What substantive relationships of conceptual and formal influence exist between Catholicism and the arts?
Is there such a thing as Catholic literature, Catholic music, and Catholic art? If so, in what ways does their catholicity reside in relevant ideas, attitudes, values, and beliefs?
Are there distinctive styles and traditions of Catholic writing, composition, and painting?
Are there particular images and themes which Catholic writers, artists, and musicians have explored over the years?
Are there certain styles of composition, writing, and painting which have come to be associated with the expression of Catholic spirituality?
And how is Catholicism depicted more broadly in literature and the arts, regardless of the catholicity of their originating creators?
These are some of the challenging questions tackled in the CCS’s research programme in Catholicism, Literature, and the Arts.
Catholicism, Literature, and the Arts I (July 2017)
This research group was pleased to present the CCS’s first international conference on Catholicism, Literature, and the Arts in July 2017. Ninety writers, teachers, students, clergy, and members of the public from Britain, Ireland, Continental Europe, North America, and elsewhere gathered for a series of plenary lectures, short papers, seminar discussions, presentations, performances, and exhibitions on Catholic writers and artists from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Among the main topics of the conference were Catholic memoir and autobiography, Catholic fiction and poetry, and Catholic painting and sculpture.
Catholicism,Literature, and the Arts II: Legacies and Revivals (July 2019)
This second biennial conference explored key questions concerning the relationship between Catholicism and the arts, including literature, music, and visual art. What substantive relationships of conceptual and formal influence exist between Catholicism and the arts? Is there such a thing as Catholic literature, Catholic music, and Catholic art? If so, in what ways does their catholicity reside in relevant ideas, attitudes, values, and beliefs?
The Missa Cantata is also available on video (with the Missa Cantata booklet available for download)
Catholicism, Literature, and the Arts III: The Poetics of Liturgy and Place (July 2022)
The third Catholicism, Literature, and the Arts conference (12-14 July 2022) was a remarkable testament of the capacity of the arts to ‘festively raise up human existence’ (Josef Pieper), affirming life through dance, painting, sculpture, music, architecture, poetry, literature, and theatre. Our theme, the Poetics of Liturgy and Place, was explored by performance, plenary speakers, and over thirty short papers within the superbly located London Gateway of the University of Notre Dame as well as across the city in the beautiful Farm Street Church and the iconic National Gallery.
Each element of the programme invited us, in the words of David Jones, ‘to put off the old Adam of utility’ and ‘become a fool for Beauty’s sake, to play.’ The fine arts remind us that the origin and end of all our work, indeed our lives, is ultimately just this delighting and being delighted in. That at least, incredibly, is what the gospel tells us.
We drank deeply from this well at the performance of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time as clarinet, flute, cello, and piano opened ‘a space in the air’ (Elena Buia Rutt) that tasted of the eternal. It flowed through smiles and vicariously through bodies as the dance performed on the mosaic staircase of the National Gallery ushered us into the Raphael exhibition. And it flourished all three days in delegates’ willingness to engage with such generosity across disciplines and artistic mediums. I hope the waters sprung here continue to nourish each of us as we find and make these pathways and places of praise in our own corners of the world.
A video of Rowan Williams’s plenary talk, ‘Fixed Place and Mobile Time’, is now available on the CCS YouTube channel.