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Two Styles, Two Ways of Being

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira   
January 01, 1951

Orginally published in the magazine Catolicismo, Vol. 13 - January 1952 (*)

In 1951, Princess Elizabeth, heiress of the throne of England, and Eva D. Peron, wife of Gerald Peron, president of the Argentine Republic, were indisputably the two most outstanding feminine figures in international political life.

ACC 1952 013 1While very much a woman of the time from every point of view, Princess Elizabeth represented in an outstanding way a lady of the twentieth century formed under the influence of the tradition still alive above all in England.

The English people saw in her the symbol of their glory, the expression of the refinement, grace, the simple and the noble superiority of the gentry of the land, and the visible and sensible representation of the most ideal figure the nation could produce of their “race."

Her very authentic superiority is highlighted by the charms of her attractive and communicative affability. Her popularity was immense, rather unanimous, in England. There was opposition to the government of the time but not to the monarchy, and even much less against the smiling and enchanting heiress to the throne.

 

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Eva D. Peron also incarnated a style that was characteristic of her times, but entirely different from Princess Elizabeth.

Unabashedly involved in political life, she exhibits an ardor and steadiness uncommon even among men. The former actress, and lively and resourceful popular orator, was regarded very coldly by the traditional families that cultivated the distinction and manners that made Buenos Aires society famous. Eva D. Peron was the idol of the organized labor movement of the “shirtless” masses with whom she was identified by all and in everything.

One and the other, the Princess and the “leader” of the “shirtless," represent ideas, principles, and different worlds, which at times clashed consciously and violently, sometimes imperceptibly but permanently in every country.

Comparing then these two feminine figures considered, not personally but as types, is not comparing two nations, but two ways of being that exist in all countries.

Would it be comparing two social classes? Not necessarily, because both “styles” can be found from the top to the bottom of the social ladder.

For example, consider how Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, a simple cook employed by the Colonna princes in Rome in the nineteenth century, attracted the attention of passersby, not only by her piety but by her venerable bearing. One might also consider how all know poor rough inhabitants in the hinterland of our country presiding over the lives of their families with the nobility of the patriarchs of old.

We insist: what stands out in this comparison is the difference between two “styles”- two ways of being.


(*) The preceding article has been translated and adapted for publication without the author's revision. –Ed. American TFP.

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A Church That Beckons, A Church That Crushes

By James Bascom   
June 05, 2016

Architecture, like music, speaks directly to the soul. The sight of a beautiful mansion, church, or castle in a traditional architectural style has a capacity to inspire recollected thoughts and uplifting emotions, to forget one’s banal cares and to admire something truly admirable.

This is especially true with traditional Church architecture. For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has inspired the development of religious architecture that reflects both the supernatural attributes of God and the personal qualities of the peoples that created it.

A proof of the catholicity of the Church is her ability to accept the original character of the various nations of the world while maintaining orthodoxy in Faith, morals, philosophy, and theology. While Islam, for example, imposes a single, irrational, unbearably narrow, and impossibly inflexible law and culture on all peoples for all times, the Catholic Church establishes relatively few laws. Like a true mother, the Church guides her children on the right path, steers them away from error, and fosters a nearly unlimited variety of Catholic cultures to develop. This marvelous variety within a maternal unity was called Christendom.

Remnants of these Catholic cultures can still be found. One example is the Mission Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in San Francisco, California. 

Mission San Francisco de Asís

Wally Gobetz/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Although this church was built in the New World, it is an excellent example of an Old World culture that until recently was entirely Catholic: Spanish culture. Just like its counterparts on the Iberian Peninsula, this Catholic mission church, with its white adobe façade, Spanish baroque towers, and massive doorways, reflects the austere beauty of the Castilian plain and the rugged grandeur of the Spanish soul. 

Like the Catholic Church herself, the mission church shines with a supernatural brilliance that transcends time. The richly ornamented towers, tall and imposing, stand defiantly against the egalitarian spirit of the world just as St. Dominic of Guzman stood boldly against the Albigensian heretics. The order and harmony of the right tower, with its three belfries, suggests an ironclad logic rooted in sound philosophy worthy of the great St. Ignatius of Loyola. 

But this serious, sacral exterior does not scare or intimidate the faithful. On the contrary, it exudes a subtle warmth that beckons passers-by to step in, if only for a moment, and pray. It is a living refutation of the infamous Black Legend, the anti-Spanish propaganda campaign spread by Protestants from the 16th century until today, which portrayed Spain and Spaniards as dark, sinister, and cruel. It is a church that beckons one to think of God, to pray to Him, and to thank Him for His infinite benevolence to an unworthy mankind.

