‘Ite ad Joseph’; A short survey on textual concepts in the neo-gothic interior decoration in catholic churches in the 19th and first decades of the 20th century
Languages of publication
No other period in the history of religious art has shown such a great amount of textual statements on altars, walls, stained-glass windows, communion benches, pulpits, pietà, entrances in ex- and interiors, ways of the cross, vaults, floors and statues as the neo-gothic interior of Catholic churches all over the world produced in the period 1870-1919. During these decades the church artists adhered to the neo-gothic style introduced by Pugin in Great-Brittan and Viollet-le- Duc in France. A whole generation of clerics, monastic orders, guilds and devotional groups glorifying the ideology of Ultramontanism in all kinds of manifestations, such as international gatherings, expositions of church-art, the consecration of churches, processions and publications in all sorts spread this style. This ideology, with a strong emphasis on the power of the pope in heavenly and worldly matters, has inflicted the whole world. The utopian Christian society based on a false image of the Middle Ages had also to be implemented in the colonies, without any real concern for the indigenous peoples or knowledge of the structures and cultures of their traditional societies. This article focuses on the unprecedented 19th- century decoration program in churches based on a new devotion inspired by the Neo-thomistic philosophy, incorporated in the official policy of the Vatican. The author chooses S. Jozef as an example because his devotion was elaborated with the persona of ‘patron of the church’. Not only the iconography had to be adjusted. For a good understanding words were necessary, also to stretch the difference with the patriarch Joseph of Egypt, a pre-figuration of Christ. The methodology chosen is based on elaborate research in parish-archives in the Rhineland completed with the study of primary and secondary literature. In the last category, the recent publication on de S. Jozef in Groningen is instructive. This research brought together all the inscriptions and textual concepts in the church for the first time. (Werf, 2012) The intensive research on the works of the Mengelberg-ateliers in the Rhineland is the backbone of this article (www.themengelbergstudios.com). The author is aware of the fact that this survey is just a modest try to investigate this very interesting aspect of the neo-gothic art.
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