Accueil > Citations > Between Past and Future: The Crisis in Culture (1968) – Hannah Arendt

Between Past and Future: The Crisis in Culture (1968) – Hannah Arendt

The cathedrals were built ad maiorem gloriam Dei; while they as buildings certainly served the needs of the community, their elaborate beauty can never be explained by these needs, which could have been served quite as well by any nondescript building. Their beauty transcended all needs and made them last through the centuries; but while beauty, the beauty of a cathedral like the beauty of any secular building, transcends needs and functions, it never transcends the world, even if the content of the work happens to be religious. On the contrary it is the very beauty of religious art which transforms religious and other-worldly contents and concerns into tangible worldly realities. In this sense all art is secular, and the distinction of religious art is merely that it « secularizes » – reifies and transforms into an « objective », tangible, worldly presence – what had existed before outside the world, whereby it is irrelevant whether we localize this outside in the beyond of a hereafter (traditional religion) or in the inmost recesses of the human heart.
[…] From the viewpoint of sheer durability, art works clearly are superior to all other things; since they stay longer in the world than anything else, they are the worldliest of all things. Moreover, they are the only things without any function in the life process of society; strictly speaking, they are fabricated not for men, but for the world which is meant to outlast the life-span of mortals, the coming and going of the generations.


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