What Is the Purpose of Religious Art?

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The purpose of religious art is both to education the viewer about the basic tenets of that religion and to inspire meditation, prayer and spiritual intensity. Understand why artists create religious imagery with information from an art historian, critic and curator in this free video on art.

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Video Transcript

Hi. Dr. Betty Brown here. The question is 'What is the purpose of religious art?' And the answer is, well, there are lots of reasons for doing, and looking at, and perhaps even owning religious art. Two of the main ones are education and meditation. Religious art can teach the viewer about the basic tenets of that religion. It can teach the viewer about the life of Jesus. It can teach the viewer about the miraculous acts of a Saint. It can teach the viewer about the Buddha's meditative process. But religious art can also inspire meditation, or prayer, or spiritual intensity on its own. So when we look at a Byzantine Icon, a representation of the Virgin and child, in sparkling gold heavenly environment, and see the jewel like beauty of the icon we are moved to a meditative response. In the Greek Orthodox church, the belief is that an icon is like a curtain between this world and the spiritual realm. And then when you pray to the icon, the spiritual figure presses up toward you and reaches out to make a connection during that prayer. So that the purpose of religious art as meditative focus is quite literalized in the traditions of the Greek Orthodox church.

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