In Sistine Chapel, pope tells artists beauty can lead to God

November 22, 2009

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Pope Benedict met artists from around the world in the Sistine Chapel on Saturday and urged them to inject spirituality into their work, saying contemporary beauty was often “illusory and deceitful.”

“Beauty … can become a path toward the transcendent, toward the ultimate Mystery, toward God,” he told the artists meeting beneath the vaulted ceiling of the chapel painted by Michelangelo. “Too often … the beauty thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful … it imprisons man within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy.”

The Vatican said it invited some 500 artists to the event, regardless of religious, political or stylistic allegiances. More than 250 accepted, mostly from Italy, including singer Andrea Bocelli and award-winning film composer Ennio Morricone. Amongst the other guests were Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid, whose Maxxi modern art museum has just opened in Rome, and F. Murray Abraham, the American actor who won an Oscar for his role as Salieri in the Mozart film, Amadeus, in 1985.

Read the whole story here and the full text of the pope’s address here.

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(Photos: Pope Benedict meets artists in Sistine Chapel, 21 Nov 2009/Osservatore Romano)

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25 comments

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How many tooth fairies can dance on the head of a pin?Strangely, beauty does seem to reaffirm some people’s belief in a mythical god who seems inescapably responsible for any number of 5-year-old girls being raped, mutilated and killed. God appears to suffer from multiple personality disorder.The Sistine Chapel was painted under duress. The Pope exploited Michelangelo for being gay.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

Beauty leads to God? I don’t think so. Just look at the entertainment industry. All I know is that beauty leads to fame, wealth and a life of luxury. If this is God, well then I guess it does. Too bad most people are drop-dead ugly – they shall never see God. Then again, they are fools who believe the Bible is god’s inspired word.

It would be interesting to find out if any scientists have studied the chemical reactions in the brain released during the enjoyment of extreme beauty and being “enraptured” by their god – I’d be willing to bet they are pretty much the same. That may be why every religions over the millennia have fought so hard to control all aspects of beauty: music, dance, nakedness, b/c they can’t understand how it can exist without a divine presence.

Posted by Tyrone McSteinchez | Report as abusive

Beauty can lead to a belief in God, but not to God. No one has seen (heard, felt, smelled, …) or had evidence of God. If there were evidence, what need for faith? I of course discount the phantasms of the bible.The whole argument is thus illogical, and is but a poetic way of affirming the social cohesion of the Christian (in this case) community. Members act as if they shared beliefs. Most don’t.Does beauty lead to God, some god, and gods? No.

Sick and tired of hearing about mythology that is to be taken as reality. It permeates every aspect of our culture. There is no god and christianity is plagiarized. People who believe this tripe never bother to check the other mythologies. The bible is is plagiarized from older mythology. give it up for reality please. It is nothing but sun worship…you have the sun confused with the son.

Posted by james | Report as abusive

Beauty or thinking or what made something beautiful will make me think of god, it will not be the god in the bible, but it will be my god…

Posted by jvm | Report as abusive

BEAUTY DOES NOT LEAD TO GOD. The only way to God is through Jesus Christ, his only son (I am the way the truth and the life no MAN comes to the FATHER (God) except through me Jn 14:6).For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have ever lasting life (jn 3:16). The reason that God seems to have MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES(refering to Pete Gann) and allows bad things to happen to innocent people is because he sent not his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved (jn 3:17)…he is allowing people to make decisions. These decisions will ultimately lead to either a heavenly reward or an eternity in hell reward. Either way, it is your choice who you believe in and God loves you enough to let you make that decision!

Posted by Melissa Rice | Report as abusive

Beauty surely doeas enlighten your life in a way that is more than material, but what is this guy talking about? everything should evolve mister, the aesthetic canon of michelangelo has evolved, why don’t you drop the tunics and gold, nad try to see the world as it is right now?I would trade all the vatican treasures and give food to africa, at least. Churches all over the world are the best exapmple of “Do as I say, not as I do”

Posted by Juan Lagarrigue | Report as abusive

beauty in the greek sense of balance, harmony, expanse etc. indeed does lead us to an awareness of that which is greater than ourselves, i.e. toward the Good/ the god! that which is beyond our most expansive concept. Artistic express on that is nothing more than personal expression of n individuals defined nature i.e ego does not bring us to a place transcendent of our individual story.Time is Art!

Posted by mitri | Report as abusive

“…it imprisons man within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy.”I’d say Christianity is doing the imprisoning and deprivation of mankind, not contemporary art.

