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‘The Vatican: All The Paintings’ Book Opens Up Religious Art Of The Vatican Museum

A new book by Anja Grebe celebrates the stunning art collection of the Vatican by featuring every Old Master painting on display. “The Vatican: All The Paintings” also includes images of sculptures, maps, and tapestries which span centuries of artistic genius.

If geography is destiny, it is only appropriate that the Vatican Museums hold one of the world’s greatest art collections. Home to masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian, the Vatican has always been a place sacred to the arts. The poetic and creative impulses of the hill beside the Tiber are revealed in its name: The ancient Romans called this modest eminence the Mons Vaticanus, a reference to the poets and seers, or vates, who dwelled there. For many centuries, popes, cardinals, and the religious orders were responsible for the realization of dozens of masterpieces. So many of the treasures in the collections of the Vatican Museums—gorgeously reproduced in Black Dog & Leventhal’s The Vatican: All the Paintings and clearly described by Anja Grebe—depict a vibrant and vivid view into a world of beauty and faith. Walking through the Vatican, or turning the pages of the book, we get an incomparable lesson in the history of art and a profound impression of the skill and passion of the artists, and of their wonderful “force of mind.”

— Introduction by Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling
Take a look inside with these gorgeous images:
Raphael: Raphael Rooms, The School of Athens
raphael rooms
One of the most famous paintings in the Raphael Rooms is the School of Athens representing philosophy and science, disciplines in which Raphael includes painting and architecture. It is in part an homage to some of the most important artists and scholars active at the papal court at the beginning of the sixteenth century, most importantly the architect Bramante, to whom Raphael owed his recommendation to Julius II. This painting, whose sophisticated perspective opens up a deep vista in the small room, represents an idealized gathering of scholars and artists from the classical world, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, and constitutes one of Raphael’s greatest achievements.
Michelangelo: Sistine Chapel, The Last Judgment (detail with Christ, The Virgin Mary and Saints)
last judgment
Michelangelo’s enormous painting unites some 390 persons around the central Christ figure, and almost all are naked. The work depicts the resurrection of the dead and their separation into the saved and the damned. While the saved souls ascend to heaven on Christ’s right-hand side, the side of the “just,” the damned descend to hell on his left. The nude figures, particularly the saints, offended many of Michelangelo’s contemporaries. The stern theologians at the Council of Trent denounced the fresco and commissioned painter Daniele da Volterra to paint vestments and fig leaves over some of the naked figures in 1565, a year after Michelangelo died. These alterations were reversed during the chapel’s restoration.
Pinturicchio: Borgia Apartments, Annunciation
The first room Borgia Apartments, the Room of the Mysteries of Faith, is decorated with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. The Annunciation of the Birth of Christ is the first in the sequence. Pinturicchio has painted the event, which according to the Gospel of St. Luke occurred in Mary’s house, in a palatial Renaissance-style interior closed off at the back by an architectural element resembling a triumphal arch. The Annunciation itself takes place in the foreground of this rigorously symmetrical fresco. Mary, wearing a blue mantle, kneels on the right and offers a humble gesture of greeting to the angel, who approaches her from the left holding a lily.
Giotto: Pinacoteca, Stefaneschi Polyptych
The Stefaneschi Polyptych is one of the oldest works in the Pinacoteca. It is closely tied to the history of the Vatican. The Florentine painter Giotto di Bondone completed this richly gilded double-sided work between 1320 and 1330 for the high altar of Old St. Peter’s. The polyptych was commissioned by Cardinal Jacopo Caetani Stefaneschi (ca. 1270–1343), whom Giotto portrays at the feet of St. Peter’s throne holding a detailed model of the altar on which the donor himself can be seen. This likeness is regarded as one of the first realistic portraits in the history of painting.
Leonardo da Vinci: Pinacoteca, St. Jerome
da vinci
This panel of St. Jerome is one of Leonardo da Vinci’s more enigmatic works. It was painted around 1482, the year Leonardo moved from Florence to the ducal court in Milan. It is not known why the highly innovative picture was never finished. It may be that the work failed to meet with the approval of a possible patron or that Leonardo’s own perfectionism led him to abandon it. From a contemporary point of view, the work is fascinating precisely because of its sketch-like state, as this affords an insight into Leonardo’s painting method. The work was only identified in the early nineteenth century—by the painter Angelica Kaufmann—as the work of Leonardo. It was acquired by Pius IX for the Pinacoteca Vaticana in 1856.
Raphael: St. Peter Healing a Lame Man, Tapestry
