The relationship between beauty and faith: contemporary art comes to Brentwood Cathedral

Filed in Arts by on November 15, 2013 1 Comment

photo from Brentwood Cathedral site -

From 1 – 23 December, Brian Whelan’s new work, the Brentwood Cross, will be on display in Brentwood Cathedral, Essex. With its rainbow-burst colours, child-like playfulness and vividly realised depictions of Biblical scenes, this work will attract a wide audience. To see some images of the Cross click here.

In times gone by, when few people were literate, the visual image was the main tool of catechesis. Religious art was not just a form of decoration. It had a more serious intent. It was a teaching tool, a way of making the stories of the Bible and theological ideas accessible to people. Paintings, icons, stained glass, and sculpture all played their part in communicating profound theological truths. Brian Whelan’s cross does just that. The whole of salvation history is contained in the paintings that make up this bold and daring work. This is theology in art form.

But the Brentwood Cross is not simply a tool of catechesis. It is a thing of beauty, a vivacious, youthful, joyful beauty.  Art without beauty is horribly castrated and faith without the experience of beauty can never encounter God, the origin of all that is beautiful. As the theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, puts it:

We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.

Brian Whelan’s Brentwood Cross will help us to think more deeply about our faith, but, more importantly, it will help us during Advent to pray and to better love Jesus Christ. For more information click here Why not pay Brentwood Cathedral a visit this Advent?

Tags: , , ,

Fr Martin Boland

About the Author ()

Fr Martin Boland is a priest in the Diocese of Brentwood. He is currently Dean of Brentwood Cathedral. Some of his articles here were first posted on his personal blog The Invisible Province. They are used with permission. See:

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. This is truly wonderful Father Martin! I hope the Brentwood Cross will find a permanent home in the Cathedral. It really is, as you say, ‘theology in art form’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: