28 June 2017

27 June 2017



I drew this using dark blue calligraphers’ ink applied with a metal-tipped dip pen. The Bristol board is 4 1/8" wide, cut to a pentagon that is 8 7/8" tall at its higest point.

This drawing was begun as a study for a larger work in the style of Ming art. When developing the concept for that project, I looked to one of the early missionaries to China, the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci. Some time in the very early 17th century, Ricci gifted four European prints to the Chinese publisher Cheng Dayue: one was an engraving by Anthony Wierix reproducing the painting of the Virgin of Antigua in Seville Cathedral. Master Cheng copied these images into his Ink Garden, a model book of illustrations and calligraphy. Ricci saw this as a good opportunity to disseminate lessons in Christian doctrine and morality among the Chinese population.

The Virgin and Child in my drawing are Sinicized, but have the same posture and attributes as the figures in the painting in Seville; the Virgin holds a flower, and the Christ Child a goldfinch. Next to Mary, I drew a roundel with a Chinese ideograph for goodness. This refers to another of Ricci’s efforts in his mission to China, his introduction of the classical mnemonic method expounded by Quintilian to members of the Ming bureaucracy. This is the fourth of four characters used as examples in his treatise; he divides it vertically into two separate characters, one signifying woman, and the other child, and attaches to it the mnemonic image of a young woman holding a child in her arms and playing with him. The resonance of this character with the image of the Blessed Virgin is obvious.

Tien Chu is a transliteration of the Chinese words for Lord of Heaven; this is the title of God used by the missionaries.

The original drawing is available for sale. See this web page for more information.



26 June 2017



I drew this using a black technical pen and with red and black calligraphers’ ink applied with a metal-tipped dip pen and brushes. There is a gold leaf detail in the bottom corner. The Bristol board is 5 1/2" square.

I have a long fascination with the Native American art of the Pacific Northwest, admiring its artists’ use of cleanly defined forms, horror vacui and pure, limited colors. I have been reluctant to work in this style only because it is still a surviving art form among the peoples who first developed it.

Nonetheless, its visual appeal is so strong that I have made a few experiments in it, hoping to understand its peculiar qualities better and introduce them to my other drawings. I have noticed curious affinities between this art and medieval art, most especially that of Northumbro-Irish manuscript illumination, which uses thick black lines for emphasis, a similar selection of colors, and a bulging calligraphic penstroke. These affinities I have emphasized in this drawing of the Prophet Jonah.

The calligraphed text (which resembles both Insular Majusule and Square Glagolitic scripts) is from the Gospel of St. Matthew: So shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. I consider this passage especially important, as here Jesus Christ Himself establishes the principle of interpreting the events of the Old Testament as symbolic prefigurements.

The original drawing is available for sale. See this web page for more information.



23 June 2017



When challenged by one of my patrons to create a new image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I determined to reconnect this devotion to its early expressions in the visions of St. Gertrude, and to create an image with the vigor and precision of late medieval art. The 1467 Sanctus Salvator engraving by the Master E.S. is the most obvious artistic influence on the figure of Christ in my drawing.

The Sacred Heart itself, in its oldest depictions, is flat, simple and symmetrical. Later artists gave it more dimension and detail, but without making it accurate anatomically. Their result, I think, is artistically disastrous: something like a dripping strawberry with a tube projecting from its top. Here, I have done the opposite: I started with the shape of a realistic heart, and reduced that to a stylized emblem.

I placed the emblem within a frame shaped as an ogee trefoil intersecting with an equilateral triangle. This is meant to suggest the triple invocations to the Holy Trinity and the triple petitions in the Kyrie Eleison that begin the Litany of the Sacred Heart. The Crown of Thorns fills the entire space beteween the edge of the heart and the frame.

The drawing’s coloration is based somewhat on Italian white vine illumination: everything is either left white, or colored with black ink or very dark shades of blue, green, red or purple ink. Although I did not reference any specific works of Chinese, Persian or Mamluk art while making this drawing, the ornament reveals my growing interest in these. For years, I have both worked in the style of late Gothic art and transposed traditional compositions into foreign styles; my ultimate desire, however, is to integrate these approaches, as I have done here.

The animals that appear in the halo include sea horses, embryonic dogfish in their tendrilous egg cases, platypodes, chameleons, lyrebirds and a pangolin. Here, I further another of my long-term artistic projects: the application of the vision of God in nature (one of the most important principles of medieval art) to contemporary knowledge of nature. As I wrote in 2013:
The temptation, for a modern man, is simply to snicker at the authors of the bestiaries for their zoological naïvety. But they were working with the best knowledge they had, and their being mistaken in the details does not prove that their method of interpretation was fallacious. If we no longer find symbols of Christ in the behavior of pelicans and lions, is it because they are not there, or is it because we have ceased to look for them? Were we to embrace again a theophanic worldview, might not our current knowledge yield even more profound symbols?
In the animals chosen here, I see symbols of universality; they represent all of creation worshipping its God. Chameleons are creatures that seem to contain within themselves all colors, and lyrebirds are creatures that seem to contain within themselves all sounds. Platypodes and pangolins are beasts so peculiar in their anatomy that they resemble animals of every class. Dogfish and sea horses (as their names suggest) are aquatic creatures that resemble terrestrial ones.

The Latin inscription that runs around the perimeter of the drawing is the versicle and response that end the Litany of the Sacred Heart: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our heart like unto Thine. The letters are based on those in 15th century tapestries, and are surrounded by vines.

See this page for more information.

I drew several versions of this image, including one in full color on Japanese washi:




26 May 2017


These are detail images from my ink drawings of Mass Offered for the Living and Mass Offered for the Dead. Click on the thumbnail images to download the files; these are formatted as 300dpi bitmap images on 8 1/2" × 11" pages that can be printed and photocopied.


More coloring sheets are available here.
I hold the copyright to these images, and I permit them to be downloaded, printed and copied only for use as coloring sheets. Printed copies must be distributed for free. If you want to use them in any other way, you must first receive my permission. Posting the images to a web log or sharing them on a social medium is encouraged so long as it links back to my web page.

I do not charge for downloading the files. However, a donation is suggested. This should be proportionate to the number of files downloaded and the number of copies made of them.

If you are unable to make a donation, I ask that you at least subscribe to my newsletter by e-mailing danielmitsuiartist at gmail dot com. 



25 May 2017



I drew the Ascension of Jesus Christ on an approximately 4" × 5" piece of Egyptian papyrus, using black, red, blue and green calligraphers’ inks applied with metal-tipped dip pens. The drawing includes a miniature of the Translation of Elijah (a prefigurement of the Ascension) and ornament in the style of 12th century illuminated manuscripts.

See this page for more information.



19 May 2017


This is an ink drawing on a 4 1/2" × 7 7/8" piece of Bristol board. I drew it using technical pens and calligraphers’ inks applied with brushes.

It is a small study for the design of a stained glass window that follows closely the style and colors of the windows in Chartres Cathedral.

The original drawing is available for sale. See this web page for more information.



18 May 2017


This is an ink drawing on a 3 3/4" × 7 1/6" piece of calfskin vellum. I drew it using calligraphers’ inks applied with metal-tipped dip pens and brushes.

In all of my recent drawings of the Sacred Heart, I have determined to reconnect this devotion to its early expressions in the visions of St. Gertrude, and to create an image with the vigor and precision of late medieval art.

In this small drawing, Christ’s halo includes knotted patterns in a Nothumbro-Irish style, and the leaves of pitcher plants. His chasuble is Gothic in style, but with an Oriental fabric pattern. The calligraphic treatment of Cor Iesu combines blackletter script with more thorns and Nothumbro-Irish patterns.

The original drawing is available for sale. See this web page for more information.



17 May 2017


Here are two typographic broadides with an English translation of the Athanatian Creed, which states the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation. The typefaces and ornaments are my own design. Visit this web page to learn more about my typographic artwork.

Click on the thumbnail images to download the files; these are formatted as 300dpi bitmap images on 8 1/2" × 11" pages that can be printed and photocopied.


See this web page for more free dowloads.