Posted by Pope | Report as abusive

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is allYe know on earth, and all ye need to know.’Shelley

Posted by Johnny | Report as abusive

I think that beauty can give you a reason to search out the mystery of God. I mean, look at creation or as some would put the “evolution”(even though science still offers us little to no proof that evolution takes place on a grand scale)all around us. Don’t you ever wonder why animals, mountains, trees, oceans, and mankind have order and design? Why we as humans have moral laws inside of us? Why we are outraged when a young girl is raped and we demand justice? It points to a creator and an Ultimate Law Giver who we in the Christian faith believe is God or Yaweh, God of the Bible. Now dont go blaming God for all the evils you see in the world. Those are not His fault, man chose to sin. However He does allow them to happen. The doctrine of free will is an amazing thing! We have a choice to choose Jesus who is God in the flesh or reject Him. Lets say there is a God who creates beauty. So while in creating He created human beings. Now He could have created us as robots who just obeyed Him, submitted to His authority, and did whatever He asked but this would not be true Love. Love is a choice. Love is committing to some one willingly. Man chose to turn from God and in doing so, sinned. Read Genesis 1-3 and it explains all of that…if you are daring enough to read the Bible for yourself and find out what it truly says rather than listening to educated windbags who think because they went to Yale or Harvard it gives them the authority to become their own gods! You want to know what America’s problem is? It is sinners like you and me! It is godless people who have turned away from the true God and are now worshipping ourselves! It explains divorce rates, it explains abortions, it explains the greed, lust, and porn, It explains fatherless homes, It explains rape, murder, terrorism. It is SIN PEOPLE!!! Open your eyes to the truth that the world is hopeless without a saviour! It wont be a President, It wont be more money, It wont be a better economy, It wont be Sex, It wont be more stuff to fill our garages(which are about the size of an average home in any 3rd world country), It will only be through Jesus! By turning from our sin and accepting Him as saviour of our souls and the leader of our lives.

Posted by Josh Rene | Report as abusive

Romans 1:19-23because what may be known about God is manifest among them, for God made it manifest to them. 20 For his invisible [qualities] are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable; 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings and their unintelligent heart became darkened. 22 Although asserting they were wise, they became foolish 23 and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into something like the image of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed creatures and creeping things.

Posted by William B. | Report as abusive

Is there a God, or not, that is the question Horatio. Many say there is no God. All that exists is the current 3D world and our 5 senses.Others say there is a 6th sense that leads to an encounter with a power far beyond imagination. 5 sensors have no clue. They are the peverbial “flat landers” who believe the earth is flat.Occasionally a skeptic, like CS lewis bumps into the 6th sense and it changes their life.5 sensors don’t want to be left out, so they seek to destroy whatever the 6 sensors have, claiming everything is worthless, there is no God, there is no holy spirit to guide people, etc. They also beat the straw drum as hard as they can. God is bad because he hurts people, or lets something bad happen to an innocent little girl. Of course 5 sensors have no clue about the character of God, so they just make up some formalism and apply it to God.God said “a fool says there is no God”. A fool is an intelligent person who makes wrong choices. It is the opposite of a wise man. Wisdom is knowing what is important.

Posted by BenG | Report as abusive

I saw the title and said to myself “What’s the pope going on about now?”. But I read the article, and quite frankly, I agree, under certain conditions. However, I feel that his message is lost on a good majority of people listening to it, many of them highly intelligent, but tunnel-visioned folks. He is not saying that beauty leads directly to salvation, nor that it is necessarily sure to lead directly to God. If anything, he is making a comment on the times that has been somewhat misconstrued. In the Renaissance period when the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted, there was not only a great intellectual awakening, but it was a completely different world in regards to how much value people placed upon virtue and many other noble things. People had just been escaping the dark ages, and they were now finally seeing brighter days. Many people were not Christians at all, yet they could deeply respect the powerful example that many Christians had brought into the world at the time, and this profoundly affected almost every aspect of life, including their art. We now live in a time of moral crisis, particularly in Europe and America, and our idea of beauty has been disfigured as men dive headlong into beastly carnality. Many people’s idea of modern beauty is now lewd, shallow, cheap, brutish, immoral, and destructive.Simply put, even the beauty of older times can cause people to reflect upon more peaceful times, and more noble things, when some men still feared God. This may even cause a man to seek the Holy God of old, the Lord of salvation that is missing from many of our world cultures and churches today as people plunge into darkness and apostasy throughout all of their works. Not often does an artistic work today inspire such great hope in a man, to make him reconsider the path of his life.

