„Byzantine and Russian wall paintings from Lublin Castle Chapel of the Holy Trinity in the light of the theology of icon. A study on the theology of beauty.” Summary of doctoral dissertation.

Fresco paintings from Lublin Castle Chapel of the Holy Trinity constitute the most beautiful and the best preserved example of the byzantine art in the Polish Gothic style. They have been carefully examined and described by art historians, however they have never been analysed in terms of theology. This dissertation attempts to investigate the existing analyses adding the theological examination of the frescos within the understanding of the post-conciliar Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The aim of this dissertation is to identify the 15th century visualisations of the Truths of Faith as well as to demonstrate their today’s meaning. The value of this dissertation consists in adding the perspective of theological sense to the problems and methods of secular criticism that were not part of theological dispute until now. This significantly broadens the dialog perspective of the Church with the world via beauty, which adds more profound meaning to the beautiful artefacts in the era of rising popularity of the visual culture.

The results of the research on the fresco paintings in Lublin have been presented in five chapters. The first chapter deals with the history of Lublin Castle Chapel and describes the creation and preservation of its polychrome. This chapter analyses Władysław Jagiełło’ s motives for decorating the most important churches in the country with byzantine polychrome. It also presents the way the artists in Lublin realised byzantine canon of decorating orthodox churches in the churches of Latin tradition.

The second chapter explains the most important theological, aesthetical
and methodological assumptions of this dissertation. For the purposes of the considerations of this study, Thomas Aquinas’ objective definition of beauty has been adopted. Among the methods of pursuing the theology of beauty presented in this part of the dissertation, the theological aesthetics method by H. U. von Balthasar has been chosen for further analyses. In line with this  method, the next chapters of this dissertation start from describing the elements that can be seen and then continue to explain the things that cannot be seen to precisely determine the semantics of iconic frescos.

The third chapter presents the interpretation of the polychrome in Lublin according to the theological Treatises: trinitology, patrology, Christology, pneumatology and eschatology. All these Treatises have been analysed according to H. U. von Balthasar’s concepts that put Christ as the central figure in the Revelation. His mission consisting in coming from the Father and going back to the Father reveals the profound mystery of the Trinitarian God. By descending to Earth, Jesus left the beloved Father for a short time to reveal God’s essence and love to people. By ascending to Heaven, the Son comes back to the Father, the infinite space, that is unmeasured and at the same time so close. In Lublin Castle Chapel, Christ is portrayed to share the Glory of the Father (mandorlas surrounding Jesus symbolise Father’s Glory). Thanks to this Glory, Christ is perfectly transparent due to kenosis that reflects the greatest expression of love in the death on the cross.  According to Balthasar, God constitutes the centre of eschatology, and this approach is also shown in the frescos from Lublin.

To complement the dogmatic analysis of the frescos, the next chapter presents the angelology, Mariology, hagiography and martyrology in the polychrome from Lublin Castle Chapel. Saint monks and martyred soldiers presented with strong emphasis catechized the neophyte king and its court by means of vision. These figures encouraged to pray and penance as well as to confess bravely the faith. Among the saints from Lublin Castle Chapel, there are also Solun Brothers, who were the patrons of the king’s ecumenical activities.

The last chapter describes the current religious and cultural significance of Lublin Castle Chapel of the Holy Trinity. It indicates that the genius loci of Lublin Castle Chapel implies primarily the clear reference to high culture. However, the inspirations from the polychrome of Master Andrzej are also present in the mass culture. It can be even stated that they build the social identity of Lublin citizens. Although, the Chapel of the Holy Trinity serves primarily to maintain cultural heritage of the region, it is still a place of liturgy and ecumenical dialog. These activities are the proof of timeless significance of the Castle Chapel and its polychrome.

Fresco paintings from Lublin Castle Chapel of the Holy Trinity are the examples of passing on the faith through via pulchritudinis. They use the universalism of the category of beauty discovered from different perspectives of Christian tradition: from the perspective of the Eastern Mysticism as well as from the rational aesthetics of the West. Identifying the message from the frescos and the testimony of faith is the chance for the new evangelization, which takes into account the dominance of visual culture over discursive reasoning. It also constitutes a challenge for theological aesthetics maintained in the context of cognitive suggestions by H. U. von Balthasar. This is also a challenge  of communicating dogmas in the societies easily prone to tendencies and temptations of subjectivism and relativism in the investigation of truth. The example of the polychrome from Lublin Castle Chapel proves that the timeless influence power can be maintained only by the forms of communication respecting the norms of objectivization guaranteed by the iconographic canon. This is shown and determined by historic unalterableness of the Revelation. For theology, this is a challenge of continuously new dialog, yet closed within unchangeable tradition. Thus, it is valuable that there are sanctuaries of grace that support the way of Church and that of every believer. It is of great significance that icon hermeneias are true to the dialog of God with people to the same extend as the codes and the Bible. It is also valuable when both words and pictures supported by the grace in the Church merge into the mystical bond with God and with the brothers in faith. The visualisations from Lublin Castle Chapel are the examples of all these benefits.

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