Twelve Ethical Principles of a Christian Sacred Artist

The post with the above title, published in the Spring of 2017, has been revised and updated during late March 2018.

It has also been given a new title: The Canon of a Catholic Sacred Artist.

It will be published in the correct chronological order of posts on April 2, 2018.

On this night of Holy Thursday, let us give thanks to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood of the Church.

Pax Christi,

Deacon Paul O. Iacono


7 thoughts on “Twelve Ethical Principles of a Christian Sacred Artist

  1. Christine Oskirko

    Deacon Paul,

    Thank you so very much for this wonderful and insightful synopsis about the Christian Sacred Artist. It is going to be a great help for me as I periodically re-read this to assess if I am being faithful to the call form Christ. It is my friend Michael D O’Brien, the Catholic author and painter who has assisted me with such generosity in coming to understand in a deeper way just what I have been called to. For so many years, I painted and it brought me great joy. Spiritual themes were often part of the works but as time passed I began to paint what inspired me through the reading of scripture or other spiritual reading. It was only after conversing much with Michael that I began to grow in understanding of what God has given me, even with all of my technical limitations. I have read St. John Paul’s Letter to artists and Catherine Doherty’s as well. I hope you do not mind that I send you my website to view the works of late. I think you can see the change from the early days to today, which is also a road map of my journey into and with God.

    God bless you Deacon Paul. I am so pleased to have found Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts! I did not realize for a long time that even with primitives or naïve style that I could be considered an artist. God calls us to paint with who we are, with what He has given us. Praise God in the Highest Heavens!

    Christine Oskirko

    Barry’s Bay, Ontario



    The Art of Christine Oskirko is a website dedicated to the sacred art of Christine Oskirko. A gallery of original paintings for sale.


    1. Mrs. Oskirko,
      Thank you so very much for your kind and much appreciated comments.
      I wish you well in all your work and may the Lord Bless you and your family.
      May you continue to have a prayer filled Lenten season and a joyous Easter!

      Deacon Paul

  2. Dear Deacon Iacono,As a research scholar and iconographer who has written about the function and meaning of one of the greatest paintings of the early Renaissance, I think you may be interested in my book The Epiphany Altarpiece by Gentile da Fabriano: Liturgical, Patristic, and Apocryphal Sources, painted in 1422-23. Having come from a neutral, scientific approach, you may be reluctant to take a look, especially since I had to study the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy, and popular legends through the eyes of a former Protestant, for which reason I may have made a multiplicity of errors. If you read most art historical analyses of this work, neither the altarpiece nor their interpretations would meet your twelve standards. If you read my interpretation, it does. However, I would like to suggest that art that is not “sacred” such as that which you dismiss as Abstract Expressionism as a kind of hedonist work in which the artist as only having a concern with money or fame, I think you might inquire further as the whole of AE is an unconscious response to the mind-numbing reality of nuclear weapons as I discussed in my book Art After the Bomb. To force one’s self to think only within a rigid structured conformity to an illusion of a wider truth is to sacrifice all “rationality,” the rational you otherwise seem to profess.Best wishes and with human kindness, Darrell D. Davisson, Ph.D.

    From: Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts To: Sent: Sunday, March 26, 2017 2:25 PM Subject: [New post] Twelve Ethical Principles of a Christian Sacred Artist | |

  3. Dear Doctor,
    Thank you for your comments.
    I acknowledge the ability of Abstract Expressionism to express the perceptions of 20th century artists and the horrors of wars, social and psychological confusion, and angst over potential nuclear destruction of the planet, yet, I feel it has no place in a Western or Eastern Rite liturgical setting. Why? Because it potentially sows confusion, lack of clarity, multiple interpretations in meaning, and it directs people away from the clear message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Men, women, and children are in great need of sacred spaces that allows them to connect with God who is the source of all truth and beauty.
    Yes, at times, Scriptural truth can be paradoxical. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI quotes St. Augustine in an essay (“The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty,” 2002) that truth and beauty are sometimes like “the contrasting blasts of two trumpets.” He goes on to explain that the Liturgy of the Hours, during the Season of Lent, has Jesus being presented as “the fairest of the children of men and grace is poured upon your lips,” (Psalm 44) and then during Holy Week, the Liturgy of the Hours presents an image of Jesus (after being beaten, scourged, and maltreated by the Romans) as having “neither beauty, no majesty, nothing to attract our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him” (Isaiah 53, 2). So, yes, I am aware of these paradoxes, and the contrast, not contradiction, that is inherent within them. We have faith that the average Western and Eastern Rite person can understand this complexity, too.
    The Western and Eastern Rites of the Church have a very specific Truth with which to evangelize men and women – and that is the Truth of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.
    Jesus showed us that the “beauty of truth also embraces offense, pain, and even the dark mystery of death, and that this can only be found in accepting suffering, not in ignoring it” (Benedict XVI, 2002). This embrace, in light of Jesus’ Truth, is what needs to be presented in liturgical spaces. Fra Angelico, and many others, were brilliant at presenting exactly that in an extraordinarily beautiful way.
    I do not dismiss Abstract Expressionism. I merely refuse to say that it is appropriate for liturgical use. Sacred artists have the responsibility to make sure that the art they craft to be used in a liturgical setting – whether personal or communal – leads to the Beauty and Truth which is Jesus Christ Himself.
    Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my post. I look forward to reading your books.

    Deacon Paul Iacono

  4. Thank you, Deacon Paul for your thoughtful post and openness to further discussion. Expressing or defining a contemporary Iconographic perspective is challenging, and I think you have made a very good beginning. I look forward to more posts in the future.
    Christine Hales

    1. Hello, thank you for responding to my post. Yes, I look forward to hearing from others before I amend the “12 Ethical Principles.” I have already received a valuable insight from David Clayton.
      Discussion is paramount and contributions critical if the “12 Ethical Principles for a Sacred Artist” is to be accepted and used by the sacred art community.
      Deacon Paul Iacono

  5. Pingback: Seeking God – American Association of Iconographers

Comments are closed.