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Saturday, July 07, 2018

Religion and the Renaissance | The Weekly Standard

Reflecting on the prominence of the art. 


"If the inspiration for the highest ideals of the Western liberal tradition could be traced to a single city, it would be Florence: birthplace of the Renaissance and hotbed of radical individualism" insist Joseph Loconte, lecturer in politics at the King’s College in New York City and a frequent contributor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

The Last Supper by Leonardo.
The humanism of the Renaissance is either praised for shattering medieval superstitions or lamented for elevating the autonomous self against traditional religious authorities. Yet one of the most striking features of the period is the recovery of biblical concepts of human dignity and how they helped to unleash artistic, social, and intellectual genius.

The scientists who emerged during this period—some benefitting from Medici family patronage—saw no contradiction between pursuing knowledge about the physical world and pursuing the knowledge of God. Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Galileo: each agreed that “the book of nature” was “written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.” Against their critics, they saw their intellectual breakthroughs as contributing to a sacred mission. Newton once explained that his Principia (1687) had an apologetic purpose: “When I wrote my treatise about our System I had an eye upon such Principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity, and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.”

Renaissance artists like Michelangelo were driven by their love of beauty, an experience they connected intimately to God’s creative power. A contemporary biographer, Ascanio Condivi, wrote that Michelangelo “loved not only human beauty but universally every beautiful thing.” Though anxious not to make the human body an idol that blinded him to the need for repentance, Michelangelo would not abandon his longing for beauty to the stifling artistic conventions of his day. As he put it in one of his poems:

To what am I spurred by the power of a beautiful face?
Since there is nothing else in the world that brings me delight, to this:
to ascend while still alive among the blessed spirits by a
grace so great that every other seems inferior.


When Pope John Paul II in 1995 held mass in the Sistine Chapel to celebrate the restoration of Renaissance frescoes, he recalled Michelangelo’s achievement. “The frescoes that we contemplate here introduce us to the world of Revelation,” he said...

Leonardo Da Vinci, the artist whose “Last Supper” ranks among the most famous of Christian paintings, also led the most exhaustive campaign of anatomical investigation ever attempted. Scholars believe that if his findings had been published in his lifetime, they probably would have altered the course of modern science. His discoveries, however, were based on secret dissections of dozens of human cadavers, a forbidden practice that invited execution.  
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Source: The Weekly Standard


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