I hold the copyright to these images, and I permit them to be downloaded, printed and copied only for the purposes that I describe. Printed copies must be distributed for free. If you want to use them in any other way, you must first receive my permission. Posting the images to a web log or sharing them on a social medium is encouraged so long as it links back to my web page.

I do not charge for downloading the files. However, a donation is suggested. This should be proportionate to the number of files downloaded and the number of copies made of them.

If you are unable to make a donation, I ask that you at least subscribe to my newsletter by e-mailing danielmitsuiartist at gmail dot com.

16 May 2017


Part 8 of 8 of the Lecture Gold out of Egypt, which I first delivered on 20 April 2017 at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

The treasures of Christian art and architecture are today endangered: by indifference and neglect, by misguided renovation, by war and revolution. They may be preserved for a time for the sake of national identity or lofty but indifferentist notions of cultural worth. But the Lindisfarne Gospels and Chartres Cathedral are things of this world, and will not last forever: Rust and moth consume, thieves break in and steal. More tragic than to lose such treasures is to lose the ability to make them; more tragic yet is to lose the desire to make them. That desire can only be provided by religious faith. It is religious faith that animates the traditions, that makes them live rather than linger.

It is the natural province of the Catholic Church to safeguard art and culture, even art and culture made by the foes of Ecclesia. The Catholic Church can welcome the genius of every nation and attune it to harmony. The need to do this should be felt in the present day, even more than at the time of Cassiodorus. Destructive forces are ascendant in all nations; all culture is at risk.

That includes, perhaps most especially, the historic art and architecture of Islamdom. Many Christians ignore differences within Islamdom and regard all of its culture as that of a common enemy. But many great works of Ottoman art were influenced by Sufi mysticism. The Safavids, under whom the stunning mosques of Isfahan were built and decorated, and under whom miniature painting flourished, were Shia. The Mughals built grand funerary monuments. Aspects of these cultures and their art are condemned as heretical and idolatrous by growing fundamentalist movements within Islamdom, and marked for destruction as readily as churches. In Saudi Arabia, for example, historic buildings and cemeteries are being razed and replaced with bare and empty constructions that express a different theological outlook.

Now it is not my place to say whether this is, from an Islamic perspective, correct or not. As a Christian, I see extraordinary beauty in the historic art and architecture of Islamdom that should be preserved. Medieval Christian artists saw the same; they admired and borrowed its forms eagerly. In the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, they even employed its makers as collaborators. The Palatine Chapel at Palermo, whose ceiling is decorated with muqarnas, may be the most impressive result of their broadminded and generous consideration. I hope that Christian artists can yet again appreciate this art, and make a home for its best aspects within the Christian tradition, within International Gothic.

Ceiling of the Palatine Chapel at Palermo

This is one of my own ambitions. I am studying Islamic geometric design, miniature painting and calligraphy. My recent drawings include orthogonal letter patterns inspired by the decoration of Persian mosques and haloes filled with pseudo-Arabic script (the actual words that they form in my drawings are prayers and nomina sacra in Latin).


Jesus Christ instructed his Apostles: Teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. This Great Commission can be illustrated by figuratively baptizing the art of all nations. Doing this requires Christian artists to let go of historic and current enmities. Yes, for centuries Moors and Turks waged wars of conquest against Christendom. Japanese Buddhists long persecuted the Church with horrific brutality. The Romans fed the saints to lions; the culture preserved by Cassiodorus was the culture of Diocletian. Christian artists should not ignore any of that.

But they nonetheless should see truth, beauty and goodness in the cultural treasury of all nations, and fashion sacred art from it to honor Jesus Christ. This is the visual expression both of Christianity’s universal prerogative and its peculiar commandment: Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.


Works quoted or referenced:

Ceiling of the Palatine Chapel at Palermo: The Public Medievalist



15 May 2017


Part 7 of 8 of the Lecture Gold out of Egypt, which I first delivered on 20 April 2017 at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

About seven years ago, one of my patrons asked me to draw St. Michael the Archangel in the style of a Japanese woodblock print. At the time, I had little knowledge of Oriental art, despite having some Japanese ancestors. I nonetheless undertook the challenge. The drawing became one of my most popular; similar commissions followed, in which I transposed traditional Christian iconography into this style.

Creating such works gave me a great appreciation for Japanese art, but I became uncomfortably aware that I was treating it as a context, and therefore as a larger thing than traditional Christian iconography. I have no desire to imitate the Humanists who gave the same treatment to Greek and Roman art, or the contemporary Christian artists who unquestioningly accept the conventions of electronic mass media.

Now, I rather identify those aspects of Japanese art that are agreeably Christian, and to include them in my drawings that are basically Gothic. An example is that in Japanese woodblock prints, as in Byzantine icons, almost no cast shadows are depicted. In Byzantine icons, this is deliberate; their perspective is heavenly, from a place where God illuminates everything. That was not the intention of the Japanese printmakers, but their treatment of light can be used to express the same religious idea in a work of graphic art.

The scholar Martin Lings had a similar observation to mine, on the affinity of Oriental and Gothic art. He wrote:
Having come to know some of the best examples of Hindu, Chinese and Japanese art and then as it were returning to their own civilization, many people find that their outlook has irrevocably changed. After looking at a great Chinese landscape, for example, where this world appears like a veil of illusion beyond which, almost visibly, lies the Infinite and Eternal Reality ... they find it difficult to take seriously a painting such as Raphael’s famous Madonna, or Michelangelo’s fresco of the Creation, not to speak of his sculpture, and Leonardo also fails to satisfy them. But they find that they can take very seriously, more seriously than before, some of the early Sienese paintings such as Simone Martini’s Annunciation, for example, or the statuary and stained glass of Chartres Cathedral....

The reason why medieval art can bear comparison with Oriental art as no other Western art can is undoubtedly because the medieval outlook, like that of the Oriental civilizations, was intellectual. It considered this world above all as the shadow or symbol of the next, man as the shadow or symbol of God.... A medieval portrait is above all a portrait of the Spirit shining from behind a human veil. In other words, it is as a window opening from the earthly on to the heavenly, and while being enshrined in its own age and civilization as eminently typical of a particular period and place, it has the same time, in virtue of this opening, something that is neither of the East nor of the West, nor of any one age more than another.

If Renaissance art lacks an opening onto the transcendent and is altogether imprisoned in its own epoch, this is because its outlook is humanistic; and humanism ... considers man and other earthly objects entirely for their own sakes as if nothing lay behind them. In painting the Creation, for example, Michelangelo treats Adam not as a symbol but as an independent reality; and since he does not paint man in the image of God, the inevitable result is that he paints God in the image of man.
The outlook of Gothic art, being intellectual and transcendent, is farsighted enough to include the whole of Christendom, and to see beyond it to all nations. It can be the basis for an urgently needed revival of artistic and cultural Christendom, and for its missionary effort.


Works quoted or referenced:

Martin Lings, The Sacred Art of Shakespeare, (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1998).



13 May 2017


Part 6 of 8 of the Lecture Gold out of Egypt, which I first delivered on 20 April 2017 at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Medieval art and architecture is magnanimous enough to include the Greek and Roman genii without forcing out any part of the Christian tradition. About AD 560, a Roman statesman named Cassiodorus took religious vows and founded a monastery in the far south of Italy; there, he built a scriptorium in which monks copied books, both sacred and secular, both Greek and Latin, as an exercise of piety. This idea of the monastery as a preservative of culture and learning was taken as far as Northumberland. The monasteries at Wearmouth and Jarrow obtained books from the personal library of Cassiodorus; one of them was the likely iconographic model for the Lindisfarne Gospels.

In Gothic art, Classical wisdom is represented by the sibyls, prophetesses who foretold the coming of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles just as the prophets of the Old Testament foretold it to the Hebrews. The Eritrean Sibyl wrote verses describing the Last Judgment than include an acrostic of the name Jesus Christ; she is the one mentioned in the Dies Iræ sequence. The Triburtine Sibyl interpreted a vision of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child to the Emperor Augustus at the time of the Nativity. The Cumæan Sibyl’s messianic prophecy was quoted in the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil. This is why the poet stood among the prophets in medieval liturgical plays, and in depictions of the Tree of Jesse.

