I’m reading a book that’s totally awakened me to an art form I previously knew little about.
Illumination is commonly associated with Middle to Renaissance Age religious manuscripts. Considered the most sacred of all documents, these manuscripts were embellished with decorative borders, elaborate initials and detailed illustrations. Because artists created them in gold, silver and other brilliant colors, they appeared illuminated on the animal skin pages.
The Slavic piece shown here, exquisite as it is, is a somewhat muted example (it’s the only image I could find with copyright permissions). Comparatively, works such as de Brailes Hours or Biblia pauperum, two of many listed in the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, are much more intense. Imagine the time and discipline that went into creating any of these beautiful works of art!
While illuminations, as an art form, are fascinating, I’m most inspired by the ideals they represent.
Kantor described the illuminators as the finest of artists who remained “lifelong students of their craft” and “eschewed shortcuts that compromised aesthetic integrity.” They chose the most quality materials available to create visuals for a largely illiterate population—visuals that, as much as humanly possible, communicated the divinity of Christ.
Illuminators saw their work as “a ministry worthy of their best efforts,” writes Kantor.
The techniques we use today certainly have changed the way we visually communicate our faith. Graphic design and commercial printing are light-years away from those hand-rendered illuminations. Yet the ideals are still the same. The time we spend training and conceptualizing, the quality of materials we use and the dedication we apply to our work, all reflect the reverence we hold to Christ.
Communicating Christ, after all, is a ministry worthy of our best efforts.