One particular thing I appreciate most in majoring in Interior Design is the requirement to take several art history classes throughout my college curriculum. While floor plans, RCP, elevations, perspectives, building codes (GAH!), and much more consume a large chunk of my school life, that’s where the appreciation for art history comes into play.
As most of you know, I’ve had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy this past Spring semester. But before I possibly write up a novel about how GREAT of an experience it was, I’ll hold my tongue and stick to the topic. One of the courses I took there was Art History II, covering a vast number of artwork from the Renaissance period all the way to the 19th century: Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, and on and on. You name it. I probably learned about it. But that’s besides the point. As brain frying as it may have been sitting through lectures and studying pages & pages of notes, I loved it! Unquestionably, the icing on the cake was being able to see the artwork with my own two eyes at these world-renowned museums in Europe. It was unbelievable.
So apparently, the cake has icing now, but there’s more. The combo of toppings (i.e. shaved chocolate, nuts, fresh fruit, shredded coconut, etc.) drizzled on top of the icing is religious artwork. Two things I’ve truly grown to love and embrace are the faith and art. Traveling to Europe and seeing the wide variety of religious artwork from statues to paintings to Church interiors and exteriors really opened my eyes in learning so much more about this great faith. During a lecture on Baroque art, we covered Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa in Rome, whose feast happens to be today. As the doctor of prayer for our Church and a mystic, she wrote about 4 stages of the soul and the last one as “devotion of ecstasy and rapture”.
Already having a small amount of background information on St. Teresa of Avila, this artwork introduced me to information I hadn’t known about. I thought, “ecstasy…?” I remember Professoressa Lucia asking me to read an excerpt from St. Teresa’s autobiography aloud in class:
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it…
Crazy, huh? As a writer of mental prayer and devotion in union with God, she’s a great saint to look to. Perhaps I’ll buy her autobiography in the future?
Before visiting the National Gallery in London, I never knew about the account of Jesus appearing to St. Peter on the Appian Way (Domine Quo Vadis painting by Carracci), which now happens to be one of my favorites. I was attracted to the short caption beneath the painting which induced me to write down the info but ultimately, it didn’t hit me as much until my parents and I were in close proximity to the Appian Way in the outskirts of Rome. And at last, researching more on it instantly sold me.
It’s so remarkable and fun when realizing the moments God places in your life in order to learn more about Him and your discipleship to Him. After seeing that painting, I became inspired. In summation, Peter fled from Rome (this was after Jesus’ Resurrection) because he was afraid of persecution. Peter already left the city and reached the Appian Way, where he had a vision of Jesus carrying His cross, walking in the opposite direction of him. Peter asked, “Domine, quo vadis?” (Latin for “Lord, where are You going?”) and Jesus replied, “I’m going to Rome to be crucified again”. After Peter’s vision on the Appian Way, he realized his own cross, willfully accepted it and followed Jesus back to Rome. There, he did what he had to do and was martyred through his crucifixion on the cross, just as Jesus foretold. He was crucified with Him, for Him.
I learned all of that simply because I was so attracted to it. I was attracted after randomly coming across a religious painting in London. And that’s only one painting! That excites me, for there is so much more to learn. With all that said, I am convinced that studying religious art, in particular, can be used as another tool to enable a person to learn more about their faith. If anyone’s interested in studying, analyzing, or just talking about religious art, PLEASE let me know. It can be fun. =)
Just wanted to end it with this horrid, yet simple flow chart:
majoring in Interior Design > studying abroad in Italy > art history course > museum hopping > artwork > learning more about Christianity
Greater knowledge of the faith makes me so happy. Now I’ll be patiently awaiting the journeys He’ll be taking me on in the days, months, years to come…