The Moralized Ovid, written in the thirteenth century, applied the method that the Church Fathers used to interpret to Old Testament to the Metamorphoses: its author saw Theseus and Æsculapius as symbols of Jesus Christ. The Augustinian and Dionysian theology that first inspired Gothic art and architecture is profoundly Platonic; the doctors at the Cathedral School of Chartres studied the Timæus reverently.

This all might be mistaken for an early expression of Humanism, but there was an important difference in priority. Medieval Christians believed that the light of the Gospel alone revealed truth, goodness and beauty; insofar as the ancient Greeks and Romans saw them at all, it was through a glass: very, very darkly. Insofar as they possessed them at all, it was as borrowers or thieves, for these properly belong to the Church. Medieval Christians believed that they themselves understood the true meaning and worth of Classical art and culture, far better than the ancient makers of it. Their outlook was that of St. Augustine of Hippo:
If those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said aught that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it. For, as the Egyptians had not only the idols and heavy burdens which the people of Israel hated and fled from, but also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and garments, which the same people when going out of Egypt appropriated to themselves, designing them for a better use, not doing this on their own authority, but by the command of God, the Egyptians themselves, in their ignorance, providing them with things which they themselves were not making a good use of; in the same way all branches of heathen learning have not only false and superstitious fancies ... but they contain also liberal instruction which is better adapted to the use of the truth, and some most excellent precepts of morality; and some truths in regard even to the worship of the One God are found among them.

Now these are, so to speak, their gold and silver, which they did not create themselves, but dug out of the mines of God’s providence which are everywhere scattered abroad.... These, therefore, the Christian, when he separates himself in spirit from the miserable fellowship of these men, ought to take away from them, and to devote to their proper use in preaching the Gospel.
St. Augustine’s argument for inculturation as a triumphal statement, as an assertion of the universal prerogative of Christianity, can apply to any ancient or foreign culture, not just to that Greece or Rome or Egypt. The mines of God’s providence are everywhere scattered abroad. If the Metamorphoses can be moralized and read as a dim Christian allegory, so too can Norse and Celtic and Persian and Chinese mythology; if aught that is true in Platonism can be claimed for Christian use, so too can aught that is true in Confucianism, however much or little.


Works quoted or referenced:

The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, translated by Marcus Dods, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1892).



12 May 2017


Part 5 of 8 of the Lecture Gold out of Egypt, which I first delivered on 20 April 2017 at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

By St. Peter’s Basilica, I do not mean the fourth-century church erected under the orders of Constantine; that building was knocked to rubble in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to make way for a new building, the one designed by Bramante and Michelangelo and Bernini.

The distinction between the two Basilicas of St. Peter is important here, for artistic and cultural ultramontanism does not present as its ideal the Roman monuments of Constantine. Nor does it present the paintings in the Roman catacombs, nor the medieval works of Roman art that show the continuity of sacred art and link it to the continuity of the Petrine succession. In the demolition of the old basilica, more than half of the papal tombs were destroyed, as were twelve centuries worth of frescoes and mosaics, including major works designed by Giotto.

Oil Painting by Francesco Berretta
Copy of a Destroyed Mosaic by Giotto

What artistic and cultural ultramontanism rather presents as its ideal is the Humanist and Baroque art of the new basilica and the Sistine Chapel. These are famous places where Popes are elected and crowned. But to call their art the art of the papacy, and therefore the proper art of the Catholic Church, is illogical. Only perhaps a dozen of the bishops of Rome had any role in its creation, and those included some of the most corrupt and impious men ever to sit of the throne of St. Peter. Certainly Adrian VI, the most honest and decent Pope of his era, considered the entire Humanist project a blasphemy and a waste.

Obviously, one Pope does not always agree with another. If an art is proper to the Catholic Church, it is so for being beautiful, true and good; for being holy and universal and apostolic; for being scriptural and traditional. Northumbro-Irish art and International Gothic are abundantly all of these things. What can be said about Humanist and Baroque art?


I am deliberately avoiding the term Renaissance here, as that term is understood too broadly. Its definition is extended backwards to include Cimabue and Duccio, northwards to include Jan Van Eyck and Rogier Van Der Weyden, all of whose work can be explained as the development of Gothic tradition, without any reference to the philosophy that animated the art of Michelangelo. Neither did all Italian artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries profess Humanism; Fra Angelico, for example, was a disciple of Giovanni Dominici, one of the prominent critics of the movement.

Humanism attributed to the individual a limitless autonomy and dignity and capacity for improvement. Whereas medieval Christianity stressed dependence on divine grace for eternal salvation, Humanism advocated the making of a grand new order upon earth in which mankind might reach its fullest potential. This was to be done by studying and imitating the ancient Greeks and Romans. To the Humanists, Classical antiquity was the standard against which to weigh and find wanting the culture of medieval Christendom. In grammar, handwriting, architecture, painting and sculpture, they replaced medieval traditions with reconstructions based on ancient models.

Humanist art excludes any stylistic evidence that the medieval centuries ever happened. There is no place within it for the Lindisfarne Gospels, or for Chartres Cathedral. Those the Humanists considered barbaric. It was they who invented the slanderous name Gothic to associate medieval art with the ruiners of Classical Rome.

Medieval thinkers believed that the revelation of Jesus Christ provided the answer to every question and every problem; under the New Testament, there are no longer any important secrets. The larger part of their intellectual energy was spent ordering existing wisdom into encyclopedic works, in art as much as in writing. The Humanists, in contrast, were fascinated by esoterica. They not only saw in Greek and Roman remnants the plans for building a better world; they even aspired to recover the lost language of Eden through the study of hieroglyphics, Hermetic doctrines and Cabbala. They really seemed to believe that the confusion at Babel could be undone by scholarship and archaeology, rather than by the miracle at Pentecost! The Humanists made protestations of faith, but they could never altogether conceal the implicit tenet of Christian insufficiency, even when building colossal churches dedicated to the prince of the Apostles.

Baroque art was not as directly affected by these ideas; its artists rather took the art of the Humanists as their basis. They exaggerated certain tendencies of it and defied others, but never returned to the medieval traditions. I do not deny that some aspects of Humanist and Baroque art are beautiful and worthy of imitation. But neither do I ignore that some aspects are aberrant and deleterious. The imposition of this art upon the divers nations of medieval Christendom in place of their proper heritage was simply wrong.


It is easy to forget how grating this imposition must have been at the time. The construction of the new Basilica of St. Peter was funded by the peddling of indulgences in Northern Europe; thus it was the immediate provoking cause of the Reformation. Faced with the challenge of Protestantism, the institutional authorities of the Catholic Church did not present to the German and Scandinavian faithful the argument that their heritage, their culture, their art was substantially Catholic, and that keeping it linked them to the Apostles and to the faithful of all nations. Rather, they told them to disregard it and replace it with something new and alien, just to associate themselves with the Pope in Rome.

Had I lived through this, I probably would have reacted like the character of Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, ranting against sinister foreign influences and urging my people to keep their art holy, German and pure. When ultramontanism provides the motive to destroy tradition, and nationalism the motive to preserve it, I can barely fault anyone for favoring the latter. Parts of the international art of medieval Christianity, such as Gothic architecture and blackletter script, lingered within Lutheran Germany longer than under the papacy. This is why, upon seeing these today, many people simply say: Oh, how German.

I see no reason why the basilica designed by Bramante and Michelangelo and Bernini should be the icon of the Catholic Church any more than the Cathedrals of Magdeburg or Halberstadt, or the stave churches of Norway, that were separated from the Catholic Church as a result of its construction. The new basilica is astonishingly big in its physical dimensions, but it reveals an equally astonishing shortsightedness and narrowmindedness; in spirit, it is a very small building.



