we forsook you; we are sorry; and now we need you again : give us of your best that we may offer it on the altar of God."
"The best." Here, perhaps, lies the kernel of it all. For centuries we have taken the worst, and as little of that as possible; now we take anything that comes along, not from perversity but from lack of knowledge, and from a certain innocent trustfulness that takes a man — and particularly an artist — at his own valuation, or at least at the valuation placed upon him by some person or thing of which we stand in awe. Late Italian Mass music and decadent ceremonial ; plausible and loudly heralded stained glass of barbaric splendour; commercial products in metal and woodwork, saccharine statues — sometimes of plaster — of the type dear to the heart of the Latin "parrocchio" ; imitation Gothic architecture — also sometimes of plaster, with a little harmless, necessary steel or iron encased within. We want the real thing, the real beauty, the real art, but the trouble is we sometimes can be induced to accept a substitute, while sometimes also the best of us know too well what we like, and this is always dangerous.
The first battle has been won — the battle for Beauty; we know now that this we must have; now let us establish the victory by winning the battle for Truth.
And this does not mean the easy victory over plaster and papier-mâché, gold-leaf and lacquer, imitation marble, steel covered with concrete, and all the other substitutes that are now so tempting to the eye hungry for beauty combined with the emaciated purse. It means the far more arduous battle for the fundamental truth of æsthetic ideals, for art that shall be significant, and vital with the breath of the great art of the past.
It is not the fault of the priest, or the building committee, or the altar society that here we so often fail; it is the fault, in great measure, of the artist; but I honestly believe he himself is only a victim of that most pernicious and devil-engendered principle of the present age, namely, "Give the people what they want." Of course, any society that acts on that basis has its ending in the pit of perdition; but this we do not see with perfect clarity, and so the artist prostitutes his God-given art to the false ideal of what is demanded of him. He is wrong; no one nowadays wants anything but the best in art — which is one of the most encouraging signs in a dubious day; but this demand is not always couched in unmistakable terms. Be specific, make it clear that you look on the artist as a minister in minor orders, and that on him alone rests the obligation to make his work, in however small a degree, a revelation of spiritual truth, and I do not think he will fail you.
I do not mean that as yet any artist can safely be given his head; least of all, the architect. Art is still in bondage to that spirit of the Renaissance-Reformation-Revolution the Church has now freed herself from to so surprising a degree; but I do mean that the time has come when a principle only may safely be enunciated, the details being left wholly to the artist. It is not so long ago that priests who had read Parker's "Glossary," or some handbook on church-building, or had spent a summer in England, felt it their duty to instruct an architect as to the working-out of his plans, even in some cases demanding that some church or other in England should be duplicated. Well, this was bad enough, but I dare say better than the terrible things that might have happened — and did happen, for that matter — when the architect was permitted to give free rein to his fervid imagination. In any case, this time has gone, and in spite of the schools of architecture there are now many artists of every kind — and particularly architects — who may safely be trusted to do honourable and competent work. Nevertheless, there is still one function that the priest, or, better still, the Church, must perform, and that is the laying-down of the fundamental law of all religious art.
What is this law? It is a very simple one, namely, that religious art must express, not the predilections of one man, or the arbitrary theories of a school, but the Church herself; in other words, a divine institution unchangeable in essentials, infinitely adaptable in everything else. And this means that whatever is done must be faithful, first of all, to the universal laws of Christian art; then, that it must pre-serve an unbroken continuity with the art of our own blood and race; and finally, that it must declare itself of our own time as to the accidents of its expression.
Several principles develop from this : under the first heading we are forced back five centuries to the time when Christian art came to an end; across the desert wastes of Protestantism and the opulent gardens of neo-paganism, back to the Middle Ages, when the living stream, that had refreshed a thirsty land from before the days of Hellas and Byzantium, disappeared below the surface into some subterranean channel where from cornes now only the murmur of troubled waters impatient for release. So far as the art expression of religion is concerned, nothing has happened since the fall of Constantinople in which we need display any particular interest. Back to mediævalism we must go, and begin again. And as to continuity, that indispensable succession that alone insures the vitality of art while it parallels that apostolical succession which alone insures the divine vitality of the Catholic Church, it means that we are not at liberty to pick and choose among the tentative styles of a crescent Christianity, but that we must return to the one style our forefathers at last created for the full expression of their blood and faith. Lombard we may like, or Byzantine, or Norman, or Romanesque, but they are not for us, for they were stepping-stones only, not accomplished facts. Those that were of the South or the East are of alien blood. Our Church and we ourselves are of the North, northern. We are of them that purged the world of a great paganism, dead, and infecting all Europe with the miasma of its corruption. Frank and Teuton, Norman and Burgundian, Celt and Saxon and Dane are in our blood and bone and our very flesh, and for the major part of what we are we owe an everlasting debt to this fierce blood of the Baltic shores, tamed and turned into righteous courses by the monks of St. Benedict, St. Robert, St. Bernard, and St. Norbert.
