Slika kot nadomestek za pisano besedo? Pojmovanje likovne umetnosti v delih zgodnjekrščanskih piscev

  • Tine Germ Univerza v Ljubljani, Filozofska fakulteta
Ključne besede: sporočilnost likovne umetnosti, zgodnjekrščanski pisci o likovni umetnosti, svete podobe, zgodnjekrščanska ikonografija


This article deals with the relation between verbal and visual communication in the early Christian era and its influence on the perception of visual arts in the Middle Ages. Taking as its starting point the famous statement by Pope Gregory the Great that “what Scripture is to the educated, images are to the ignorant, who read in them what they cannot read in books,” it traces the issue back to the early church fathers and Christian apologists, who rejected the practice of making images of God and other sacred images. Many of them categorically condemned the visual arts and branded artists as sinners that supported idolatry with works of art. The theological arguments against sacred images concentrate on the idea that it is completely impossible for any human being to imagine what God looks like, let alone make an image of Him. The only possible way to visualize and depict God is through symbolic and allegorical images. This idea, clearly formulated by Origen, marks the position of later church fathers as well, although even by the early fourth century the attitude towards sacred images and the visual arts had become less austere. Eusebius of Caesarea followed Origen in his speculation on sacred images, yet he described the statue of Christ with the woman that had an issue of blood in his native Caesarea without questioning the artist’s intention to render the image of Christ realistically and thus recreate the figure of the historical Jesus. Eusebius and the church fathers of the fifth century realized that the visual arts were very important media and could be applied to the purpose of the Church: images could be useful in spreading Christian teachings, illustrating interpretations of the Scriptures, and rendering them more comprehensible. Biblical exegesis thus found its counterpart in the allegorical and narrative motifs of early Christian art. Although the didactic value of early Christian art prevailed at least in the polemics on art, the aesthetic component seems to have been of less concern to the church fathers. Only at the beginning of the sixth century did the topic of aesthetic value begin to figure in Christian writings. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite made some important observations on aesthetics in his description of the gnoseological function of symbolic images. He felt that visual symbols were the most appropriate instruments for learning about God Himself (who is beyond any definition or description that words can provide) because they could at least evoke some idea of His divine nature. However, what was new in the evaluation of symbols in their gnoseological function was the idea that the beauty of these images stimulates the mind to strive to attain knowledge of the divine order that rules the universe. Visual communication and the visual arts thus cease to be regarded as mere aids to the verbal message—a sort of picture-book for the ignorant “who read in them what they cannot read in books”—and begin to be considered autonomous media that by far transcend their didactic religious function.

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Življenjepis avtorja

Tine Germ, Univerza v Ljubljani, Filozofska fakulteta
Tine Germ je zaposlen na Oddelku za umetnostno zgodovino Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani, kjer je študiral umetnostno zgodovino in doktoriral leta 1997. Predava umetnost poznega srednjega veka in renesanse v Zahodni Evropi, v svojem raziskovalnem delu pa se posveča ikonografiji in ikonologiji.
Kako citirati
Germ, T. (2011). Slika kot nadomestek za pisano besedo? Pojmovanje likovne umetnosti v delih zgodnjekrščanskih piscev. Ars & Humanitas, 5(1), 9-24.