11 May 2017


Part 4 of 8 of the Lecture Gold out of Egypt, which I first delivered on 20 April 2017 at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

As the Church has, from the day of Pentecost, served to unite nations, so has the ancient enemy worked to divide the Church. I see in the International Gothic an expression of Christendom; but obviously, it has been limited to the patriarchate of Rome. By the time the Gothic cathedrals were built, the patriarchies of Antioch and Alexandria and Byzantium were separate. Nonetheless, within the patriarchate of Rome, believers out of divers nations were culturally united, despite linguistic differences and historic enmities. Across Catholic Europe, sacred music and art and architecture were ordered to a common liturgical tradition that used Latin as its lingua sacra, one strongly influenced by Benedictine monasticism and the legacy of St. Gregory the Great.

One aspect of this tradition is the preeminence of Rome itself, the theological basis for which is the promise made to St. Peter by Jesus Christ: I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. As Wilfrid of York mentioned, Rome is where the blessed apostles Peter and Paul lived, taught, suffered and were buried. Its bishop is the inheritor of their authority. Because of this, there is a legitimate and necessary Romanity to the universal Church, which was recognized even in seventh-century Northumberland. It is important, however, to recall the fullness of Wilfrid’s argument. His was no blind appeal to authority; it was not sufficient for him to say that his way was the Roman way, but rather that it was also the French and Italian and African and Asian and Egyptian and Greek way. His appeal was to antiquity, universality and consensus: the very marks of authentic tradition identified by the Church Fathers.

Had Wilfrid believed that Romanity were altogether independent of these, he would not have bothered to mention them. For him, Romanity was a means of protecting what was revealed to the Apostles. This revelation is not esoteric; it is knowable to everyone through scripture and tradition. Insofar as there is a necessary key to understand it, it is the gifts of the Holy Ghost received in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

I can hardly imagine a more dangerous error than to think that the bishop of Rome were privy to a newer or fuller revelation; that he were the creator of tradition rather than its protector. If the faithful were to fall into this error, what would they do if the Roman way ceased to be the ancient and universal way, if the Roman way were the way that defied the Catholic Church of Christ throughout the world?


This is hardly a fantasy. In the realm of sacred art, it has been so for centuries. After the unity of the patriarchate of Rome was shattered by the wars of Reformation, a new idea emerged within the Catholic Church, an idea that has largely directed Catholic culture and art ever since. This is the idea of an overruling Romanity, altogether independent of antiquity, universality and consensus.

According to this idea, the only mark of Catholic artistic and cultural identity is imitation of Roman custom. This parallels the most exaggerated ultramontanist theology, according to which the only measure of Catholic faith is agreement with the Pope. This idea has grown over the centuries with the concentration of power, over kings and among bishops, in his person. It undoubtedly depends on the technology of mass communication, without which direct papal influence could never be so extensive.

Certain theologians within the Catholic Church have so disproportionately taken this idea as to say that Christian knowledge is altogether dependent upon papal infallibility; that neither the agreement of the Church Fathers nor the traditional law of worship has any worth except insofar as it receives papal endorsement.

Ceiling of the Monastery Church at Prüfening

The difference between this and the medieval idea of the Catholic Church can be seen in the iconic symbol of the Church itself. Medieval artists personified the Church as a dignified figure called Ecclesia. Usually, Ecclesia is depicted as a woman, crowned and regally dressed, carrying a chalice and a staff of authority surmounted with a cross. Sometimes she is depicted catching in her chalice the blood and water that flow from the side of Jesus Christ crucified, which signify the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. Sometimes she is placed opposite an analogous figure representing the Old Testament, as on the portals of Strasbourg Cathedral.

There are more subtle ways of representing Ecclesia: for example, by giving certain of her attributes to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ss. Peter and Paul together sometimes stand in the place of Ecclesia; according to the medieval doctors, St. Peter signifies the Jewish Church and St. Paul the Gentile Church. Their juxtaposition is therefore not only an expression of Romanity, but of universality as well.

Ecclesia has almost entirely disappeared from sacred art. What has replaced her? What is the new iconic symbol of the Catholic Church? Imagine that I were speaking in some foreign language, no word of which you understood. What single image could I project on the screen behind me, that, upon seeing it, would make you understand that I were speaking about the Catholic Church? Most likely, the answer is one of two things: a picture of the Pope, or a picture of St. Peter’s Basilica.


Works quoted or referenced:

Ceiling of the Monastery Church at Prüfening: The Wikimedia Commons



10 May 2017


Part 3 of 8 of the Lecture Gold out of Egypt, which I first delivered on 20 April 2017 at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

As much as I lament that these knots and spirals would not be found in a church nowadays except as an expression of Irishness, I lament more that a church nowadays is likely to contain no artwork at all. We are living in a time comparable to the iconoclastic crises; contempt for tradition and sacred art is encountered at all levels of the Catholic Church.

Moreover, contemporary secular society is decidedly antitraditional. Those who mass-produce and peddle its culture profit by arousing the desire for novelty; things that are made to endure or to live with can only be sold once. Its music and art exist primarily as electronic simulacra. These can be sent across the world within seconds; bound to no particular place, they go to every nation and move them toward sameness. I do not know if such things can properly be called culture; I do not know if they can even properly be called things. A similar movement toward a postnational world is made in political and economic matters. The rules of national sovereignty are reduced to legal fictions, just as the marks of cultural identity are overwritten or erased.

Unsurprisingly, this provokes a reaction. All over the world, people are concerned to protect their self-determination and cultural identity from foreign influences, from invasive ways that are not theirs. That is to say, that are not theirs as Frenchmen or Englishmen or Germans or Americans. In such a time, when nationalism provides the motive to preserve tradition, and postnationalism the motive to destroy it, it seems that anyone who is a traditionalist in matters of religion or culture or art should and must be a nationalist as well.

The curious thing, however, is that in the history of Christianity, nationalism is not an especially traditional idea. A distinction between nations certainly is as ancient as the Tower of Babel, where the language of the whole earth was confounded: and from thence the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all countries. But the idea that nationhood be the foremost way for a man to understand his identity, his place in history and in the world, began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The choice presented between nationalism and postnationalism is a false dilemma; there is older way, and that is what is actually expressed in works of art such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and Chartres Cathedral. It is the idea of Christendom: that a man should understand his place in history and in the world not foremost as a member of a particular nation, but rather as a member of the universal Church. This is the way that once was maintained by the Catholic Church, and that naturally would be yet, were it not for the failure of its institutional authorities to stand fast, and hold to the traditions they have learned. Perhaps artists can take up the task, if churchmen will not, of reviving this magnanimous idea.

This idea of Christendom does not destroy the particular genii of nations, but neither does it provoke them to battle against each other. It rather establishes principles by which they may together praise the same God. Moreover, it establishes principles by which the Christian tradition may withstand foreign influences; not by barring them entry, but by converting them to its same sacred end, by staking upon whatever is true or good or beautiful in them a legitimate claim.


The word Christendom is often used to refer to the political and military aspect of the universal Church, one embodied by the converted Roman Empire and by the confessional states that succeeded it. I am not really speaking about that, for I neither possess nor know any means that could plausibly restore it. As far as I can tell, every sovereign state in the world now persecutes the Church in some way, and will continue to persecute the Church for the foreseeable future.

I am rather speaking about a religious force for communication between nations and the partaken culture that it inspires. This is older than the conversion of Constantine, indeed as old as the Church. Consider the miracle of Pentecost, which the Church Fathers contrasted to the divine intervention at Babel:
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And, when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together and were confounded in mind, because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue. And they were all amazed and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these that speak, Galileans? And how have we heard, every man our own tongue wherein we were born? Partians and Medes and Elamites and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome. Jews also and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians; we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.
The miracle was not to make all these different men into Galileans, nor to give them understanding of a single language, whether that of Galilee or that of Eden. Christianity did not erase the distinction between nations or tongues, or move them toward sameness; it rather made the wonderful works of God intelligible to them all and thus ended the privilege of any; as St. Paul wrote: There is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian.... Christ is all and in all.



