“… In the Church of Our Lady in Bruges [Belgium] there is a beautiful marble sculpture by Michelangelo of Mary with the Infant Jesus. The sculpture is especially famous because it was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to have left Italy during his lifetime. This sculpture was removed twice from Belgium after its arrival. Firstly, in 1794 by the French Revolutionaries, after they had conquered the Austrian Netherlands. The second removal was in 1944 by retreating German soldiers, who smuggled the sculpture to Germany enveloped in mattresses in a Red Cross lorry. It was found two years later and returned to Bruges.
In the Church of the Beguinage, apart from wonderful Flemish religious paintings from may centuries ago, there is the oldest statue of Our Lady in Bruges, known as Our Lady of Consolation, which dates from 1240. Here in this church every day the Benedictine Sisters celebrate their liturgy. We arrived at 12noon as the Sisters were singing the liturgical office called Sext.
‘REVELATIONS NOT TO BE ACHIEVED BY RATIONAL THOUGHT’
All this great religious art, sculpture and stained glass windows remind us that many centuries ago, when only the religious, rich and privileged had the chance to learn to read and write, and ordinary people learned about their religion often through looking at the pictures of Jesus, Mary, the angels, the saints and the Church. The 12th century Italian monk, Gratian, wrote, ‘Paintings are the Bible of the laity.’
In more recent years, the Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, ‘Some things lead us into a realm beyond words. Art thaws even the frozen, darkened soul, opening it to lofty spiritual experience. Through Art we are sometimes sent – instinctively, briefly – revelations not to be achieved by rational thought.’
Each of us today can gain great spiritual help through our looking at religious art. As the Australian religious sister and writer Veronica Brady wrote, ‘We need our artists to remind us not only of who we are but also of what the world is.'”
– From: Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris