August 25th, 2011

The Gaiety of the Old Cathedrals

…some will say that it is the liberty of the Middle Ages in the use of the comic or even the coarse that makes the Gothic more interesting than the Greek. There is more truth in this; indeed, there is real truth in it. Few of the old Christian cathedrals would have passed the Censor of Plays. We talk of the inimitable grandeur of the old cathedrals; but indeed it is rather their gaiety that we do not dare to imitate. We should be rather surprised if a chorister suddenly began singing “Bill Bailey” in church. Yet that would be only doing in music what the mediaevals did in sculpture. They put into a Miserere seat the very scenes that we put into a music hall song: comic domestic scenes similar to the spilling of the beer and the hanging out of the washing.

G. K. Chesterton in the Architect of Spears

August 16th, 2011
[The medieval artist] did not work for society people and the dealers, but for the faithful commons; it was his mission to house their prayers, to instruct their minds, to rejoice their souls and their eyes. Matchless epoch, in which an ingenuous folk was educated in beauty without even noticing it… More beautiful things were then created and there was less self-worship. The blessed humility in which the artist was situated exalted his strength and his freedom. The Renaissance was destined to drive the artist mad and make him the most miserable of men.
Jacques Maritain, Art and Scholasticism