08 February 2018
Augustinians put faith in art
Contemporary art is playing a key role in the £4 million transformation of a church in west London into the new headquarters of the Augustinian order in Britain.
Last Sunday Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, was the chief celebrant at a Mass of dedication for the new altar in St Augustine’s church in Hammersmith.
The interior of the 100-year-old church has had a complete facelift; up to six layers of paint have been stripped back to return limestone columns to their original state and to repaint the walls and the previously dark brown roof white. Suspended above the altar is a new work of art in the form of a cast iron ring, inscribed with an Augustinian motto, Veritas, Unitas, Caritas (“Truth, Unity, Love”).
Speaking to The Tablet, parish priest Fr Gianni Notarianni, an artist himself, said the Church needs to get to grips with modern art. “Tradition in the Catholic Church is not about being stuck in the past or old-fashioned,” he said. “True tradition is as much about the present and the future.”
Fr Notarianni argued that the historical “rich relationship” the Church enjoyed with great artists has changed to suspicion, saying: “Art no longer reacts well to being used as a preaching tool for a particular creed or message. It prefers to be more ambiguous in meaning and more open to inter- pretation; therefore the Church has lost confidence in knowing how to use or engage with it.”
The Augustinians have developed a cultural and spirituality centre at the church to work with the local community. Fr Notarianni said that art can be a bridge builder between believers and those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious.
Photo credit Ian Stuart
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