The healing of the lame man was St. Peter’s first miracle as an apostle. According to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter healed a crippled beggar by the door of the Temple with the simple words: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). Raphael sets the scene beneath the mighty twisted columns of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, whose form and decoration Pieter van Aelst has skillfully translated into tapestry. In the center column we see the act of healing taking place, with apostles St. Peter and St. John and the lame man. Raphael has chosen to depict the moment when St. Peter takes the beggar, who is sitting on the floor, by the hand and thereby effects the miracle.
Roman artist: Pio-Clementino Museum, Laocoön
In early 1506 a large marble sculptural group was discovered in the Esquiline vineyards. In his Natural History, the classical author Pliny the Elder (ca. 23–79 AD) describes the Laocoön as a work that is “to be preferred to all other works of painting and sculpture.” This sculptural group, acquired by Julius II in 1506, was one of the earliest works to be exhibited in the Cortile Ottagono and it remains among the most famous of all antique sculptures. Thought to have been made after a Greek bronze original, the group depicts the gruesome death of the Trojan priest Laocoön after warning his fellow citizens of the deception involving the Trojan Horse. Artists such as Michelangelo admired the realistic depiction of the play of muscles, shown here at the point of their greatest exertion, and the convincing facial expressions and gestures of figures in the throes of death.
Roman artist, Pio-Clementino Museum: Apollo Belvedere
The Apollo Belvedere is perhaps the most famous statue in the Vatican Museums and one of the best-known sculptures in the history of art. This figure of the antique god of the Muses and of war was discovered virtually undamaged at the end of the fifteenth century and put on display by Julius II in the Belvedere courtyard by 1508 at the latest. The larger-than-life-size statue depicts Apollo not as the art loving god of the Muses holding a lyre, but instead in a more martial pose. Disseminated in numerous reproductions, the sculpture has been regarded as the epitome of classical beauty ever since it was put on display in the Cortile Ottagono.
Etruscan goldsmith, Gregorian Etruscan Museum: Large Golden Fibula
This large solid-gold fibula, used to fasten its owner’s robes at the shoulder, is one of the most precious objects in the Gregorian Etruscan Museum. It was found in the socalled Regolini-Galassi tomb in a previously undisturbed necropolis at Cerveteri in 1836. Together with other richly decorated gold items that also found their way into the Vatican, the clasp formed part of the ceremonial dress of the deceased, who must have been a member of the highest aristocracy or even the royal family.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s Basilica: St. Longinus
st longinus
According to Christian legend, St. Longinus was the soldier who pierced the side of Christ on the cross with his spear (John 19:34). He is also identified with the Roman captain described in the Gospel of St. Mark as having acknowledged Christ’s divinity after seeing him die: “Truly this man was the son of God!” (Mark 15:39). Longinus was the subject of great veneration as the first pagan convert in the Catholic Church. Bernini sculpted the colossal statue of the saint, one of his most famous creations, for the Longinus pier between 1628 and 1638. St. Longinus stands in a contrapposto stance with widespread arms, symbolizing his readiness to embrace the Christian faith. The emotion and excitement of the saint at the moment of recognizing God is revealed through his ecstatic, upward gaze and the agitated folds of his mantle, which are also examples of Bernini’s mastery.
Pietro Perugino, Pinacoteca, Sala VII: Madonna and Child with Saints
The “Madonna and Child with Saints” is one of Pietro Perugino’s most beautiful paintings. Especially stunning is the virtuoso rendering of the sumptuous fabrics. Each figure is given an individual, almost portrait-like expression. The artist proudly signed his masterpiece on the footrest underneath the Madonna.

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Pope Francis tribute to Nelson Mandela

Pope Francis paid tribute to Nelson Mandela on Friday, as he joins the world in grieving the death of one of the world’s most ardent fighters for equality.
He sent a telegram to South African President Jacob Zuma that said:

It was with sadness that I learned of the death of former President Nelson Mandela, and I send prayerful condolences to all the Mandela family, to the members of the Government and to all the people of South Africa. In commending the soul of the deceased to the infinite mercy of Almighty God, I ask the Lord to console and strengthen all who mourn his loss. Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late President’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations. With these sentiments, I invoke upon all the people of South Africa divine gifts of peace and prosperity.

Pope Francis and Mandela shared a strong belief in the injustice of poverty. The Pontiff’s most recent apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” slammed the evils of unfettered capitalism and the world’s responsibility towards the poor, stating, “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”
Similarly, Mandela once said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
pope mandela
Nelson Mandela welcomed Pope John Paul II to South Africa in 1995, and was appreciative of their mutual concern for the poor, commitment to equality, and undying fight for liberation from oppression. On the occasion of Pope John Paul II’s funeral, Mandela said, “Pope John Paul II was a consistent voice articulating the need for moral regeneration and caring for the poor and marginalized.”