We forget it all, for a time, but we return at last, and as now perhaps the most significant thing in the development of our own moiety of the Church is the restoration of that monasticism which was the engendering fire of Christian mediævalism, so by inevitable analogy we return to the art that blossomed in the gardens the monks made in the wilderness ; to the heritage of our name and race, the Gothic of France and England and of all our own north countries, washed by our own north seas. Yet there is danger in this — the danger of archæological dry rot. We must begin somewhere; we no longer have within ourselves the power of artistic generation; and even if we had, if we could produce an art like that of Paris or Canterbury or York out of our own inner selves, we should lack the right, for we must above all things show that our religion stretches, without a break, through mediævalism and the Dark Ages, to Calvary. Gothic architecture and Gothic art do this, for in them are gathered up and perfected all the tentative efforts of all Christendom; but if we stop there we deny the Faith, for we know that in accordance with the promise of Christ He is with His Church even unto the end of the world, and that through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit she is being led into all truth. The Christian life is a life of progressive development; the life of the Church is no other; and little by little new aspects of old wonders are opened before our eyes. Therefore, our art must content itself with no finalities; it must grow ever and onward, from the highest point thus far it has reached, the mountain summit of mediævalism, from whose cloud-encircled top dim visions already unroll of still loftier summits, accessible at last, once we for-sake the mistaken path that long ago opened out, broad and inviting, only to disappear in the morass of artificial paganism. And so our new art, refounded on the old, must be mobile, adaptable, sensitive to all righteous influences, repellent of all that are evil ; not a simulacrum, but a living thing.
Is this too much to ask? Greater has been before, and with faith we may move mountains.
The part that art is to play in the rebuilding of a new civilization is hardly to be estimated in words, and of all the arts the one that is des-tined to do the greatest work is architecture. Why this is so I confess I do not know, but so it has been in the past. There is some strange quality in architecture that makes its spiritual efficiency dominant over the other arts. Music is more poignant, painting more human in its appeal, while each art in its turn exerts some special influence beyond the province of the others. Architecture binds them in one, harmonizing, controlling, directing them, and lifting them up in a great structural Te Deum.
A perfect church, within whose walls is passing the ordered pageantry unnumbered generations have built up in beauty, and through the seven arts, to do honour and reverence to the Creator and Redeemer of the world, there present in the Holy Sacrament of the altar, is the greatest work of man. Into it enters every art raised now to the highest point of achievement, and as architecture, painting, and sculpture assemble for the building of the tabernacle itself, so do music, poetry, the drama, and ceremonial gather into another great work of art, that prefigures the infinite wonder of Heaven itself.
And we threw it all away, once, in our blindness of heart and contempt of God's word and commandment: blowing up the matchless fabrics with gunpowder; beating out the jewelled windows and shattering with hammer and axe the fretted altars and shrines and tombs and chiselled images of saints and martyrs, even the Crucifix itself, the sign of our Redemption; filching the jewels from vestments and sacred vessels, casting consecrated gold and silver into the melting-pot, turning copes and chasubles into bed-hangings, and altar-cloths into chair-cushions, leaving the few churches we did not destroy barren, empty, desolated.
Now we are doing what we can by way of amendment. We are handicapped by the deeds of our fathers, and by their consequences, but the restoration must be accomplished, however arduous the effort.
And the reward is worthy the effort. Create in imagination the figure of what may be again : cathedrals like those of Paris and Chartres and Gloucester and Exeter; sculptures like the marshalled saints of Amiens and Wells, pictures and altar-pieces like those of Giotto and Fra Angelico; windows that rival those of Bourges and York; the beating of sublime Gregorian chants like the echo of heavenly harmonies; and ceremonial that absorbs half of the regenerated arts, composing them into a whole that is the perfection of all that man can do to honour in material and sensible form the central mystery of the Catholic Faith.
Once more at the hand of man all the works of the Lord shall praise Him and magnify Him forever, and from every cathedral or monastery or parish church shall go out the vast, subtle, insistent missionary influence of art, again restored to her due place as the handmaid of religion; breaking down that pride of intellect that will not yield to intellectual attack; winning souls hungry but defiant; dissolving the barriers that man in his insolence has reared to make of no avail the prayer of Christ that all His children might be made one; manifesting to the world the Absolute Truth and Beauty that are the Revelation of God. Architecture, with all the arts, is the God-given language of religion. It has been too long in bondage to the world ; let it now serve God again through the Holy Catholic Church.