09 May 2017


Part 2 of 8 of the Lecture Gold out of Egypt, which I first delivered on 20 April 2017 at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

It annoys me to know that, upon seeing this page, most people would simply say: Oh, how Irish. A few would call it Celtic instead. And while that is not an inaccurate description, it is a meager one. This art is popular in the present day, not as an expression of universal Christianity, but of Irishness or (more commonly) pseudo-Irishness. You often see it on pub signs and knickknacks and other bits of paddywhackery; you rarely see it on sacred artwork. I cannot imagine a new church being decorated in this manner, unless it were for an Irish immigrant parish. Certainly I am grateful to see this art linger at all, but I lament the loss of the idea that it belongs to everyone.

It seems that national identity, rather than religious faith, is the most strongly felt motive nowadays for holding to traditions. The notion is that a style of art or architecture, folk music or dance, ceremonial dress or cookery is important to remember because it is part of what makes a person Irish or Polish or Mexican or Dutch. That is praiseworthy, except when religious faith itself is considered an element of national identity, as though it were the smaller and less important thing.

Early examples of this disordered priority can be found during the Gothic Revival; the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc did a great service to the universal Church by restoring the reputation of Gothic art and architecture after centuries of calumny and neglect. But he did so because the cathedrals made him proud to be French; he was an anti-clericalist who played down the religious motivation of medieval artists, and even read into their work coded revolutionary messages.

Gothic art and architecture indisputably began in France, but they rapidly spread throughout Catholic Europe. Their principles, derived from the theology of St. Augustine of Hippo and of Dionysius (author of the Celestial Hierarchy), made possible the ordering of the various monastic traditions into a coherent system, the basis for sacred art from England to Spain to Bohemia.

This International Gothic is the basis for almost all of my own artwork. I consider it an important task to demonstrate that Gothic art is not defined by nationhood, nor by a period of history past, but rather by Christian principles that are everywhere and enduringly true.


One of those principles is to offer to God the very best. Artists of the International Gothic deferred to the Church Fathers when composing pictures, but used every artistic form they knew to make them beautiful. The painters of late medieval Italy borrowed from the art of Mamluk Egypt, using Arabic script (spelling gibberish) to decorate the trims of the Virgin Mary’s robes. In the Adoration of the Magi altarpiece by Gentile da Fabriano, the haloes of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph are imitations of Islamic gold platters. The painters of late medieval Flanders depicted the Virgin Mary sitting in thrones hung with Oriental damasks, Oriental carpets beneath her feet.

That Oriental carpets would inspire Christian artists as seemingly different as Eadfrith of Lindisfarne and Jan Van Eyck is not happenstance but a sign of shared principles. In my religious drawings, I try to show the affinity of Northumbro-Irish art and International Gothic, combining elements of both.


Works quoted or referenced:

Emile Mâle, The Gothic Image: Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century, translated by Dora Nussey, (New York: Icon Editions, 1972).



08 May 2017


Part 1 of 8 of the Lecture Gold out of Egypt, which I first delivered on 20 April 2017 at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Good evening. Happy Easter to you all.

I say this assuming that you acknowledge this past Sunday to have been the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Were I delivering this talk in seventh-century Northumberland, I might not have assumed this, for the calculation of the date of Easter was then a controversy. Discord between two groups of missionaries over it threatened the survival of Christianity within the newly and incompletely converted kingdom. The first mission came from Ireland by way of Scotland; it had established the monastery at Lindisfarne and followed the practices of St. Columba. The newer mission was sent from Rome by St. Gregory the Great; its monasteries at Wearmouth and Jarrow were only forty miles from Lindisfarne.

In principle, both missions celebrated the Resurrection on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox, as the Council of Nicæa had mandated. This method of calculation is beautifully simple; it involves the sun, the moon and the seven-day week: the three means of telling time established by God at the Creation of the World. In a fallen world, however, things are seldom beautifully simple; what is correctly reckoned to be the first Sunday, or the first Full Moon, or the Vernal Equinox was disputed.

In AD 664, King Oswy of Northumberland convoked a synod at Whitby to settle the matter. Colman, the Bishop of Lindisfarne, argued:
The Easter that I keep I received from my elders, who sent me hither as bishop; all our forefathers, men beloved of God, are known to have kept it after the same manner. This may not seem to any contemptible or worthy to be rejected.
Wilfrid of York, speaking for the Roman mission, said:
The Easter that we observe we saw celebrated by all at Rome, where the blessed apostles Peter and Paul lived, taught, suffered and were buried. We saw the same done in Italy and in France when we traveled through those countries for pilgrimage and prayer. We found that Easter was celebrated at one and the same time in Africa, Asia, Egypt, Greece and all the world, wherever the Church of Christ is spread abroad, through the various nations and tongues, except only among these. Do you think that their small number, in a corner of the remotest island, is to be preferred before the Catholic Church of Christ throughout the world? Though Columba was a holy man and powerful in miracles, yet should he be preferred before the most blessed prince of the Apostles?
King Oswy, reasoning that it was St. Peter rather than St. Columba who held the keys to Heaven, ruled in Wilfrid’s favor. Colman returned to Ireland; the monks remaining at Lindisfarne accepted the royal decision.

Both Colman and Wilfrid are venerated as saints. The arguments that they presented more than thirteen centuries ago yet resound. Their disagreement was not merely over whether Easter should be celebrated this week or the next; it was over the root and the sway of religious tradition; over whether an outlying tradition should be conformed, and to what, and by what authority. Both claimed to uphold ancient custom; Wilfrid added to his argument the weight of universality and consensus, and the authority of St. Peter.


One of the greatest works of Christian art was made in this very setting of seventh-century Northumberland: an Evangelary written and illustrated at Lindisfarne just a few decades after the Synod of Whitby. Its pages contain some of the finest drawings ever made. Its scribe was the Saxon monk Eadfrith, who later became the Bishop of Lindisfarne. In matters of ornamental and calligraphic design, his work has never been surpassed.



Seeing a reproduction of a page from the Lindisfarne Gospels when I was about fourteen years old was a pivotal event in my artistic development. The impression was similar to that made on a 12th-century writer who studied a similar manuscript: You will make out intricacies so subtle and delicate, so exact and compact, so full of knots and links, with colors so fresh and vivid, that you might say that all this was the work of an angel, and not of a man. I tried for years to interpret this style; it took about fourteen before I was able to make what I consider a successful imitation.

Now, long after that, it is part of my artistic repertory; I can draw these patterns freehand. The Lindisfarne Gospels no longer seems to me like a thing that fell out of heaven. But I am just as fascinated to consider it as a thing made by men, to consider just how many different men, from how many different nations, were needed for such a work of art to be possible.

Consider the page from the Lindisfarne Gospels that displays the eighteenth verse of the Gospel of St. Matthew. The author is a Hebrew who probably wrote in Greek. The words are the Latin translation made by St. Jerome: Christi autem generatio sic erat cum esset desponsata mater eius Maria Ioseph. The first, Christi, is abbreviated as Chi-Rho-Iota; the letters are Greek, not Latin. Greek Christian scribes have always abbreviated certain holy names, or nomina sacra; Eadfrith did the same in this Latin manuscript.

He wrote the small letters in Insular Majuscule, a striking script invented by Irish monks. It derives ultimately from the uncial script invented by Christian scribes in Egypt who used curving Greek penstrokes to write Latin letters. Uncial was the first peculiarly Christian handwriting; the faithful throughout the Latin-speaking world adopted it to distinguish holy manuscripts from pagan literature.

The display capital letters of the Lindisfarne Gospels have an unmistakable resemblance to Germanic runes. Runes were known at Lindisfarne; they were even used to carve the nomina sacra on the reliquary casket of St. Cuthbert. Patterns of knots, spirals and keys; and interlaces of elongated beasts and birds decorate the manuscript. These are motifs from Celtic and Germanic art that predate the Christian missions.

The pages depicting the four Evangelists, however, resemble mosaics from Rome or Byzantium or Antioch. Eadfrith likely based their composition on pictures in an illustrated manuscript brought by missionaries from one of the Mediterranean urban centers of early Christianity.

