Monday, September 2, 2013



Catholic culture will be reborn and if our small internet efforts do anything they will, please God, contribute to this rebirth.  A Faith that gave inspiration to Dante, Mozart, Michelangelo and the great cathedrals of Europe is a Faith that will give such inspirations always, especially so when the hierarchy once again reconnects with the past that it has recently and so foolishly jettisoned.

Mr Timothy Cullen has once again offered some trenchant observations which we at The Eye Witness are proud to present to our readers.


By Timothy J Cullen

          Traditional Catholic culture is synonymous with European culture and to a great extent culture in the West in general. Just as the Church has devolved into a semblance of barbarism, so too has the West. Those who wish to preserve the glory and grandeur of the past had first best learn well of what it consists, then educate the young before it becomes too late to do so.
          Painting, architecture, music… These all sprang forth from love of the Faith. The West seems to have forgotten this. Indeed, the post-revolutionary arbiters of culture seem determined to erase this fact, claiming as they do that only works by those who toe the secular materialist line are worthy of the attention of “modern” man. Yes, well… And yet there are those who actually believe this brazen cultural indoctrination, a textbook example of social engineering if ever there was one. Know your enemy: read the writings of the so-called “Frankfurt School” and Antonio Gramsci. Warn the young against the exaltation of the ugly.
          The Remnant Press recently released a posthumous collection of John Senior essays. Senior was a Traditional Catholic cultural critic of the first order, a defender of the cultural values imbued by the Faith, author of The Death of Christian Culture and The Restoration of Christian Culture. His books should be in every Traditional Catholic’s home library. Also worthy of interest are those of another convert to Catholicism, the now somewhat controversial Renaissance art historian Bernard Berenson, who observed (correctly, I believe) that no painting can be considered “great” if no human figure is present.
          The “Eye Witness” blog has graciously asked me to contribute to their worthy effort and it is my hope to present brief essays dealing with the Catholic cultural heritage in art and music, to begin with. One assumes there is an interest in this, given the focus of the blog. This writer is not an art historian, simply an appreciator of the fine arts. His taste is eclectic and quite personal, as will be the mini-essays on this and that painting and sculpture by artists known, not-so-well known and unknown. Nearly six decades of art appreciation to draw on makes for quite the potpourri. The same is true for music appreciation, another of this writer’s themes (pun intended), one that will be addressed in due course.
          Therefore, without further ado: the Book of Kells.
          This writer is of Irish descent (and a citizen of the Republic of Ireland) and was made familiar with the Book of Kells at an early age. When Knopf & Co. issued in 1974 a handsome, 14”x10 ½” case-bound facsimile volume with many reproductions and a study of the manuscript, he was quick to purchase it. Forty years later, technology permits a digital viewing of the entire original manuscript at ; notwithstanding, this writer is content to leaf through the facsimile edition that has traveled with him for nearly forty years on four continents.
          The Book of Kells, named for the Irish abbey at which the book spent much of the medieval period, was likely created in the early ninth century. It is probably the best known of a series of richly illuminated, illustrated Gospel books created in the insular monasteries of northwestern European the pre-medieval period. The Book of Kells contains an image of the Virgin and Child that among other treasures is the oldest extant image of the Virgin Mary in a Western manuscript.

          This masterwork of illustration, illumination and art was created by monks, the very monks whose spreading of the Gospel civilized Europe and whose preservation of classical literature made possible the development of that civilization.
          An aside: a 1959 novel read by this writer in 1961 and re-read at least once a year ever since deserves mention here, given that it treats of monks in a post-nuclear-holocaust “society” who perform much the same function as the Hibernian monks did after the fall of Rome. The novel is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. and I cannot recommend it too strongly. I was 15 years old when I read it and while parts of it were difficult to understand (writing in Hebrew, quite a bit of Latin, many historical references I had to look up), it was so compelling a read that I stayed up all night to finish it. It is not overstating the case to say that it was this novel that awakened my interest in monasticism and in Catholic history in general and even fifty two years later, I believe the novel could prove inspiring to readers young and old alike.
          The artwork in the Book of Kells is of an intricacy that is at first nearly overwhelming. How in God’s name could ninth century monks living in primitive conditions in one of the world’s more inhospitable climates have created such a thing? Answer: precisely because it was that they were working in God’s name and not in their own names that inspiration and dedication combined to overcome all obstacles. Compare the painstaking detail of the magnificently illuminated initial letters, with the carefully crafted miniatures, compare these with vastly overpriced and overrated modern “art” by “masters” such as Andy Warhol and you will see how far as a culture and civilization we have fallen.
          Sadly, a new hardcover copy of the book I have now costs nearly two hundred dollars! The paperback edition does not do justice to the work. There remains, therefore, the digital display referred to above, seeing as quality books are now priced out of the range of the purchasing power of the average family. Be that as it may, however, do what you can to familiarize yourself and your family with this masterwork of Catholic art.

1 comment:

aly said...

dear eye-witness, I have read Mr. Cullens articles that you have posted and have very much appreciated them. As a reader of
the eye witness I look forward to these coming essays. I'd like to say I am like Mr. Cullen describes
himself in these areas of appreciation. I am but I'm sure on
a very lesser plain. I look forward
to these studies. With the premise
I agree completely.

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