The contemplation of images from antiquity can pull us away from our own sins
Year mention: 1617
Ancient images
Confirmation of iconographic tradition
Sacred vs. profane imagery

Church approves of the use of ancient images to avoid sin

Molanus, Johannes
Frostispiece of Molanus, De historia sanctarum imaginum et picturarum (1617), Antwerp, Gasparus Bellerus
Frontispiece of Molanus, De historia sanctarum imaginum et picturarum (1617), Antwerp, Gasparus Bellerus
Augsburg, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek — Th H 1475. Digital Reproduction: München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2015.

The first part of Book II mainly consists of the discussion of all different kinds of antique images through the examination of early Christian writings by the Church Fathers and by Medieval authors. In this overview of what can be considered the sources for Molanus his treatise, he normally does not take an own stance in these matters, here he does though, and he adds an own note on the habit of the Church to use ancient iconography to inspire the people to contemplate their sins.

“According to the testimonies of antiquity itself, I add that from that time there have been many images, the consideration of which pulls us away from sin, and that the Church has taken the habit of recommending them to those who are plagued by avarice, licentious loves, pride, and other kinds of sin, so that, by their inexhaustible contemplation, they may pull themselves away from their sins.”

“Hoc insuper ex veneranda antiquitate adiicio, tunc temporis frequentes fuisse eas imagines, quae sui inspectione nostras affectiones a peccatis abstrahunt: imo ecclesiam solere eas indicare laborantibus, avaritia, turpi amore sastu, aut alia peccati specie, ut ex earum iugi contemplatione, se a peccatis suis abstraherent.”

Quoted Authorities

Cathechism of the Council of Trent

ancient images, avarice, Church Fathers, contemplation, licentiousness, pride, sin

Date mention

Historical Location

Molanus, De historia sanctarum imaginum et picturarum (1617), book 2, ch. 17, 74-75

Molanus 1996, 170.

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