The Roman Catholic Church responded to the Protestant Reformation with the Counter-Reformation. Catholic Counter-Reformation Art was designed to communicate the distinctive tenets of the Catholic liturgy and faith so as to strengthen the popularity of Catholicism. It was launched at the same time as Mannerist painting was taking hold in Italy - a highly expressive style that used distortion for effect, as exemplified in Parmigianino's picture Madonna with the Long Neck (1535, Uffizi). Concerned that Catholic art was attaching too much importance to decorative qualities, and not enough to religious values - thus negating its educational effects on churchgoers - the Catholic authorities decreed that Biblical art should be be direct and compelling in its narrative presentation, which itself should be accurate rather than fanciful, and should above all encourage piety. Nudity, and other inappropriate imagery was banned. For an example of a pious Mannerist artsist who adapted his style in line with the Church's teaching, see: Federico Barocci (1526-1612).
In short, the sole purpose of Counter-Reformation art was to glorify God and Catholic traditions, and promote the sacraments and the saints. Thus Michelangelo's Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel was heavily criticized for its nudity, for showing Jesus without a beard, and for including the pagan character of Charon. Paolo Veronese's painting The Last Supper was (not unreasonably) attacked for including extravagant costumes, drunken Germans and dwarfs along with a huge crowd of people. In fact, Veronese simply side-stepped the issue by renaming the picture Feast in the House of Levi. Christian Gifts Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” ... Christian Canvas Art Only one major innovative example of Christian church architecture was built in Europe during the 19th century - the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona (1883), designed in a highly decorative neo-Gothic style by Antoni Gaudi. Celebrating the Holy Family and the mysteries of the Catholic faith, this extraordinary church with its tree-like formation of vaulted structures includes five towers and twelve campaniles. Made of stone and concrete, the building is embellished in parts with ceramic tiles, pompom finials and numerous sculptures, but is still not completely finished. Gaudi himself was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and was associated with the Catalan Modernista school. Christian Wall Art