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The Sacred Art Of René de Cramer

Source: Deacon Lawrence via

Reprinted with permission.

I often think that one of the most overlooked periods of sacred art is the early 1900s. Christian artists of that period had a deep respect for tradition but were nit afraid to adapt traditional forms to contemporary needs. If anything their work displays a logical progression in the development of Christian art before art took a downward spiral into endless “-isms.”

Bruno-René de Cramer , known as René de Cramer , was born on December 27, 1876 in the town of Aalter, Belgium into a Catholic family. He was a painter, illustrator and engraver. He trained at the Saint-Luc school in Ghent, and later became one of its teachers. His success led him to work for clients in Belgium , France and Luxembourg.

The Saint-Luc schools were founded by Jean-Baptiste Béthune . Their mission was to form a network of Catholic schools to train artists and craftsmen to work for the artistic and religious renewal of society through the neo-Gothic style .

Here he learned drawing, painting, modelling, sculpture, and copper work but also the history of art and the evolution of styles. He distinguished himself by winning several prizes (first prize in the seventh year of painting and prize of the Guild of Saint Luke and Saint Joseph in 1898, grand prize in 1899 with Achille Ladon)

During his studies, he became interested in the Art Nouveau and pre- Raphaelite movements, which had a great deal of influence on his later works.

He quickly began a career as a painter and decorator, particularly for churches. In 1921, he provided illustrations for the missal of Dom Gaspar Lefebvre , a Benedictine monk. This is perhaps the work for which he is best known today. This “Daily and Vesperal Missal” can be considered one of the most important books in the life of the Catholic Church in the first half of the 20th century. In the years that followed, he continued to collaborate with Gaspar Lefebvre and to illustrate books or documents related to the work of the Benedictine monk: “The Liturgical Apostolate”.

He died in Ghent on November 22, 1951.

De Cramer was an eclectic artist. His works shows influences of neo-Gothic, pre-Raphaelite, art nouveau, symbolists, orientalists and finally art deco. He created paintings, frescoes, designed mosaics, drew tourist or commemorative posters as well as a large number of illustrations. He created triptychs and altarpieces , war memorials , and stained glass windows..

Many of his works are collaborations with his artist friends like Frans Coppejans or Oscar Sinia,

His religious works show a deep spirituality, a great knowledge of Christian art through the centuries, and keen theological insight.. They are also often didactic in nature, de Cramer thought that art could be used to teach the Catholic faith. His colors are bright and soft. His figures, when they are not taken up with dramatic movement are filled with serenity and contemplation.

Unfortunately, many of his works have not survived world wars, changes in tastes, and the liturgical reforms following Vatican II.

Here are some of his works outside of his illustrations for the Dom Gaspar Missal:

The Virgin giving the rosary to Saint Dominic (circa 1905-1910?) – sold at auction in 2018
Basilica of Lisieux, mosaic, the beatitudes
Basilica of Lisieux, mosaic, the beatitudes
Basilica of Lisieux, mosaic, the Trinity
Basilica of Lisieux, mosaic, the apotheosis of Thérèse
Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Adoration of the Lamb
Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, The Trinity, fresco above the high altar
Mary, Undoer of Knots, © Lawrence Klimecki

Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at

Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at and can be reached at

For more information on original art, print and commissions, Please visit

Header image: René de Cramer via