• “Intruders in the House. Modern Art, Sacred Space. Arantzazu, Assy, Audincourt, Rothko Chapel, Vence, 1950-1971”
  • Published by Fundación Museo Jorge Oteiza in collaboration with Kutxa, Obra Social
  • Authors: Jon Echeverría and Friedhelm Mennekes
  • 452 pages. €28

The destruction caused by two world wars was to have important consequences for relations between the Catholic Church and modern art. Many damaged churches had to be rebuilt and other new ones erected. In the resulting debate as to the most suitable style to be followed, a clear gulf emerged between the preferences of the Catholic Church and the most avant-garde movement in contemporary art.  “Intruders in the House. Modern Art, Sacred Space. Arantzazu, Assy, Audincourt, Rothko Chapel, Vence, 1950-1971” published by the Museo Oteiza in collaboration with Kutxa, analyses the aesthetic and cultural implications of this attempt to modernise religious art. It also looks at the controversies and prohibitions surrounding construction of the new Basilica of Our Lady of Arantzazu (1950-1969). The project, which involved artists such as Jorge Oteiza, Carlos Pascual de Lara, Néstor Basterretxea, Eduardo Chillida, Xavier Álvarez de Eulate and Lucio Muñoz, was a landmark in mid-twentieth century art and architecture.


The publication is divided into three parts. The first is a text, also entitled Intruders in the House, by Jon Echeverría (a researcher at the Universität der Künste in Berlin, whose doctoral thesis from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra was on Oteiza), makes an analytical and historical examination of the crisis of renovation of religious imagery.  If the Romanesque and Gothic are taken to be an expression of the specific characteristics or features of a given historical period, under what stylistic suppositions should the work of construction or reconstruction of churches in the twentieth century be undertaken? This sections analyses this problem faced by a sector of the Catholic church which fostered a profound debate on religious architecture, but also on the visual arts in general. During the period between the two world wars and, particularly from 1945 on, the issue of the nature of visual images and forms for new religious spaces sparked intense discussion inside and outside the church. At the centre of these debates, the study analyses a number of iconic projects, such as Notre-Dame-de-Toute-Grâce in Assy, Sacré Coeur in Audincourt and the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, promoted by some of the more progressive elements within the Church and carried out by leading modern artists, including Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Georges Rouault, Fernand Leger, Jacques Lipchitz, Marc Chagall, Germaine Richier and Jean Bazaine.

One particularly important project was the construction of the Arantzazu Basilica, which led to a prohibition from the Vatican’s Commission of Sacred Art on some of the artwork.

The second chapter of the book consists of an extensive selection of documents, most previously unpublished, relating to the process of constructing the basilica at Arantzazu, with accounts by the artists, the characteristics of the works and issues related to the Vatican ban.

The last section of the book is a piece entitled “The footprints of the spiritual in contemporary art” by Friedhelm Mennekes (director of the Kunst-Station in Cologne and expert on Beuys and religious art), in which he analyses the presence of the religious in the works of modern artists, and reviews and documents exhibition projects and international  publications on the subject published since 1980.