Madrid - Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Buen Suceso 1

Zarateman/Wikimedia CC0 1.0

How different is this Catholic church, Nuestra Señora del Buen Suceso in Madrid, Spain. Like the mission church in San Francisco, it too was built by Spaniards, but one could say it is the fruit of an entirely different civilization and even religion: that of post-modern neo-paganism.

The predominant note of this extravagant architectural style is brutality. Its lack of height, low entrance, and exaggerated bulkiness gives it a heavy and disproportional appearance. In that sense, this church has much in common with communist architecture, which always emphasizes matter over spirit. 

Traditional churches never crush the observer even though they often tower many hundreds of feet above the ground. Their height is a pleasant invitation to lift up our hearts to God. Their use of natural materials, textures, and colors of traditional architecture puts the observer at ease.

In contrast, this church’s low, dark entrance looks like a giant trash-compactor ready to crush an unwary visitor. Its use of “futuristic” materials, metallic gray exterior, and  unnatural gravity-defying shape lead one to think that it was some kind of monolith placed on Earth by a race of extra-terrestrials, rather than a House of God.

Indeed, the only way to know that it is in fact a religious building is the white cross on what is apparently a bell tower. Like all post-modern buildings, this church’s design obscures the finality for which it was made. Without the white cross, this Church could easily pass for a subway station entrance, tourist information center, or office building.

Post-modern architecture, like the post-modern philosophy that inspired it, is based on a denial of the absolute, the eternal, the transcendent, and the rational. It is notable for its total lack of place and identity. Ugly churches like this one can be found all over the world without anything to link them to the unique culture and people that surround them. It can truly be called a “globalist” architecture, one that is imposed upon the nations of the world no less than UN-style “global governance.” It is a church that crushes mankind, aesthetically, sociologically, and spiritually.

 

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Painting the Human Soul

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira   
May 01, 1951

Originally published in the magazine Catolicismo, Vol. 05 - May 1951 (*)

One of the most frequent tendencies in the artists whose work might be considered typical of the twentieth century is the deformation of man. Fleeing from copying reality with the form habitually seen by the human eye, they represent it with alterations aimed at manifesting its deeper aspect.

Theoretically there is nothing wrong with that.

However, it is noteworthy that when they alter how men normally appear, many of the most typically modern artists actually deform the human form almost to the point of hideousness.

Thus it is not difficult to find perfectly conical human figures in modern canvases; a tiny head, shoulders a little wider than the head, waist much broader than the shoulders, legs that appear to grow up to the ankles that are joined to literally immense feet.

Other sculptures will show necks that are not merely very large but deformed, showing in one or another point of alarmingly enlarged thyroid glands.

In a word, if some magician appeared to any normally sensible man and offered him a potion to transform his body into a typical figure of modern art, his offer would receive an energetic and immediate refusal.

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This obsession with the deformed, the ugly, or even the hideous has reached the limits of the inconceivable in certain artistic works. Look, for example, at the picture labeled "Our Image" that we publish here. It is the moral figure of the human race as a typically ultramodern artist would chose to represent it.

Nobody denies that there are terrible moral and physical deformities in the universe and that it may be licit for an artist to represent them as long as that does not give rise to an offense against morals.

However, it is an erroneous position to paint only horror. It is wrong to neither paint nor sculpt except to deform. Such artist act as if the universe were nothing but a receptacle of ignominies. This is an indisputably false and dangerous conception not only of men but the world. At the root of this tendency for the hideous is a desperate and blasphemous vision of the creation which is a work of God.

Paintings and sculptures made under the influence of that vision deform the soul. Ambiences impregnated with this state of spirit can only degrade man. They extinguishing all the movements of the intelligence and will toward a truly noble, pure and elevated ideal.

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Richelieu by Phillippe de Champaigne

We present here by way of contrast a picture representing a man in his maturity taken from among the immense number of artistic works of past centuries.

It represents much more than the physical aspect of this man, his state of spirit or his moral make up. It is Richelieu painted from three different angles by Phillippe de Champaigne.

All the qualities and defects of this grand statesman are reflected in this admirable study in which the human soul is portrayed in what is most intimate, lively and subtle. The artist does not have to resort for this end to deformations that degrade human nature itself. 

 


(*) The preceding article has been translated and adapted for publication without the author's revision. –Ed. American TFP.

