Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Stuck in a time warp?

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels has been much maligned by some traditionalists as being ugly and too "modern". While it is very different from a St. Patrick's Cathedral, or a Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, I wouldn't say it is completely ugly. Modern, yes; but ugly, no. Just because something is new doesn't mean it is ugly. Often people do not appreciate the art and architecture of their age. Only later generations come to find the beauty and poignancy that is in such works of art (e.g. the school of Impressionism). Sometimes I wonder if we who are more traditionally-minded in our faith are stuck in an artistic time warp. Did art and architecture reach its zenith in western Europe in the high middle ages? If so, what does one make of St. Peter's Basilica, or a Hagia Sophia? Are they ugly too?

I think that before we pass judgment on new forms of art, architecture, music, liturgy, or what have you, we need to consider them in their larger cultural context and think about how they fit into the scope of architectural and art history, both now and in the future. Doing so will help us view them in a more balanced way, and help us appreciate the beauty and inspiration they bring to the table. Let us keep in mind that everything was "new" at some point.


Nicholodeon said...

O my goodness! What did they do with the relicts of Santa Viviana that used to be on display in a glass sarcophagus?

I used to be transfixed by them whenever I went in to the Cathedral in LA when I lived in Santa Barbara.

Our Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Los Angeles has the arm of St Elizaveta Feodorovna (Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna, sister to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia) on display for veneration in a glass box.

Judging from your art that I have seen I think you make a wise decision to focus the new blog on your art. Art speaks to everyone, whether 'trendy and with it' or cautiously optimistic.

Noble work.

J. Gordon Anderson said...

Thank you very much! What a nice and encouraging "first comment" to get.

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Dear Father,

I wasn't impressed by the new Cathedral in LA, and I obviously don't think that modern necessarily means ugly. It really just looks like a converted parking garage.

On the other hand, St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco is very nice, and also very modern. I think the fact that it has a lot of light and is built on a hill with a view of the city means that it has more going for it. But Our Lady of the Angels has very little natural light and its "chandeliers" are kind of hideous. (Not to mention its sanctuary area.) The tapestry is a good idea and pretty, but it just doesn't work with the rest of the building.

Then again, as a native northern Californian, I may just have a serious beef with southern California in general. But that may be a different story entirely...

J. Gordon Anderson said...


You have the best blog on the internet, and I am humbled and honored that you have followed me here. Thank you.

Good point - maybe I need to see the L.A. cathedral in person to make a final judgment. I do know that they spared no expense in installing that kick-ass Dobson pipe organ.... Dobson makes the best organs in the business! So even if they do some weird stuff with the architecture that will take centuries to appreciate (perhaps), they at least have a great organ.