The Allegory of the Triumph

Discovering faith through art

“Christian art offers the believer a theme for reflection and acts as an aid to enter into contemplation in intense prayer, similar to a moment of catachesis…”

Pontifical Council for Culture, the ‘Via Pulchritudinis’, 2006, III.2C

Over time and across cultures, humans have always sought to express the ineffable – those phenomena and mysteries which, for centuries, have captivated man’s imagination.

What mysteries do their creations, in turn, conceal?

What may this incredible artistic heritage reveal about the evolution of human thought, belief, and the manner in which man related and reacted to the natural world and beyond?

What insights, as Christians, may we attain and contemplate today, from a twenty-first-century perspective?

The course seeks to explore and address these questions by delving deeply into selected artworks exemplifying the various artistic currents and practices prevalent in the Euro-Mediterranean region, beginning our journey in the early roots of human culture and proceeding towards modernity.

Course Aim:
  • to provide different tools to “read” into works of art and engage with them on a profound and iconological level
  • to propose and encourage the contemplation of art as a method of prayer
  • to present the story and evolution of art in relation to Christian values and beliefs

People who wish to enrich their spirituality by learning how to read and meditate artworks

Introduction to the course – Prehistory and the emergence of the human form
  • Content and course aims
  • Explanation of timeline
  • Map of religions and cultures across the ages which will feature in the course
Explaining the visible world: the origins and development of complex mythologies
  • Egyptian ritual and mythology
  • Phenicia and Levant: cultural diffusion, and the roots of Judaism
  • Minoan and Mycenean cult, and the emergence of ancient Greek art and literature
Temples of the gods
  • Development of temple architecture and sacred sites
  • Decoration of the temple: from pictograms to complex iconography
  • Depicting the gods: symbols, beasts and the image of man
From myth to law: Hellenisation and the roots of early Christian imagery
  • Archaic, Classical and Hellenic art: the pre-eminence of the human form
  • Acculturation: development of a community’s artistic language
  • Underground religion: symbols, signs, and structures
Emerging from the dark: a tale of two empires
  • Appropriation: Art of the Roman Empire and Christianity
  • Structures of worship: from temple to basilica, from house to church
  • Decorating surfaces: the mosaic tradition
  • Schisms and divergence of artistic trends
The scribes of sacred art
  • The icon as a devotional image
  • The illuminated manuscript
  • Development of script and symbols in Jewish and Muslim art
Liturgy in stone: gothic art and architecture
  • The obsession with height and the organisation of space: from towers to cathedrals
  • Facing the world: figures at the gates
  • Opening walls to light: stained glass windows
The rediscovery of Man: the emergence of modernity
  • Changing perspectives of the natural world
  • Made in the image of God: Images of self and the divine
  • The sacred and the secular
Reforming and Reacting: art for the masses
  • The corruption and destruction of religious art
  • The revival of martyrs and heroes: the triumphant church
  • The convergence of the arts: towards realism
From realism to abstraction
  • Art of the Revolution
  • The Death of Painting (and God?)
  • The crisis of art: reactions to progress
  • The art of abstraction and beyond: towards the intangible and eternal
From religiosity to spirituality
  • New visions, methods, and languages: The challenge of the last century
  • Some views concerning the spiritual in art
  • The Church and the role of the contemporary artist
Session Format
  • Ten lectures on Tuesdays between 17:30 and 19:30 (20 hours) with audio-visual presentations, complemented by group discussions and sharing based on individual observation and contemplation.
  • Three Saturday Site Visits (9 hours)
Dates for this course will be announced by the end of October 2021. This course will be offered in 2022.

Assessment: A reflective journal, based on the prayerful contemplation of selected artworks.

Final Award: Certificate in The way of Beauty: Discovering Faith through Art

Duration: One-year part-time course with two modules

Certification: A sealed Certificate together with a Certificate supplement after successful* completion of the course

To obtain a Certificate of Achievement a student must: attend a minimum of 70% of each module and Pass successfully the assignment

Every application will be considered on its individual merits. The Pastoral Formation Institute accepts a wide range of qualifications, and we always try to judge applications on the basis of academic potential. We do consider a very wide range of academic, vocational, and professional qualifications, as well as work and other appropriate experiences and skills.


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