Lift Up Your Eyes

A course by Elizabeth Lev

Lift Up Your Eyes

Art, Elevation, & the Liturgy – a six part online course with Elizabeth Lev

This on-line lecture series explores the history of art in the context of the liturgy, specifically works designed to elevate the mind, heart, and spirit during the Mass. The class will study the glittering mosaics in the baptisteries and apses of Ravenna and Rome, the dazzling vaults and stained glass of the Gothic cathedrals, the triumph of linear perspective in Renaissance altarpieces, the majestic, raised altars of the Counter-Reform and the soaring Baroque baldachins. Learning about the construction, style and meaning of these objects, students will see how, over many centuries and in differing forms, art was used to enhance the experience of the Eucharist and evoke the mystery of the sacraments. Following these classes, participants will discover how beauty is an essential force for persuading the faithful during worship to look not down at the distractions of this world, but to raise our eyes and hearts to things divine. This course celebrates the great continuity from Byzantine glitz to Caravaggio’s shadows with the aim of sparking a discussion of how to draw the gaze of the faithful upward today.

About Elizabeth Lev

Elizabeth Lev is an American-born art historian with the good fortune to live and work in Rome.  She is a graduate of University of Chicago and University of Bologna and has taught at Duquense University, John Cabot Univeristy, the Angelicum, and Christendom College.

She has presented a TED talk on “The unheard story of the Sistine Chapel” and has appeared on many television and radio interviews, from ABC’s Nightline to the Today Show. She was featured in the series ‘MUSEUM SECRETS’ for History television, Brad Meltzer’s “Decoded” and was the host of “Catholic Canvas”, a 10-part television series on the art of the Vatican Museums, which aired on EWTN. In addition to these, Elizabeth has been a keynote speaker at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture Fall Conference for several years and is the 2018 CEC Myser Visiting Research Fellow at the Center.

When she is not teaching, Elizabeth can be found writing for multiple media and literary outlets including First Things, Sacerdos, and Inside the Vatican magazines, the College Art Association,  Zenit News Agency, and Aleteia.  She is the author of three books, The Tigress of Forli: Renaissance Italy’s Most Courageous and Notorious Countess, Caterina Riario Sforza de’ Medici, Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches with George Weigel, and A Body for Glory: Theology of the Body in the Papal Collections with Fr. Jose Granados.

Along with these many accomplishments, one of her proudest occurred in early 2016 when she and her husband became officially certified sommeliers through the Fondazione Italiana Sommelier.

Lecture I. 1 hr. Into the Light. This class looks at the earliest Christian constructions after Constantine’s Edit of Tolerance in 313. The first churches and baptisteries were decorated so as to emphasize the beyond, raising the eyes of the first converts from their bleak daily existence to the glory of Heaven. The baptisteries of Rome and Ravenna will be discussed, as well as the design of the churches of St John Lateran and San Vitale.

Lecture II. 1 hr. Ascendance and Transcendence. This class discusses the era of the Gothic cathedrals and their accentuation of height. The genius of engineering, the meticulousness of craftsmen and the theology of light combined to reawaken the gaze of the faithful towards the Divine. The churches of Chartres, Notre Dame de Paris, St Chappelle, and others will be analyzed in this lecture.

Lecture III. 1 hr. Narrowing the Focus. Here the great altarpieces of the Renaissance come into play, learning how the rediscovery of one-point linear perspective changed the way spectators interacted with art.  While this innovation did involve the beholder more directly in the sacred narratives, the changing viewpoints also reflected changing attitudes towards the sacred that would ultimately result in division. The work of Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Piero della Francesca and Raphael are examined in this lesson.

Lecture IV. 1 hr. Invisible made Visible The Counter-Reformation brilliance of Caravaggio, Barocci and the Carracci decorated the ubiquitous side altars and tabernacles after the Tridentine reforms. Striking composition, dramatic light effects and other tools from the proto-Baroque toolbox served to persuade the faithful of the confluence of earthly and divine in the sacraments.

Lecture V. 1 hr. From Di Cambio’s Ciborium to Bernini’s Baldacchino The importance of the altar in Christian art has been underscored by precious liturgical objects, reredos, jeweled frontals and spectacular masterpieces of painting and sculpture, but one of the oldest forms of altar ornament is the canopy. This lecture will discuss the history and development of this monumnt and well as some of its most spectacular exemplars.

Lecture VI. 1 hr. Redirecting the Modern Gaze To conclude this series, we will tackle the modern era, and artists like Dali and Matisse who engaged with the artistic problem of looking upward. This will look at modern church design with an eye to seeing how it addresses the liturgy and sacraments in our contemporary age.

The unheard story behind the Sistine Chapel by Elizabeth Lev


The Sistine Chapel is one of the most iconic buildings on earth — but there’s a lot you probably don’t know about it. In this tour-de-force talk, art historian Elizabeth Lev guides us across the famous building’s ceiling and Michelangelo’s vital depiction of traditional stories, showing how the painter reached beyond the religious iconography of the time to chart new artistic waters. Five hundred years after the artist painted it, says Lev, the Sistine Chapel forces us to look around as if it were a mirror and ask, “Who am I, and what role do I play in this great theater of life?” TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design — plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more. Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at Follow TED news on Twitter: Like TED on Facebook: