Abbaye de Keur Moussa

Abbaye de Keur Moussa, near Dakar, Senegal, is a Benedictine monastery of the Solesmes Congregation. Founded in 1961, the monastery became an abbey in 1984. The Keur Moussa abbey church fresco, samples of which I have included above, was designed and painted in 1963 by Dom Georges Saget. Stories illustrated here include: the annunciation, the birth of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana.

Aboriginal Christian Art from Western Australia

094This picture comes from Western Australia, courtesy of a friend of mine. He writes: “Hi Matt, Was thinking of you. We were in W.A 2 weeks ago and went to New Norcia.  Was profoundly impressed in that in the 19thc they genuinely respected the Aboriginals and genuinely tried to incarnate the Gospel to them. The art work in their museum is staggeringly good (back to 15th C art) Anyhow, the attached (sorry about the quality, hard one to take a photograph of without a flash) is about 2 metres by 1. Painted last century, I’ll let you figure out who Mary Joseph and Jesus are!”

Chinese Christian Art: Arriving at Bethlehem

Chinese-christian-nativity-paintingAs we approach Christmas I find myself drawn once again to the way Christmas scenes have been depicted across different cultures.

This image, from an unknown Chinese artist, depicts Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary arriving at Bethlehem, looking for some overnight accomodation but not having much luck.

I find myself reflecting, with the party season upon us, how many in the world struggle with hunger and homelessness, and how the Messiah come to identify with them first.

Hererodoxy in Colour

Unknown-austrian-master-early-15th-century-I-the-nativity

What do you notice that’s unusual about this image? How about the midwives!

Prior to Christmas I made reference to Ninian Smart’s seven dimensions of religion, noting that the narrative dimension typically trumps the material dimension in Christianity.

This may be contrasted with, say, Tarot based spirituality, where the symbols are considered more fundamental than any stories that become attached to them.

It is worth noting these differences between religions when it comes to critiquing religious art, art being a popular expression of the material dimension of religion.

This image hails from the Gallery of medieval art in Austria, Vienna, Austria. It includes some seemingly innocuous changes to the story. I say “seemingly” because the presence of the two extra women suggests a possible allusion to the Infancy Gospel of James, a pseudoepigraphical Gnostic text that introduces the idea that Jesus was born of light, not flesh, and that Salome and a midwife “checked” Mary after the birth to ensure she was ever virgin. Given the primacy of story in Christianity, changes to the stories illustrated by art have far greater significance for Christian art than the art of many alternative religions.