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Born in images

5 May 2023 - 22 October 2023

In Western – Catholic – culture images are ubiquitous. Churches and museums are brimming with paintings, sculptures and stained-glass windows of Christ and the saints. But images were not always so abundant and accepted in Christianity. This exhibition takes us through the history of the image: from the first Christian images – abstract symbols – to the hundreds of portraits of Christ from the 16th century and later, and all of this in dialogue with the image – or rather lack of it – in Judaism and Islam.

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A complex relationship

Image and religion: for centuries they’ve had a complex relationship, one that is still a matter of debate and controversy, even today. A quick glance at current affairs immediately confirms the enormous impact images can still have. Just think of the murder of history teacher Samuel Paty after he showed his class Muhammad cartoons published by French magazine Charlie Hebdo, or of the destruction of images by IS, or even more recently of the ban on the poster of singer Demi Lovato lying on a cross.

What is an Image? What can it mean? And what is its impact? These are questions to which Christianity, Judaism and Islam have each formulated their own answers. And the role that images have played over the centuries still determines how we regard them today. But what if the image of them we had always had suddenly turns out to be wrong?