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Ricardo Fernández Gracia, Director of the Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art.
St. Thomas Aquinas and the arts
The distinguished figure of St. Thomas (+1274), as a reference of several schools of thought, for having been one of the great personalities of the Philosophy and theology, also has a A interest in relation to the arts, since the supporters of scholasticism consider him the greatest philosopher and aesthetician of the same. This is supported by the fact that he theorized about beauty at the height of the Gothic period. His relationship with the arts is enhanced by his numerous representations from the leave Age average to the present day, by outstanding artists, in different historical periods and with different styles, among which Filipino Lippi, Fra Angelico, Rafael, Pedro Berruguete, Velázquez and Zurbarán stand out in his famous Apotheosis of the saint destined for his Sevillian high school , in 1631.
St Thomas wrote at a time when cities were flourishing, when the foundations of modern culture were being laid, with the renewal of scientific, literary and philosophical knowledge being imparted by the thriving universities, which were becoming more and more powerful and broader in their outlook.
Aesthetics in Thomism
Beauty, together with the captivation of those who contemplate artistic works, have been two important points in the creative process of works of art, which mentors and artists have taken very much into account. Successive historical periods have applied different parameters to beauty, aware that it is a quality present in the mind of human beings, which produces intense pleasure and comes from sensory manifestations. Plato included beauty together with truth and goodness in the set of divine principles. Greek and Roman art advocated symmetry and proportion as standards of aesthetics.St. Augustine insisted on the principles of unity, issue, equality, proportion and order.Philosophers and artists have written about beauty. Leonardo stated: "Beauty perishes in life, but is immortal in art" and Unamuno wrote: "Beauty, yes beauty! But beauty is not that, it is not the beauty of art for art's sake, it is not the beauty of aestheticians. Beauty whose contemplation does not make us better, is not such beauty.
For St. Thomas "Pulchra sunt quae visa placent" (beautiful are the things that please the sight), affirming that beautiful are those things whose perception, in its very contemplation, pleases: "Pulchrum est id cuius ipsa aprehensio placet", which is in relation to sight, as the most perfect sense that replaces the language of the rest of the senses.
Concretizing his aesthetic vision, he presents three principles. The first is "integritas" or perfection, because that which has deficiencies cannot be beautiful. What is deteriorated or incomplete is in itself ugly. The second is based on "consonantia" or adequate proposition, order and measure. It deals with the proper harmony and relationship between the parts of the object itself, but above all, around the connection between the work and the one who perceives it. Finally, in third place, it refers to the light-brightness or "claritas" concept that would be replaced, centuries later, by that related to luxury and ostentation.
All these ideas fit perfectly in the manifestations of the art of the leave Age average, when the concepts of "good and beauty" and "aesthetics of light" as divine reflection and immaterial sign are insistently repeated.
On the other hand, St. Thomas, in dealing with eutrapelia, rediscovering Aristotle, elaborated a doctrine on the aforementioned virtue integrated into Christian ethics, by which he justified laughter and the delectation provided by sight, always in moderation. Like the smile of the Gothic virgins of the Île de France and that of the Good God of Amiens, his doctrine on amusement and distraction inaugurated, in perfect convergence, a new era of moral theology, even though it would not be followed very closely by theologians of the rigorist tradition, except for St. Francis de Sales, who expanded the Thomistic contents in subject of laughter and comedy addressed to the honnêtes gens of the 17th century.
Music and Eucharist
In the 13th century, to counteract the denial of the real Eucharistic presence of Cathars and Waldensians, there was a rise in devotion and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery, whose consequences include the origin of the feast of Corpus Christi in the city of Liège (1247), and its officialization since 1264, in the time of Urban IV. The texts of the Liturgical official document of the festivity were the work of Saint Thomas, and constitute one of the most beautiful of the Breviary.
Some of the lyrics of the aforementioned official document have had singular echoes in music. The Pange lingua
-thefirst words of whichare the work of the Latin poet Venantius Fortunatus- and very particularly, the last two stanzas that begin with Tantum ergo have been set to music, from the average Age to the present day, in beautiful scores for voices and with accompaniment of different instruments, which abound in the music archives of our cathedrals. The hymn Pange lingua is the hymn of vespers of the feast of Corpus Christi and expresses the doctrine of transubstantiation, according to which the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. It reached a very wide diffusion among the people when it was sung in the more and more frequent expositions of the Blessed Sacrament: its first part - Pangelingua - before the blessing and after the blessing, the last part, Tantum ergo. Since the Renaissance period and even more since the 17th century, the music chapels of cathedrals and collegiate churches experienced a growth B , with new organs, excellent teachers, instrumentalists and singers, able to interpret delicate scores.
Regarding the minstrels who played instrumental music, it should be noted that, at the beginning, they formed an ensemble independent of the chapel of singers, to intervene on specific occasions; although, later, they were introduced in the polyphonic interpretation, first as harmonic support to sustain the voices, then doubling the voices. This is shown by different musicalized versions of the Tantum ergo.
In 1323 he was canonized and later elevated to the rank of Doctor of the Church in 1567. It was usual to qualify him as Doctor angelicus, Scholarum princeps, Lumen Ecclesiae. In his numerous iconography he was represented in diverse passages of his life, both in the historical ones, as well as in others with which different legends adorned his figure.
Sculptures, paintings with his image, narrative cycles and above all triumphs, have depicted him alone or among Aristotle, Plato, other philosophers, doctors, founders, apostles and saints. On other occasions, we find him defeating the heretics Arius and Sabellius who contested with Averroes the revealed truth. The Dominicans commissioned numerous triumphal allegories to the painters "ad maioren ordinis Praedicatorum gloriam", becoming popular his figure, not corpulent as it was in reality, but thinned, subjected to a process of idealization.
His iconographic identification is easy. He wears the habit of the Dominicans, which consists of a white tunic long to the feet with a strap, a scapular of the same color, a cape with a wide hood and a black coral cape.
As is well known, the habit, besides being a unifying element for those who wear it within a community, also identifies, to a great extent, its spiritual ideals, which are generally related to its origin, to the persons who founded each order and to the rules that govern them. In the case of the Dominicans, their charism is defined by the study of truth, the university, the Philosophy, the conjunction of contemplative and apostolic life, preaching and profound prayer.
Among the attributes characteristic of Saint Thomas Aquinas are the book and the pen, the model of a church, the sun, the rosary and the wings, accompanied on numerous occasions by the Dove of the Paraclete. The book - usually open - and the pen speak of his tireless writing, his wisdom and the revealed doctrine, the fruit of his intelligence and tenacity. The revelation is signified by the presence of the dove of the Holy Spirit. His chest is usually adorned with a sun supported by a rich necklace, alluding to the fact that with his doctrine he enlightens everyone, in the same way that the sun, with its rays, gives light to the whole earth. The sun, from early times, possessed a divine character and together with the saint of Aquino its universal light was parallel to the doctrine of wisdom and truth of his doctrine.
The rosary is typical of the Dominican order for having contributed to its dissemination and to the cult of the Virgin of the Rosary. The model alludes to his status as a doctor of the Church, as it is an attribute of founders and doctors. Finally, the wings make reference letter to his status as an angelic doctor and to his possession of the same qualities as the angels: intelligence, wisdom and purity.