It was through small, portable objects such as books that iconography spread; a missionary, obviously, cannot carry a basilica decorated with mosaics with him into the wilderness. He can carry a great many books containing a great many pictures. In the monastic art of Northern Europe, fascinating combinations of Hellenistic, Syrian and Byzantine tradition are encountered. The influences can be distinguished as late as the twelfth century, and vary from monastery to monastery. This is because their libraries held books from all over the Christian world, which served as models for the resident artists.

Cruciformally arranged ornament fills five pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Art historians call these carpet pages; one, Volkmar Gantzhorn, has proposed that they were inspired by actual carpets woven in Christian Armenia. Carpet pages appeared in Northumbro-Irish manuscripts about the time that Theodore of Tarsus arrived at Canterbury to become its archbishop in AD 669. Perhaps he carried, either in his memory or in his baggage, the tradition of the Oriental carpet as far as Lindisfarne.

Other scholars see in the carpet pages an imitation of Coptic art; several intriguing early medieval documents mention Egyptian monks living in Ireland. A Psalter from this time, lined with Egyptian papyrus, was pulled intact from an Irish bog eleven years ago.

The Lindisfarne Gospels is thus a work of sacred art to which Germanic, Celtic, Roman, Greek, Hebrew and possibly Armenian or Coptic Christians contributed. It pages illustrate the universality invoked by St. Wilfrid, whose words would have been fresh in the memory of the monks at Lindisfarne; here, at one and the same time, is the art of Africa, Asia, Egypt, Greece and all the world, wherever the Church of Christ is spread abroad, through the various nations and tongues. It was never more beautifully made than in a corner of the remotest island.


Works quoted or referenced:

Christopher De Hamel, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, (London: Phaidon Press, 1994).

Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, translated by LC Jane, (London: JM Dent, 1910).

Janet Backhouse, The Lindisfarne Gospels, (London: Phaidon, 1981).

Gerald of Wales, Topographia Hiberniæ, quoted in The Book of Kells: Selected Plates in Full Color, (New York: Dover Publications, 1982).

Marc Drogin, Medieval Calligraphy: Its History and Technique, (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1989).

Emile Mâle, Religious Art in France: The Twelfth Century, translated by Marthiel Matthews, (Princeton University Press, 1978).

Volkmar Gantzhorn, The Christian Oriental Carpet, (Tübingen: Taschen, 1991).



06 May 2017


For these three broadsides, I typeset short poems from the 19th century. The typefaces and ornaments are my own design. Please visit this web page to learn more about my typographic artwork.

Click on the thumbnail images to download the files; these are formatted as 300dpi bitmap images on 8 1/2" × 11" pages that can be printed and photocopied. I intend them to be trimmed to 8 1/2" squares.

See this web page for more free downloads.

The third poet featured, Lionel Johnson, is not especially well-known. I recently drew a cover for a new anthonolgy of his work edited by Robert Asch.



05 May 2017


Here are two pages of versals, taken from my own ink drawings. Click on the thumbnail images to download the files.


These are formatted as 300dpi bitmap images on 8 1/2" × 11" pages that can be printed and photocopied. They may be traced or imitated or used as clip art (for nonprofit purposes only) or coloring sheets.

More patterns are available for free download on my web page here.

I hold the copyright to these images, and I permit them to be downloaded, printed and photocopied only for the purposes that I describe. Printed copies must be distributed for free. If you want to use them in any other way, you must first receive my permission. Posting the images to a web log or sharing them on a social medium is encouraged so long as it links back to my web page.

I do not charge for downloading the files. However, a donation is suggested. This should be proportionate to the number of files downloaded and the number of copies made of them.

If you are unable to make a donation, I ask that you at least subscribe to my newsletter by e-mailing danielmitsuiartist at gmail dot com.


04 May 2017


Here is an interview from 2014, for Catholic Mom. I shall resume writing new content here tomorrow.

02 May 2017

01 May 2017

29 April 2017


I am taking a short hiatus from writing here, to prepare for some public lectures and exhibits. Please read my recent interview in the Catholic World Report.

19 April 2017


This is an excerpt from my Lecture Heavenly Outlook.

Not only sacred history and secular history, but even natural history is allegorical. To quote Emile Mâle again:
As the idea of his work is in the mind of the artist, so the universe was in the thought of God from the beginning. God created, but he created through His Word, that is, through His Son. The thought of the Father was realized in the Son through whom it passed from potentiality to act.... The world therefore may be defined as a thought of God realized through his Word. If this be so then in each being is hidden a divine thought; the world is a book written by the hand of God in which every creature is a word charged with meaning.... True knowledge, then, consists not in the study of things in themselves (the outward forms) but in penetrating to the inner meaning intended by God for our instruction, for in the words of Honorius of Autun, every creature is a shadow of truth and life. All being holds in its depths the reflection of the sacrifice of Christ, the image of the Church and of the virtues and vices.
Medieval authors produced books called bestiaries, herbals and lapidaries, in which the symbolism of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms are explained. It is from the bestiary that I know to surround a scene of the Resurrection with a whale, a phoenix, a pelican and a lion. According to one bestiary:
If the pelican has brought offspring into the world, when these grow up they strike their parents in the face. The parents strike back and kill them. After three days, their mother opens her own breast and side, and lies on her young, pouring all her blood over the dead bodies, and thus her love brings them back to life. So Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the author and originator of all creatures, begot us, and, when we did not exist, He made us. But we struck Him in the face; as Isaiah said: I have begotten sons and raised them up, but they have despised me. Christ ascended the Cross and was struck in the side; blood and water came forth for our salvation, to give us eternal life.
Of the lion, it says:
When the lioness brings forth her cubs, they come into the world dead. She watches over them for three days, until on the third day the father comes, blows in their faces, and awakens them to life. In the same way the Almighty Father awoke Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day, as Jacob says: He couched as a lion; who shall rouse him up?
The temptation, for a modern man, is simply to snicker at the zoological naïvety of these words; admittedly, no one has observed these behaviors in pelicans or lions in a very long time. But the authors of the bestiaries were working with the best knowledge they had, and their being mistaken in the details does not prove that their method of interpretation was fallacious. If we no longer find symbols of Christ in the behavior of pelicans and lions, is it because they are not there, or is it because we have ceased to look for them? Were we to embrace again a theophanic worldview, might not our current knowledge yield even more profound symbols?

At least one sacred artist of the twentieth century thought so. In 1911, the Spanish priest Felix Granda wrote:
Through the microscope we can see the infinitely varied microörganisms; more powerful images have never come to the imagination of the artist. Should we not take advantage of this immense arsenal of scientific data that they provide to us, to make richer and more varied our decorations, and to teach the truth contained in the verse of the Kingly Prophet: O Lord, Thy thoughts are exceeding deep!?
When I first read these words, they were especially resonant because I had already begun to incorporate microbiological forms in my ornament, and to consider their symbolic possibilities.

Works quoted:

Emile Mâle, The Gothic Image: Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century, translated by Dora Nussey, (New York: Icon Editions, 1972).

Bestiary, translated by Richard Barber, (London: The Folio Society, 1992).

Felix Granda, Mi Propósito, (Madrid: Talleres de Arte, 1911).



18 April 2017


These are detail images from my drawing and letterpress print of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Click on the thumbnail images to download the files; these are formatted as 300dpi bitmap images on 8 1/2" × 11" pages that can be printed and photocopied.


More coloring sheets are available here.
I hold the copyright to these images, and I permit them to be downloaded, printed and copied only for use as coloring sheets. Printed copies must be distributed for free. If you want to use them in any other way, you must first receive my permission. Posting the images to a web log or sharing them on a social medium is encouraged so long as it links back to my web page.

I do not charge for downloading the files. However, a donation is suggested. This should be proportionate to the number of files downloaded and the number of copies made of them.

If you are unable to make a donation, I ask that you at least subscribe to my newsletter by e-mailing danielmitsuiartist at gmail dot com.



17 April 2017


This broadside of the Resurrection measures 7" × 10". It is based on one of my ink drawings on paper. A scan of my drawing, slightly enlarged and modified, was used to create the plate for letterpress printing.

