Art and religion have always been inextricably intertwined. Though concepts of belief and faith may seem abstract to many, both of them played a significant role in the formation of the art creation process. Let’s take, for example, Orthodox icons that are preserved in art museums worldwide. Many of them were created centuries ago, and they are still valuable in religious, artistic, historical, and cultural terms alike.
At a glance, there is little or no place for such kind of conventional or traditional art in the contemporary world. However, the reality is not what it seems. With each passing year, religious art in all shapes and sizes is getting more and more popular and admired. To prove it, you can look at Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction sales of religious artifacts and Russian icons. The numbers are impressive.
But what exactly makes sacred art so valuable and sought-after? There are several things you should know to understand the real value of this phenomenon.
5 things making religious art valuable
1. Importance for religion
Whether it is a painting or sculpture, sacred art is one of the integral attributes of religion. In other words, each artwork should be considered a symbol representing the essence of religion it is linked to. For example, you can hardly confuse Christian art and Buddhist art because each type is singular and unique on its own.
If you take elements of performance art, such as dance or music, you can easily discern the impact of religious and cultural traditions, beliefs, and practices on the process itself. That is why religious art is vital for the existence and evolution of religion.
2. Religious context
Context is everything when it comes to religious art. Why, for example, do holy icons exist? Some would say that they are just part of the Orthodox church interior design, while for others, they are an essential part of active liturgical worship, which helps establish a connection with God. While both answers are correct, one should see the context of art to see the whole picture.
Icons serve as a certain medium uniting the Earth to Heaven, kind of the door or window to the sacred. Many Christians do use them when praying to God, which you can witness when visiting Orthodox churches. In other words, sacred art often has not only decorative but also practical value.
3. Moral message
It is no surprise that religion is closely attached to morality. Usually, Christian paintings and icons feature different scenes from the Old and New Testaments. As you might know, holy books consist of stories and apologues that authors use to highlight certain problems or conflicts and then find the solution to them. In the end, there is a moral to the story. Giving these stories a visual representation, icon painters and artists expound the moral message of the religion.
4. Receptacle of memory
Talking about history without talking about religion is next to impossible. The thing is that society and religion have always been going hand in hand. Consequently, archeologists and historians usually turn to ancient literature to find more details about events, figures, artifacts, and life in different countries.
It is also worth mentioning that the majority of artists were religious themselves, so they made a great contribution to the dissemination of art in their time. Thanks to numerous paintings and pieces of architecture, contemporary people can extract a lot of relevant and useful information to capture accurate data.
5. Grandiose aesthetics
No one would argue that sacred art is simply aesthetically pleasing and beautiful. It goes beyond churches, mosques, and temples. Many people decorate their homes with all sorts of religious art & antiques. It is explained by the aesthetic power that such artworks hold. They fill the space with a unique atmosphere that can connect the mind with the Holy Spirit. Besides, people use religious art for meditation purposes.
All in all
No matter how secular society is, the importance of religious art is undeniable. Not only is it significant for religions, but it is also valuable for historians and ordinary people. After all, ancient crafts have always been an indispensable part of cultural growth and development.