Art without beauty

Pope Benedict is bringing back that strange, outdated notion that beauty and God are somehow linked:

The Pope told the gathering of hundreds of painters, sculptors, architects, poets and directors, held beneath the vaulted ceiling of the chapel painted by Michelangelo, that he wanted to “renew the Church’s friendship with the world of art.”

“Beauty … can become a path toward the transcendent, toward the ultimate Mystery, toward God,” Benedict said.

This reminds me of a recent article I read by the great Theodore Dalrymple on the French post-modern architect Le Corbusier, who, were he still alive, probably — and, for the sake of the world, hopefully — would have been invited to the Pope’s gathering. As Dalrymple explains:

Le Corbusier was to architecture what Pol Pot was to social reform. In one sense, he had less excuse for his activities than Pol Pot: for unlike the Cambodian, he possessed great talent, even genius. Unfortunately, he turned his gifts to destructive ends, and it is no coincidence that he willingly served both Stalin and Vichy. Like Pol Pot, he wanted to start from Year Zero: before me, nothing; after me, everything. By their very presence, the raw-concrete-clad rectangular towers that obsessed him canceled out centuries of architecture. Hardly any town or city in Britain (to take just one nation) has not had its composition wrecked by architects and planners inspired by his ideas.

Upon reading that, I wonder how many of this site’s readers have walked out of a new movie, heard a new song, or looked up at a new building and thought along with Benedict: 

“Too often … the beauty thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful … it imprisons man within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy,” he said.

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