Ancient Christian Style Meets Other Modern in Milan: Chiesa di Santa Maria di Caravaggio

The Chiesa di Santa Maria di Caravaggio in Milan provides us with an opportunity to look at two different ends of the spectrum of liturgical art: the ancient Christian style and the 'Other Modern.'  What is poignant about this is that we find no real rupture between them. There are certainly stylistic differences, just as we see stylistic differences between gothic and baroque, but at the same time there is also a continuity that can be found; a common root and language. In this regard it is important to recall that the seeming objection to contemporaneity in liturgical art is not really a rejection of development, nor any unmoving idolization of the past, but rather a rejection of rupture. It is rupture, not development, that is at issue -- and that is key.

Now none of this is to say that one cannot have their own preferences. Some may not particularly like 'Other Modern' just as some do not particularly like baroque or other period styles. That is all quite natural of course but there is a significant difference between one's own personal stylistic preferences and that which is not objectively suitable as liturgical art. The key point in liturgical art is that whatever its stylistic qualities, Romanesque, Byzantine, Baroque, Rococo, Gothic or Other Modern, a strand of continuity should be found within them that clearly conveys liturgical and theological truths with a nobility that uplifts the heart, mind and soul to those same immutable truths in ways that are not obfuscated.

With that in mind, let us take a look at the art and architecture of the Chiesa di Santa Maria di Caravaggio -- which, as I understand it, was built in the early 20th century.


A classic Roman basilica model. A form which, while not seen as much in Rome since the Renaissance, is still very much in evidence in Milan. 

A classic arrangement of altar and ciborium with confessio type of space beneath -- though in this instance it would appear to be more of a devotional space than one housing the relics of martyrs.
The apse mosaic depicts the coronation of the Virgin. The style of the ciborium is very much akin to that found in Sant'Ambrogio. (Source)
(Source)
The side altars, found along the nave, are where we find some examples of Other Modern work. Here are two examples:

One common characteristic found in much Other Modern work is the utilization of the entire wall space as a canvas of sorts. This can be seen here in the adoring angels.  In many regards this picks up from the baroque tradition, with the architecture itself helping to frame it, contain it and give it a sense of order.

In both of the above examples we see styles that are clearly 'modern' on the one hand and yet they also very clearly and strongly borrow from the classical Christian artistic tradition in the most substantial ways. Whether or not you personally prefer this style, they are nonetheless qualitative examples that are rooted in Christian tradition of liturgical art.
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