Synergy in the Liturgical Arts

Very often when it comes to church furnishing and art, while there is a harmony amongst the component pieces, there is not necessarily a purposeful and studied integration between them. What do I mean?  What I mean is that you may have an altar and an altar piece, as an example, and you may then have apse art and wall art set around it and near it, and stylistically they are hopefully in harmony and accord with one other, but they are still distinct pieces and parts: that's the altar, this is the apse art, etc. 

There are some rarer instances, however, where there has been a much more purposeful integration of the different component parts such that they form a studied, unified whole. Those that I have seen are usually manifest as a combination of wall paintings which exist in specific co-relation to the particular altar and altar piece that they are set around; the former designed to exist in direct reference to the latter. The effect of such works is particularly powerful.

To give you an example of the sort of thing to which I am referring, I would share two examples (regrettably, the one example is one whose location I no longer remember; but I can tell you that it is somewhere in the United States and I believe it was one of our featured "before and afters.")

The first example comes from the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua. Let's take a look:

Basilica di Sant'Antonio, Padua
This particular altar has a permanent monstrance and you can see that around it on the wall are adoring angels as well as a shaft of divine light which gives the illusion of coming down upon the Eucharistic Presence.  The end result of these synergies is extremely profound I think.

The next example is similar:

Somewhere in the USA.
Like the example from Padua, the wall paintings are made to specifically interact with the altar, reredos and tabernacle. Here too are references to the splendour of divine light radiating outward from the altar and tabernacle, and also angelic hosts in positions of adoration in relation to the altar and Blessed Sacrament.

Both of these examples demonstrate the particular power and potentiality of this synergistic approach to liturgical art; an approach which creates a whole than is greater than its individual, component parts. What they help to accomplish in these instances specifically shown is a theology that is particularly 'laid bare.'

I'd invite readers to contribute or send in your own similar examples of such integrations for a possible followup piece. 

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