2021 Summer School

Online Summer School 2021

Theology of the Arts. Does the Church Need Art?

This summer we are offering a repeat of the 2018 one-week online summer school motivated by a significant question posed by Pope John Paul II in his Letter to Artists: Does the Church Need Art? Six lectures will examine current theological debate on beauty and the arts, and consider some of the challenges posed by a contemporary culture of image and sound to the Church’s traditional understanding of the function of sacred art. Hence, we will examine the historical teachings of the Catholic Church concerning architecture, pictorial art, music and literature, and explore ways in which individual art forms harmoniously unite with the worshipping community to create a beautiful house for the Lord.

The course consists of six recorded presentations by Michael Dunleavy OP. The six presentations become available each day, so on day one there will be access to one recording and on day two access to two recordings and so on. Participants can watch the lectures whenever suits them, and revisit lectures they have already viewed. It is very flexible as it is delivered entirely online from:

8-13 August and again from the 22-27 August.


Throughout the week participants can interact with each other and with Michael Dunleavy OP on our e-learning platform discussion forum. There will also be recommended readings on the platform. There will be a live Zoom discussion on the Tuesday evening following the week long course . No previous study of theology or art is required.

Michael Dunleavy OP

Fr Michael Dunleavy, OP

Michael Dunleavy OP is a member of the Irish Dominican Province. He studied theology at the Dominican House of Studies, Tallaght and the Angelicum University, Rome. Michael has always had a keen interest in music and the arts; and, in his Dominican ministry, has preached retreats and presented conferences on the theme of the beauty of the Christian faith as portrayed in masterpieces of art and masterworks of music.

Michael spent nine years in Rome at the Irish Dominican Community of San Clemente undertaking the roles of prior and bursar. The exceptional beauty of the Basilica of San Clemente, situated within the cultural and art-historical milieu of the city of Rome, was an inspiration for Michael to pursue further studies in the arts. He was awarded a BA (Hons) in Art History and Music from the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

Michael is currently completing a doctoral dissertation on the Dominican artist Fra Angelico, titled "Epiphanies of Beauty: Music Iconography and its Spiritual Meaning in Selected Paintings of Fra Angelico".


The following themes will be explored:

Lecture 1: Course Introduction & the Church’s Need for Art.

Lecture 2: The Aesthetic Experience: Sight and Sound

Lecture 3: The Way of Beauty as a privileged Way to God

Lecture 4: The ‘Bible of the Poor’ as Theological Text

Lecture 5: Blessed Fra Angelico, Patron of Artists and Dominican Preacher Extraordinaire

Lecture 6: The Way Forward – the Role of the Arts in Evangelisation

Cost €50, €40 for current students