Art that Stands the Test of Time / by Jeannine Cook

cathedrale-saint-lizier.jpg

Every artist must at least occasionally have moments of doubt about whether work being created will stand the test of time or whether it will even be appreciated by other people. It is inevitable, I suppose, given that most creative ventures are fairly solitary. You work away at your desk, your potter's wheel, your easel, your sculpture table, your musical score, your ballet bar or whatever the work might require. Your vision and your passion, you hope, carry you forward to creating something that is good, worthwhile, meaningful to others. And something that will stand the test of time.

As I recently walked around the lovely Romanesque cloister of St. Lizier Cathedral in the Pyrenees area of Ariège, I thought about these concerns that artists down the ages must share. The cloisters provide a perfect example of anonymous creativity which delights and has done so from the 12th century.

 St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

 St. Lizier, Portail, Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

St. Lizier, Portail, Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

The cloisters have all four galleries still complete, and even the early frescoes are still there. The carvings on the columns are unusual as few of them deal with Biblical matters; the earliest were done in 1160-1180, with those on the south and west sides done a little later.

 St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

 St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

 St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

 St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

All the capitals are different, and were obviously carved by different artists. We don't know their names, we don't know if they came from France or from Spain, like their colleagues who probably did the early, 11th century frescoes within the adjacent cathedral. In fact, we know nothing about these skilled sculptors. Nonetheless, today, as we visit these Cloisters at St. Lizier, we are the heirs of these artists' skills. Their art has not only withstood the test of time, it has withstood assaults of weather, revolutions and religious upheavals.

 St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

 St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

 St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

St. Lizier Cathedral Cloisters, photo J. Cook

What more ringing endorsement could one have for artists to go on creating, to follow their star and their passion, striving to attain new heights of skill, meaning and beauty! The medium chosen may not be as long-lived as stone, but we all need to look as long into the future as possible. The artists chipping away at the stone blocks at St. Lizier that were destined for this place of peace and reflection knew they were very transient humans. Nonetheless, they were creating for untold generations pacing those cloisters far into the future.