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Gwyneth Holston is a sacred artist who works to provide and promote good quality Catholic art. Her website is gwynethholston.com.
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“In all this mediaeval religious poetry there is much that we could not use now. Many of the hymns are quite bad, many are frigid compositions containing futile tricks, puns, misinterpreted quotations of Scripture, and twisted concepts, whose only point is their twist. But there is an amazing amount of beautiful poetry that we could still use. If we are to have vernacular hymns at all, why do we not have translations of the old ones?”
— Fr. Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

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Feast of St. Cecilia – November 22nd
published 7 November 2013 by Gwyneth Holston

203 St. Cecilia HE SCULPTURE OF Saint Cecilia (figure 1) by Stefano Maderno was commissioned in 1599 when her body was discovered incorrupt. The 23-year old sculptor depicted the position of her body as she was found, showing her fingers extended to represent one God in three persons. It is a haunting figure, particularly because her face is hidden from us. It is appropriate, however, because she is destined to look upon a different world.

202 St. Cecilia I LIKE TO THINK of the painting (figure 2) of St. Cecilia by John William Waterhouse (1895) as representing the moment after her death. She is just about to awake to the music of angels to find herself in a heavenly garden. As we look on, we can see that her every sense will be consoled. The flowers around her provide a delicate fragrance and someone has thoughtfully tucked pillows near her shoulders and feet. St. Cecilia’s rosy complexion affirms that she is not dead, but has merely fallen asleep in the Lord.

The contrast between the austere statue and the sumptuous painting is representative of the difference between the Baroque and Pre-Raphaelite movements. I often feel that Baroque artists emphasized the powerful presence of a supernatural reality whereas the Pre-Raphaelite artists focused on the entrancing loveliness of the supernatural world. Eternal themes can never be exhausted even when they are revisited every hundred years by a new art movement. Like the Cecilia in the midst of her slumber, I believe that today the Catholic Church is about to awaken to a revival in the arts.