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date: 22 August 2019

Religion and artlocked

  • Diane Apostolos-Cappadona


Art has played an integral role in the development of all world religions. As the visualization of experiences, stories and aspirations, art translates into perceptible imagery what it means to be human, while religion, as the spiritual inspiration for human creativity and culture, binds together humanity and divinity through ritual and mythology (see also Spirituality and art). In the exercise of rituals and the narration of mythology, religion and art coincide both in theory and in practice. By its intrinsic and natural relationship to truth and beauty and to human sensibilities, art may evoke a religious experience or, to use the terminology of the phenomenologist of religion Rudolf Otto, ‘an experience of the numinous’. Works of art can ‘capture’ the meaning or import of a ritual or religious experience and, by ‘freezing it’ in form, allow for the (possible) repetition of the original ritual or religious experience. In its quest for beauty, art may present the ideal archetypal or sacred model for human beings to follow on their paths to salvation, and in its visual expressions of the divine, art may offer human beings a way of relating to the cosmos. Religion both as a path to salvation and as spiritual inspiration supports the desire and the fundamental human need for creative expression. When authentic religious intentions are expressed through images, art becomes religious communication, and this unique form of communication reinforces religious beliefs, customs and values....

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Enciclopedia universale dell’arte, 15 vols (Rome, 1958–67); Eng. trans. as Encyclopedia of World Art (New York, 1959–68)