Christ steps from the open tomb with His right foot and raises His right hand in blessing; the right hand of Christ, in medieval art, represents divine mercy. As in most medieval depictions of the Resurrection, two chronologically distinct events (Christ’s rising from the tomb and the stone’s removal) are shown together; this was done to emphasize the stone’s signification of the Old Testament. Two angels assist in removing the stone, and another swings a thurible. Two soldiers sleep in the foreground.

I formatted the picture like a recto book leaf. The words RESURRECTIO DOMINI and ALLELUIA appear in the border, as do several ornamental plants and four animals that are traditional symbols of the Resurrection. According to the medieval bestiaries, the phoenix rises from its own ashes, the pelican revives its dead chicks by feeding them blood from a self-inflicted wound and the lion revives its dead cubs with its breath. The whale is from the story of Jonah, which was named as a prefigurement of the Resurrection by Christ Himself: For as Jonah was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

In the bas-de-page I drew an emblem of the Harrowing of Hell. Christ descends to the Limbo of the Pariarchs bearing His triumphal banner; He subdues Satan and assists Adam and Eve out of the Hellmouth.

Read more here.



08 April 2017


I have heard many times the claim that the Catholic Church should have great success in her New Evangelization, because Catholicism is a visual religion and contemporary society is also visual. But to call Catholicism a visual religion is a meager assertion; it is no more visual than any of a thousand kinds of paganism. It would be more accurate simply to say that human beings are visual animals. The visuality of Catholicism is only remarkable because the religion’s most obvious alternatives are rather inhuman. 

And contemporary society, judging by (for example) its reductive architecture, is not very visual at all. Its interest in visual things is almost entirely concentrated on television and computer screens; it is not any pictures, but specifically motion pictures, that interest contemporary man. Even the static pictures now ubiquitous (advertisements, posters, billboards) are meant to be seen while walking or driving or rapidly flipping pages in a magazine; they may not move, but their frame of reference does, which gives the same subjective result. In contrast, a study taken in 1980 indicated that most visitors look at a painting hanging in an art museum for about ten seconds. The same study, taken in 1997, lowered the time to three seconds. Contemporary man does not love pictures; he loves motion. 

Live-action motion pictures create the most convincing false reality yet devised by technology. The intensity of the imagery, the sophistication of the editing and the ever-more impressive special effects fill the modern mind with an inventory of powerful, nearly unforgettable images. Regardless of his life experience, every man now knows what a cavalry charge looks like. He knows what a dinosaur in the flesh looks like. He knows what an exploding planet looks like, even though no man has ever seen a planet explode. These images become the references for his visual imagination; when he pictures death, judgment, heaven or hell, he pictures something resembling a cinematic special effect he has seen. 

Traditional sacred art and traditional sacred liturgy are symbolic; to appreciate them, a man must recognize that his senses are unworthy of the greatest realities, and that hieratic and canonized types, arrangements and gestures are needed to suggest them. It is a logic entirely contrary to that of live-action motion pictures, which attempt to show anything and everything as it really (supposedly) looks. 


I believe that the influence of live-action motion pictures has contributed enormously to the iconoclasm of recent decades. I also believe that any lasting restoration of traditional sacred art and traditional sacred liturgy will only be possible if Catholics seriously consider and seriously restrict their use of the media of mass entertainment. This would entail removing televisions from our homes; and seldom (if ever) patronizing the cinema, thus reclaiming our imaginations from Hollywood. But it also would entail resisting the intrusion of this technology into new places, most importantly our places of worship.

This, of course, is an unpopular idea; the prevailing strategy of evangelization, even among traditional Catholics, demands that every important or impressive liturgical celebration be photographed, recorded, and displayed to as many as possible. And challenges to this strategy, like most discussions about technology, are quickly derailed by faulty analogies.

Whenever one man raises an objection to the application of a specific technology in a specific context, another inevitably will try to justify it by bringing up a beneficial application of a different technology in a different context. He will point out that there was opposition to this other, positive development; the first objection is thereby lumped together with every foolish dismissal in history.

But one situation does not always justify another. Introducing a television camera into the sanctuary is not the same as introducing a stained glass window or a pipe organ. These have their own properties and their own justifications. Using a television camera to broadcast a Mass is not the same as using it to monitor hallways for security.


Technologies are not moral or immoral per se, but neither are they without built-in biases and culturally bound assumptions; they are invented and developed by men according to their own ideas about the world. As Neil Postman, An articulate technological critic, wrote:
Embedded in every technology there is a powerful idea, sometimes two or three powerful ideas. These ideas are often hidden from our view because they are of a somewhat abstract nature. But this should not be taken to mean that they do not have practical consequences.

Perhaps you are familiar with the old adage that says: To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We may extend that truism... To a man with a television camera, everything looks like an image. To a man with a computer, everything looks like data. I do not think we need to take these aphorisms literally. But what they call to our attention is that every technology has a prejudice. Like language itself, it predisposes us to favor and value certain perspectives and accomplishments... The television person values immediacy, not history. And computer people, what shall we say of them? Perhaps we can say that the computer person values information, not knowledge, certainly not wisdom. Indeed, in the computer age, the concept of wisdom may vanish altogether.

Every technology has a philosophy, which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards. This idea is the sum and substance of what the great Catholic prophet Marshall McLuhan meant when he coined the famous sentence: The medium is the message.
What, then, are the ideas that a television camera and the live-action motion pictures that it produces suggest?


One is that every man is entitled to a privileged view of events. The technology’s purpose is to make things visible and audible to a man who otherwise would not be able to see or hear them, to bring him to the action via the camera and the microphone, which stand in place for him and act as his eyes and ears.

Watching motion pictures creates a sense of entitlement in the spectator. He feels cheated if obstacles remain to his seeing or hearing what is happening - trees blocking the camera’s field of vision, for example. He expects the directors and editors and cameramen to avoid or remove these sorts of things, to give him unobstructed views, zoomed-in shots of important actions and clearly enunciated speech.

The more he watches motion pictures, the more accustomed he is to these production values; when this same man attends Mass, the expectation to observe and understand everything very often comes with him. When it does, the silent Canon, untranslated Latin, ceremonial veiling, a priest with his back to the people, the idea that there are important things he is not supposed to see or hear, all become offensive. Motion picture technology creates a cult of accessibility, and this even more than ideology has caused liturgical tradition to be despised.

Marshall McLuhan perspicaciously blamed the loss of Latin liturgical language on the introduction of the microphone into the sanctuary. After resisting for five centuries the Reformational idea that Mass was something to be heard, Catholics at last embraced the all-hearing principle as a result of expectations changed by technology. A century earlier, in his Treatise on Chancel Screens and Rood Lofts, AWN Pugin predicted the eventual end of traditional church architecture due to the rise of an all-seeing principle:
If religious ceremonies are to be regarded as spectacles they should be celebrated in regular theatres, which have been expressly intended for the purpose of accommodating great assemblages of persons to hear and see well. It has been most justly said, that there is no legitimate halting-place between Catholic doctrine and positive infidelity, and I am quite certain that there is none between a church built on Christian tradition and symbolism and Covent Garden Theatre with its pit, boxes and gallery.
Nothing has done more to entrench the all-hearing, all seeing, all-understanding principle in the modern mind that the media of mass entertainment. Watching live-action motion pictures also trains men to observe phenomena in a specific way; the important things to notice are those that move, and move within a defined, rectangular area; anything else is ignored. Minds so formed, when taken to Mass, do not see statues or icons as things themselves revelatory, but regard them like potted plants to the side of the television set. They are apart from the action, so they are unimportant. If they are noticed at all, they are distractions that ought to be removed.

I remember once watching a Mass, celebrated ad orientem on an elaborate Baroque altar, on television. I noticed that the consecration was filmed from the very front of a loft in the church’s south transept; it was obvious that efforts were made to find an angle from which the cameraman could get an unobstructed, zoomed-in shot of the host on the high altar. To show the consecration from a privileged angle negates the entire purpose of ad orientem celebration. Without touching a thing, the television camera turned around the altar and pushed aside the priest, making visible everything that tradition saw fit to hide. The dissonance was jarring.