 

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Two Paintings, Two Mentalities, Two Doctrines

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira   
June 01, 1951

Orginally published in the magazine Catolicismo, Vol. 06 - June 1951 (*) 

Indulge in an exercise of fantasy, and suppose that by rewinding the thread of bygone centuries it has become possible for you to return to the time of Christ and walk into a room of the Holy Family's humble dwelling in Nazareth. 

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Imagine that you find the Virgin playing with the Child, and that both were just as Rouault depicted them in the painting on the upper right. Would such a sight fulfill your expectations? Would it correspond to what you might have hoped from the Mother of God and the Word Incarnate Himself? Would you find in those images the authentic expression of the Christian spirit and the ineffable virtues of Jesus and Mary?

Obviously not.

Therefore, whoever earnestly wants that Christian art worthily and duly reflect the spirit of the Gospel cannot be indifferent to paintings of this nature becoming widespread among the faithful. What kind of impression would people have of the Holy Family if nothing else were shown to them but paintings of this ilk? As far as it is able, Christian art has the role of an accessory to the spreading of sound doctrine. The spirit of this painting cannot be deemed proper for that end. 

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In order to illustrate these affirmations better, look at the painting by the Maitre de Moulins (fifteenth century), which also portrays the Virgin and Child, and consider how efficacious it is in helping us understand, through the senses, what the Church teaches about Jesus and Mary.

 


(*) The preceding article has been translated and adapted for publication without the author's revision. –Ed. American TFP.

 

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The Christian Spirit and the Pagan Spirit Manifested in Architecture

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira   
July 01, 1951

Orginally published in the magazine Catolicismo, Vol. 07 - July 1951 (*)

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The United Nations is the keystone of today's world. Its buildings should, therefore, express their high function by the majesty of their lines and proportions.

Our photo shows the U.N. Secretariat building. Despite its enormous dimensions, we would hesitate to call it a palace. It is certainly immense, most expensive and overwhelming, but its lines are as commonplace as those of a matchbox; they are monotonous, uniform and harsh, like those of a prison. Its air is somber, like that of a Gestapo or KGB headquarters. Everything about this immense box of concrete, steel and glass seems calculated to make man feel like he is nothing more than an ant, a grain of sand, an atom.

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Middelburg is a small Dutch city that built its town hall in the fifteenth century. How can this building compare in size with that of the United Nations? Yet we would not hesitate to call it a palace: The nobility of its lines does not allow one to give it another name.

A mere difference in architectural style? It is said that in literature "the style is the man." In architecture, it could be said that the style is the epoch. Every style is a result of an ensemble of tendencies, ideas, aspirations and mental attitudes.

More shocking than the contrast between these two styles is the contrast between two mentalities, two epochs, two cultures: one Christian, and the other neo-pagan.


(*) The preceding article has been translated and adapted for publication without the author's revision. –Ed. American TFP. Add a comment
 

Spiritual Decoration vs. Materialist Decoration

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira   
May 01, 1952

Originally published in the magazine Catolicismo vol. 17, May 1952 (*)

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In the first picture, 1,500 representatives of the United Nations meet in the Assembly Chamber of the Luxembourg Palace built between 1615 and 1620 for Maria de Medici under the direction of Solomon de Brosse. The ambience is admirably suited to an event of such magnitude. The very natural order itself requires that places where great events take place be full of good taste, dinstinction and brilliance.

And that is what is found there. This can be seen in the woodwork, colonnade, the simple and noble lines of the tribune and table of the presidency and the solemn bearing of the grand marble figures that illuminate the ambiance with the splendor of centuries of culture and glory. One sees force, majesty, grace and wealth. In a word, everything concurs to make one judge this place worthy of a gathering of world representatives.

* * *

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Are these the brutal, crushing sinisterly cold forms of a criminal tribunal? Or is it a table for police interrogations, over which floats implicitly but heavily the threat of a concentration camp?

By no means. This is the tribune of the UN designed in accordance with a certain type of modern taste. On his feet, Andrei Gromyko, delegate of the USSR turns heavily toward the President, Percy Spender, to whom he declares that Russia will not sign the peace of San Francisco.

Such is the level to which a certain “artistic” schools have reduced modern life.

In the Luxembourg Palace, the composition of the ambience took into consideration, not only the material and technical conveniences, but mainly the spiritual ones, by satisfying everything that the human spirit might require for the acts for which the hall is destined. It is a decoration made by men who believe in an immaterial soul. The tribune in which Gromyko speaks denies everything to the soul. It completely ignores the soul. It was constructed only in function of material conveniences. In a word, it is typically materialistic.

 


(*) The preceding article has been translated and adapted for publication without the author's revision. –Ed. American TFP.

 

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