ALLEGANY, N.Y. — Textual evidence is often the primary tool for understanding the Franciscan past, but art — an overlooked resource — frequently reveals what is not or cannot be translated into words. This argument inspired “Beyond the Text: Franciscan Art and the Construction of Religion” — a collection of essays edited by Xavier Seubert, OFM, emeritus professor of art and theology, and Oleg Bychkov, professor of theology, at St. Bonaventure University, Allegany.
“Beyond the Text” is meant to “probe the art and visual culture of the early Franciscan movement to reveal insights and nuances of the life and power of this revolutionary phase of the Catholic religion,” according to the editors. Xavier and Bychkov argue that art, in a religious and theological context, functions “liturgically, memorially, meditatively, and politically in expressing certain traits of a specific religious community and through which the community creatively and visually constructs and reconstructs its history.”
Scheduled for release on Sept. 1, the book is available for preorder through the website of Franciscan Institute Publications.
The book’s contributors — who offer a variety of perspectives, such as art historical, social, textual, theological and philosophical — include David Haack, OFM, a retired SBU art history and studio art professor, and Robert Lentz, OFM, who paints Byzantine icons. The essays cover a wide range of media, including architecture, paintings, and manuscript illumination.
“‘Beyond the Text’ has an ambitious and integrative goal. Its signal originality is the manner in which it collates the work of serious and accomplished art historians with that of serious and accomplished theologians and religious historians,” said John Fleming, author of “From Bonaventure to Bellini: An Essay in Franciscan Exegesis.” “It achieves a comprehensiveness of vision that will make the book required reading for scholarships in many disciplines for whom Francis and his friars are subjects of serious interest. Medievalists in several disciplines will welcome this important and groundbreaking book. Art historians will particularly appreciate the high quality of its generous pictorial illustration.”
In addition to his work at St. Bonaventure University, Xavier is also a professor of liturgy and sacramental theology at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y. He has published widely in sacramentality and the religious dimensions of art, and is presently working on a book about the sacramentality of art. He is a frequent lecturer at The Cloisters of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.