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The Eye of Faith

Episode 4 of 9

Professor Mary Beard explores the controversial topic of religion and art. How, and at what cost, do different religions make the unseen visible?

Professor Mary Beard broaches the controversial, sometimes dangerous, topic of religion and art. For millennia, art has inspired religion as much as religion has inspired art. Yet there are fundamental problems, which all religions share, in making the divine visible in the human world. How, and at what cost, do you make the unseen seen? Beneath all works of religious art there always lies conflict and risk. The result is often iconoclasm - the destruction of works of art - which Mary believes can lead on to new forms of creativity.

Mary visits sacred sites across the world to examine the contested boundaries between religion and art. She goes to the temple of Angkor Wat, the Tintoretto Crucifixion in Venice, the Buddhist caves of Ajanta and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, as she seeks to break down the conventions that centre some religions around images, while others are seen as hostile to artistic representation. She shows how all faiths (and their artists) face the same fundamental problems of treading a careful line between glorifying gods in images and blaspheming by daring to represent the divine.

She ends at the Parthenon in Athens, a building that has been in turn a pagan temple, a Christian church and a mosque. Now, as a monument to Western civilisation itself and a tourist pilgrimage site, she asks us to wonder what we now worship - how far we look at civilisation itself with 'the eye of faith'.

6 months left to watch

59 minutes

Signed Audio described

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:20

    Claudio Monteverdi

    Christe adoramus te (First Book of Motets, 1620)

    Director: Rinaldo Alessandrini. Ensemble: Concerto Italiano.

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Mary Beard
Executive Producer Denys Blakeway
Executive Producer Michael Jackson
Series Producer Melanie Fall
Producer Joanna Marshall
Director Matthew Hill
Writer Mary Beard
Producer Caroline Buckley
Production Company Nutopia

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