Posted by William V. | Report as abusive

“God” is such an inspirational word. In some it inspires blind devotion to a man-conceived deity, in others it inspires a certain refusal to believe in such a thing.One thing is true, people have felt something inside of them which could change them from a non faithful to a believer. What name is then applied to that feeling? Usually it is “God”, but “enlightenment”, “peace” and “high on life” are also descriptions of this phenomenon.I know this discovery and the “relationship” one has with it to be a personal thing, truly imperceptible to anyone else in it’s powerful, yet subtle emotional impact. So much so, I would venture to say the feeling is unique to every individual, just as fingerprints are.Keeping that in mind, the relationship with “God” should be perceived and taught as an intimate one by the clergy.Please keep your cookie cutter, blanket type theology to yourselves. Judge not, lest ye be judged in kind. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and purely opinion. There are those who do not appreciate beauty in any positive way, and there are those who are continually in awe of the beauty that surrounds us. To lack the ability to “feel” beauty must be a painful curse.I hate that there are “pious” people out there who rape and poison the earth, treat animals horribly, and practice pedophilia.The church is not true love of god, it is business and power serving the will of man.

Jesus is the faith for the family to understand why Jesus is more than beauty and a male to look at he is the male to copy him himthe sacraments are a good good good good copy of JesusJesus’s testimony is beauty of the popal seatJesus is not femalelove Peter Cordova hope to make it hope to make it

Well, if, as a skeptic, some of you’ve never met someone, you can still accept their existence through the evidence (such as you probably believe I’m a real person on the basis of this communication). And certainly, all the skeptics will meet God, one way or another — through beauty (a wonderful invitation) — or other, for some, sadder circumstances.If by chance, someday you have a heart communicating with God and enjoying His gift of beauty, perhaps you will remember someone prayed for you as you struggled free from the confining limits of skepticism — Now that would be beautiful !

Beauty is the ability of humanity to express and appreciate creativity.God is the excuse.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We all know that the vatican is just as corrupt as any other government body. Beauty being closer to God? From what I have seen God is not fond of pretty nor ugly. For we are all the acknowledgment of beauty but we negate to ugly. We can say the world is a beautiful place, but the old saying goes “beauty is more than skin deep.” We as people and the world need to realize the difference between beauty and conforming taste. For beauty is not seen, it is done. The Sistine Chapel is beautiful, but wouldn’t the process of the act show more beauty than the finished product?

Posted by SavYourofTheWhirld | Report as abusive

LOL. This reminds me of the Catholic fashion show spectacle in Fellini’s Roma.

Posted by D Sakarya | Report as abusive

For those not familiar with Fellini, here’s the scene:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYz RL9YIswQ

Posted by D Sakarya | Report as abusive

hey folks,here’s a thought- Jesus of Nazareth once said, “anyone who has seen me has also seen the Father (i.e. “God”).Is there “proof” that God exists, that He has been “seen”? apparently.apparently he showed up in a frail human body but retained the character and nature of the one who made all things. what’s more, this God who made all things and allowed His creatures the ability to choose of reject Him, also had the integrity to ‘take His own medicine’ as it were, experiencing a humiliating and excruciating death. but He did so that there would be hope for all who would choose to believe it, that they might experience and see beauty for what it really is– something that IS ‘of this world’ but also very much NOT of this world.there is indeed a realm of beauty and glory that our human eyes so often cannot perceive, but as we sludge our way through this ‘valley of the shadow of death’ we can yet experience a foretaste of it.since the natural world is a place in bondage to decay and entropy and death, it often seems impossible that some other realm might exist, but it is true.and even this world that is so dilapitated will one day be completely restored. THIS world.and even a dilapitated house retains a degree of the beauty and glory the architect originally intended for it (at this point, think of the ruins of the ancient world and the amazing lessons we glean from these relics of engineering).the Bible also states that “From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed IN what he made. As a result, people have no excuse.”and yes, even though atrocities of rape and mutilation all occur, none of things disprove the very fact that a LOVING God endowed His creatures with the ability to choose or reject evil. and since none of us is exempt (i.e. noone is perfect), then all of us are without excuse, in one way or another.that being said, beauty is all around us. but ugliness is also all around us.some of us recognize beauty more easily than others.often it is really just a matter of intent, instead of the actual visible product.beauty is in a 5 year old’s finger painting.it is also in the mangled sculpture of a recovering heroin addict undergoing art therapy.beauty is in pain and bliss.there is beauty in suffering…like the struggle of a woman in labor bringing what may be the greatest work of all, a human being, into the world.after all, we are all MADE in His image.vc

Posted by VC | Report as abusive

Irony that Sistine Chapel painter guy Gay.No women artists in those days allowed. Maybe not now either. No women there today. Pope not invite them?

Posted by Johnny Vo | Report as abusive

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNXKFYe8U OgPlease comment – the clip has relevanceIn Judaism we find beauty in creativity as well, but this has not been developed in many ultra religious circles because of the value of study in our faith.