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New book explains how art helped Catholic faith during Protestant Reformation


Art Historian and university professor Dr. Elizabeth Lev has written a book she says was 18 years in the making. “How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art” explains how art helped solidify the Catholic faith. 

During the Protestant Reformation, with the invention of the printing press and various religion propaganda being distributed, one concrete object helped clarify the Catholic faith. 

ELIZABETH LEV
Author, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith

“The ensuing confusion, made it very difficult for the faithful to be able to navigate this new world of, you know, alternate news as it were. So, the Catholic Church turned to art and really produced these pieces that we still love today.” 

Thus, art was a way to draw attention back to the Catholic faith, a new mode of evangelization. The Church wasn't going to publish Catholic doctrine in pamphlets, but had another way of attracting attention.

ELIZABETH LEV
Author, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith

“We've been good at it for a really long time - producing works of art paintings and sculptures that people just, you know, they think they're going to walk by and they go, 'Oh, what's that?' So you have these artists, these Caravaggio's that are coming to the fore. These these Guido Reni's and artists that just are suddenly, 'Oh, who's that? Oh, where did that come from?' And really, it was a beautiful response, but also an effective response.”

Liz Lev explains that this paved the way to dialogue, even with people of other faiths who were attracted to the beauty of Catholic art.

ELIZABETH LEV
Author, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith

All of a sudden we can start talking a little bit about the faith because there's a Caravaggio painting. There's a Michelangelo painting. We start to enter into it in a comfortable around a neutral ground. So that is a dialogue and and an elegant persuasion. That is a very, very important part of the of the faith. It's an important part of being able to evangelize not by you know, clubbing people on the head, but evangelizing through, 'Don't you want to be a part of this? Because we have some good stuff over here?'”

She asserts that just as art had a specific role in the late 16th century, its job continues today. Lines can still be seen on any given day wrapping all around the Vatican walls for pilgrims and tours to enter the art-filled Vatican Museums.