Psychologically, men relate to live-action motion pictures differently than to other media; the combination of sound, image and movement so effectively engages our two most powerful senses that we attribute a greater sort of reality to it. This is revealed in the way we talk about television. A man will say that he saw the World Series, or the Vice Presidential Debate, when he actually just saw a television broadcast of it. He would not speak this way had he seen a drawing or a painting or a theatrical reenactment of the World Series, or the Vice Presidential Debate.

Even the rhetoric surrounding the televising of the Mass is revealing. How wonderful, someone says, that people who live in remote areas, who are sick or homebound, now have access to the Mass! But no, no they do not. There is no legitimate halting-place between attending Mass and not attending Mass. Watching television is not attending Mass. At best, it is an aid to devotion, something like reading a hand missal at home; at worst it is mistaken for the real thing.

Live-action motion pictures suggest the idea of a virtual reality: that experience, understanding and communion can be achieved by means of a technological approximation. It suggests that to see a thing is merely to receive through the eyes a certain arrangement of light waves, and that to hear a thing is merely to receive through the ears a certain arrangement of sound waves; and that these can be provided by a machine as well as by the thing itself.

I can think of few ideas more damaging to the important distinctions between substance and form that underlie traditional Catholic philosophy and theology, and few ideas that do more to inculcate the error of Descartes, by which the physicists’ model of the universe (an abstraction of hurrying quantities and extensions) is mistaken for primary reality itself.


The costs of introducing a new technology are not easy to predict or measure, and they may be irreversible by the time they are noticed. They may even go unnoticed, and for that reason, go untallied against the benefits. But they have the potential to alter the way we think, to redefine the very meaning of the words we use to express our most important beliefs.

By saying this, I am not arguing against all innovation; I readily acknowledge that television cameras and live-action motion pictures have fruitful applications that give real benefits. But sanctuaries must be allowed to remain, places and times where the innovation is not welcome, so that the wisdom and worldview reflected in the displaced ways, and the skills and habits fostered by them, are not forgotten. We may not realize just how important these are until they are forever lost. As we allow the technologies of mass entertainment to intrude into more and more aspects of our lives, we cease to remember what it was like to inhabit a world without them, and our bonds with that world, the world of our spiritual forefathers the saints and apostles, are weakened.

When St. John wrote the beginning of his Gospel, he had an idea of what a word was. It was something spoken, or something written, or something thought. Now, centuries later, our basic idea of a word is just as likely to be something on a computer screen that can be clicked on and dragged about a document, or erased with a keystroke. How can we understand what St. John meant when he said that in the beginning was the Word, when our idea of a word is something that St. John never knew? If motion pictures create in us different habits of seeing, and different definitions of seeing, how can we understand what he meant when he said that we saw His glory? We live in a semantic anarchy where words have ceased to have commonly agreed upon meanings. In such a world, an ordered and traditional context is needed for assertions of belief to have any meaning at all.

Because of this, there is no more important place and time of sanctuary than the literal sanctuaries of our churches, for it is here that the stakes are highest. Here, if nowhere else, we must reject those things that estrange us from the experience we share with the saints, in our common rituals of worship. If we introduce something that they would have found incomprehensible, we may soon find that the estrangement is mutual, that we no longer understand them either.



07 April 2017


At 7:00 in the evening of 20 April 2017, I shall deliver a lecture at Hope College in Holland, MI, as a guest of the St. Benedict Institute. More details can be read here.

The official description of the lecture:
Gold out of Egypt: Christian Art and International Influences

The Apostles of Jesus were instructed to go teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. In every nation, Christianity has encountered a different culture, and worked to establish its own belief with it. Catholic artist Daniel Mitsui will discuss the ways in which the conflicts and concords between religions, cultures and nations are expressed in Christian religious art.

Mitsui also will examine the ways, historically, in which Christian artists have claimed elements of Classical and Islamic art as their own; will argue the necessity of their continuing to seek inspiration from foreign art; and will discuss the dangers of treating the art of a single nation or culture as the basis of Christian æsthetic identity.

At 2:00 in the afternoon of 7 May 2017, I shall speak at the Komechak Art Gallery of Benedictine University in Lisle, IL, to open an exhibit of my work that will run from 8 May to 29 July 2017. More details can be read here.

06 April 2017


Part 10 of 10 of the Lecture Invention and Exaltation, which I first delivered on 14 September 2015, to open an exhibit of my artwork at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Page from a 42-Line Bible printed by Johann Gutenberg, illustrated by hand

In the fourth century, St. Paulinus of Nola recorded that the portion of the True Cross kept in Jerusalem had a miraculous property; no matter how many pieces were broken from it, its size did not diminish. St. Cyril of Jerusalem compared it to the loaves and fishes that fed multitudes and left over basketfuls. John Calvin famously scoffed that if all the pieces of wood venerated as fragments of the True Cross were collected together, they would make a big shipload. There are studies refuting this claim, but if the old Catholic tradition is to be believed, it might be correct! I doubt that the explanation would satisfy Calvin, a man determined to see fraud; but even he must admit on Biblical evidence that we live in a world in which these sort of things happen.

In another way, relics are inexhaustible even when the Law of Conservation is not miraculously suspended. Catholic tradition maintains that their virtue can imparted through contact. Things that touch the relics of Our Lord’s Passion or the mortal remains of the saints become relics themselves, although of a lower class. When I speak of the virtue of a relic, I do not mean a magical property that works independently of the will of God (for the working of miracles is proper to God alone), but rather the quality that sets it apart from an ordinary piece of wood or bone or cloth. That distinction is real enough to terrify demons.

In the Middle Ages, the faithful believed that this virtue could also be transferred optically; where the relics were inaccessible to touch, pilgrims held up mirrors to reflect them. The mirrors were then carried homeward, and treated as relics of a lower class.


The Cathedral of Aachen is home to four relics of particular distinction: the dress worn by the Blessed Virgin Mary on the night of the Nativity, the Holy Infant’s swaddling cloths, the fabric used to wrap the head of St. John the Baptist and the loincloth worn by Jesus Christ on the cross. Since the fourteenth century, these have been displayed at septennial jubilees, unfurled from the gallery connecting the cathedral’s belfry to its octagonal dome.

In anticipation of the jubilee of 1439, a clever silversmith began to manufacture quantities of pilgrim mirrors, convex ones that could reflect a panorama. He had partners in this enterprise; all were disappointed when the jubilee was postponed due to plague. At a loss for money, the silversmith offered to share with two of his partners another idea, one that he had been developing in secret. They listened, doubled their investments, and set to work on the confidential endeavor. That endeavor involved the making of tiny metal letters that could be arranged into text; a viscous oil-based ink; and a press like that used by vintners and bookbinders, but adapted to the purpose of printing on paper, an art that previously had been done through manual pressure. The silversmith’s name was Johann Gutenberg.

Indirectly, the cult of relics gave Gutenberg his funding. I think that it gave him also the idea for the printing press itself. Consider the mechanism of a printing press: a matrix - which might be a wooden block with a holy picture carved in its surface, or a Biblical text set in forty-two lines of metal type - is inked, and touched to a different object, a piece of paper. Through touch, the matrix makes the paper into something like itself. The process can be repeated with practically no exhaustion of the matrix. Every printer knows that typeset text must run backwards; when printed, images are reversed, just like things reflected in a mirror.

Gutenberg believed that relics can impart their virtue through contact and reflection. In the years when he conceived his printing press, this was at the forefront of his mind, as was the problem of sharing this virtue among great multitudes; we know this as a fact of history. What Gutenberg invented was a technological metaphor for pilgrimage.

In fact, many printed sheets of the fifteenth century were distributed as pilgrim souvenirs; they served the same purpose that pilgrim mirrors did. They served the same purpose served earlier by holy oil flasks and stamps for eulogia bread dough - stamps that were themselves, in fact, tiny manual printing presses. Later scholars gave to the printed books of the fifteenth century the name incunabula; how fitting this is! Incunabula is the Latin word for swaddling cloths, and the Holy Infant’s swaddling cloths were among the relics exhibited at the Aachen jubilee.