Art and Beauty: The Good of the Medieval Artist

“Each world view will obviously ascribe widely differing functions to artistic activity and experience. The modern mind has severed the symbol, the image, from all metaphysical moorings; for Nietzsche art is a lie, the consequence of the artist’s heroic will to ‘flee from truth’ and to create the ‘illusion’ that alone makes life livable. The Middle Ages perceived beauty as the ‘splendor veritatis,’ the radiance of truth; they perceived the image not as illusion but as revelation. The modern artist is free to create; we demand of him only that he be true to himself. The medieval artist was committed to a truth that transcended human existence. Those who looked at his work judged it as an image of that truth…This standard was valid above all for sacred architecture…Everywhere the visible seemed to reflect the invisible.”

Otto Von Simson, from The Gothic Cathedral