Christ the JudgeMeditation with Art

If Christian meditation is thought, emotion, and imagination that leads to prayer, to conversation with God, then one way to approach it is not a book, but a work of art. Fine art will engage a different senses, and it will communicate. It was used for centuries as a teaching tool, even a catechism. The artist can help us to see something in a new way, or to feel the emotion of an event centuries before. We can use the image as a visual template to enter a scene in our imagination and thus experience the great events of our salvation. Although Christian religious art would be the safest to start with, all art could be useful if it is a method used to talk to God. Remember that God is the original source and author of all beauty. See, Wisdom 13:3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church., sec. 2129 last sentence. See CCC 2132, Catholic Tradition and Teaching on Religious Art, Sacred Images, and Aquinas, II II, 81, 3 (Reply to objection 3).

"The beauty of ...images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God." St. John Damascene. Catechism of the Catholic Church, sec. 1162.

The image above is a reduced detail from the Last Judgment which gives ample material to think about, to feel, and even to imagine. To see a much larger version, click on image, or here.

The following pages have commentary and scriptural text or references when relevant.

Pages From the Last Judgment

To appreciate Michelangelo's work look at the entire Last Judgment so the "details" are more comprehensible. This painting is on the altar wall and is part of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings. The entire Sistine Chapel work and other art works are at Christus Rex.

JesusJesus, The Judge of AllThe Saints.


Floating head in Hell.The Damned Angel's Trumpet - The Judged


Other Pages of Michelangelo

The Temptation and Fall The Face of God


And More

The Face of Christ Defeat of Evil


Giotto's St. Francis Preaches to the Birds.

Rembrandt: Three Trees and Crucifixion.

old womanOld Woman Praying, Nicolaes Maes. Giving thanks in all circumstances.


Could some non-religious paintings have value for meditation?
Van Gogh's Starry Night.
The Church, the Boat of Peter, struggles.


Christian Symbolism

For another treatment of the Last Judgment see Van Eyck's "Crucifixion and Last Judgment" at Harden's Artchive.

The Christus Rex site is a gold mine of religious art which is provided to aid in meditation. Downloads can be slow, but be patient. In addition to Michelangelo
there is Raphael, and Giotto with his paintings of the stories of St. Francis I and II.
There are large archives of Fine Art at CGFA, formerly, Carol Jackson Presents, Olga's Gallery, and at Mark Harden's Museum of Art. Perhaps you can find something through Artcyclopedia, Art Channel.
You can also look at the Dali Online exposition of his works depicting parts of Dante's Divine Comedy. Dali's image of Lucifer (Dis) is certainly interesting.
The National Gallery of Art has an extensive on line collection that includes many religious works, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Web Museum also has a number of paintings from the Renaissance (1420-1600) including Botticelli, and the great masters of the High Renaissance, including Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Tintoretto, Titian, and later both Caravaggio, and El Greco. They have an artist index.

I especially like how El Greco depicted God's grace flowing like a yellow river to Mary at the Annunciation and to Jesus at His baptism. In Rembrandt's Prodigal Son, note the posture of the son. By kneeling down, through complete humility and repentance, the son physically allows the father to both embrace and bless him. Is this how we should be before God, and how He responds?

You can also look at the Gallery located at EWTN, and icons at the Orthodox Icons, and a large file of Russian Icons.

The images created by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Giotto are used with the permission of the owner of the copyright, Christus Rex. The images displayed here, and throughtout our web site, are for non-profit religious and educational purposes only. No other use is intended or permitted. The text is by the Rev. Roger J. Smith, unless attributed to someone else, and is presented "as is". ©1997, Roger J. Smith.

I am not an art critic or artist. I just invite others to think about the message presented by the work of art and then in meditation reflect on its application in your life. In addition, use your imagination. Put yourself in the position of one of the people depicted and feel what they feel. A painting may have tremendous spiritual meaning for you whether or not the artist intended it, or the art critics would agree. If you find meaning, work with that meaning thanking God.

This web page is the responsibility of Rev. Roger J. Smith, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Comments are welcome. Mail the Pastor! To see our many other pages click on home below.

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