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19 May 2022

National, Regional, or Just Catholic?—Dilemmas of Church Art in a German–Polish Borderland. Upper Silesia, 1903–1953

Arts
National, Regional, or Just Catholic?—Dilemmas of Church Art in a German–Polish Borderland. Upper Silesia, 1903–1953

The rise of nationalism threatened the integrity of the Catholic milieu in borderlands such as Prussian Upper Silesia. Facing this challenge, the ecclesiastical elite developed various strategies. This article presents interpretations of sacred art works from the first half of the 20th century, which reveal different approaches to national discourses expressed in iconographic programs. The spectrum of attitudes includes indifference, active counteraction to the progress of nationalism by promoting a different paradigm of building temporal imagined communities, acceptance of nationalistic metaphysics, which assumes the division of humanity into nations endowed with a unique personality, and a synthesis of Catholicism and nationalism, in which national loyalties are considered a Christian duty. The last position proved particularly expansive. Based on the primordialist concept of the nation and the historiosophical concept of Poland as a bulwark of Christianity, the Catholic-national ideology gained popularity among the pro-Polish clergy in the inter-war period. This was reflected in Church art works, which were to present Catholicism as the unchanging essence of the nation and the destiny of the latter resulting from God’s will. This strategy was designed to incorporate Catholic Slavophones into the national community. The adoption of a different concept of the nation by the pro-German priests associated with the Centre Party—with a stronger emphasis on the subjective criteria of national belonging—resulted in greater restraint in expressing national contents in sacred spaces.

Source: Gorzelik J. (2021) National, Regional, or Just Catholic?—Dilemmas of Church Art in a German–Polish Borderland. Upper Silesia, 1903–1953. Arts. 10(1): 18

Source web-site: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0752/10/1/18/htm

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