The arts are an integral part of human experience. They enable people to express ideas, beliefs and feelings and to experience the world in ways they have not done before. The arts have played a central rather than a peripheral role in the development of civilisations. They form part of a complex structure of beliefs and rituals, and moral and social codes. The arts provide us with ways of looking at ourselves and of imagining our future. The visual arts often communicate more strongly than language, and frequently aim to make statements of a didactic or morally instructive kind.

Christianity and the Arts Linking Christian faith and theology with the arts is not something new. Christians have enjoyed a rich history of using the arts as a way of teaching and of bearing witness to the Christian faith. During the Middle Ages, the arts were specifically employed for their teaching or didactic functions and incorporated into daily Christian practice, instead of being isolated as a separate sphere of human activity. Artistic activity was highly valued because it expressed religious ideas through concrete forms like stained glass, stone, chants, hymns, paintings and plays. Cathedrals were the centre of community life where visual and aural images expressed people's understanding of God, good and evil, life and death. The creative arts, religion, and life were intimately related. However, as the arts became less prominent in the religious and secular rituals of the late Middle Ages, they lost their aura and began to accumulate an “aesthetic discourse and to acquire the status of an institution” (Jusdamis, 1991, p. 90).

The arts have always been an essential aspect of the language of the Christian tradition. Visual images, in particular, have provided the most immediate and direct communication of messages about Christian piety and the participation of human beings in Christian worship. The arts transcend the barriers of geography and language and, in a sense, offer an immediate form of instruction. Visual images representing the divine, scriptural and historical characters not only presented a model for the worshipper's attitudes and emotions but also provided an intensity of engagement designed to aid and improve prayer.

For illiterate people, the visual images on the walls and ceilings of churches were the primary ‘media' of instruction until at least the sixteenth century. For medieval worshippers who could not read, had scant catechetical instruction, and frequently could not hear in a large church, visual images both formed a major part of their religious initiation and informed their faith. The visual images of different historical periods record the developing nature of theology and point to changes in the artistic development of people. Many artists presented changes in theological teachings in the concrete form of their work of art.