Obit Nelson Mandela

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Joseph Pearce – a critique by my niece, Clare Walker

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Daily News
Radical Conversion From ‘Racial Hatred to Rational Love’ (1627)
Book pick on Joseph Pearce’s autobiography Race With the Devil


Race With the Devil
My Journey From Racial Hatred to Rational Love
By Joseph Pearce
Saint Benedict Press, 2013
264 pages, $22.95
To order: saintbenedictpress.com
On Dec. 12, 1985, a 24-year-old radical white supremacist named Joe Pearce stood in the dock at the Old Bailey and was convicted of violating the British Race Relations Act. He was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
Four years later, on March 19, 1989, this same Joseph Pearce was received into the Catholic Church.
As a professional race-baiter, Pearce was known for his provocative articles and hell-raising speeches. As a Catholic public figure, Pearce is known for his “literary biographies” and has written about G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Hilaire Belloc, C.S. Lewis, William Shakespeare, and, most recently, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
Now, in an account of his own life, Pearce describes how this incredible transformation took place.
Pearce likens his early childhood in rural England to Tolkien’s Shire: innocent, idyllic, peaceful. But due to the negative influence of the adults in his life, by the time he was 15, racial politics had completely dominated his life.
He lied about his age to join the National Front (the leading white supremacist organization in Britain), and, that year, his photograph appeared in the local paper. “[T]o this day,” he recalls, “I remember the look of fanatical anger on my face. I had metamorphosed into a political extremist.”
Just before turning 17, Pearce became a full-time worker for the National Front: “I was now living every young radical’s dream of being a fully paid, full-time revolutionary, giving his life to the cause.” He stirred up hatred between white and black youths by inciting riots. He distributed racist literature at football stadiums. He scaled up his pro-British fanaticism by participating in demonstrations in Northern Ireland and joining the anti-Catholic Orange Order.
What eventually landed him in jail was his editorship of The Bulldog, the official newspaper of the National Front. In 1981, and again in 1985, Pearce was charged with “publishing material likely to incite racial hatred,” which in Britain is characterized as a “hate crime.”
He first stint in prison merely annealed his white, Anglocentric bigotry. But his second incarceration was different, because by that time he had discovered authors who challenged his racist worldview, including Solzhenitsyn, Belloc, and, most importantly, Chesterton.
“In reading Chesterton,” Pearce writes, “I was undermining my own most dearly held prejudices. … I realize now what I had no way of realizing then, that it was the combination of Chesterton’s eminently rational mind and his transparently virtuous heart that had captured and captivated me. It was the charm of goodness, the presence of goodness, the light of sanctity shining forth in the darkness, the life of love that can kill all hatred.”
This is an amazing conversion story. Joseph Pearce was truly a hard case, someone whose entry into the Catholic Church one would never dare predict.
But Pearce takes the trouble to weave into his story the small things that, with hindsight, make his conversion appear inevitable: his voracious appetite for books that led him to Chesterton and other Christian authors, his experiences of beauty in rural England and elsewhere that “baptized his imagination,” and small acts of kindness from strangers that struck him as remarkable, even in the midst of his angry-young-man period.
His inside look at radical movements is fascinating, as is the discussion of the books that formed him, for good and for ill.
Americans unfamiliar with British history may get a bit lost during certain sections, but these passages do not detract from the overall quality of the book.
Race with the Devil is a highly recommended and encouraging story of the power of God’s grace to change lives.
Clare Walker writes from Westmont, Illinois.
More Coverage

John F. Kennedy and C.S. Lewis: Where Are They
From the Bloggers

Tim Drake: The Infancy Narratives and The Hobbit

Filed under book pick, book review, clare walker, joseph pearce, race with the devil, racial hatred
CommentsPost a Comment
Posted by pjd on Saturday, Nov 23, 2013 4:02 PM (EST):
I recently read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only does it provide a better understanding of how many people are drawn into these radical racist groups, but it also shows how powerfully God can work in our lives in spite of it all. I highly recommend it.
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Religious Funeral


22 August 2013.    Why I, a non-believer,  would prefer a  religious funeral

Walter Humes

I have come to a surprising, and rather illogical, conclusion on the subject of funerals. My thoughts were prompted by my recent attendance at a service for a former colleague, which led me to reflect on the different types of funeral I have encountered over the years.

Most have been Christian in character (Protestant or Catholic) but a fair number have been secular. Some of the latter have been explicitly humanist, while others have resisted easy labelling, being conducted with greater or lesser formality by friends or relatives of the deceased. In one case there was a New Age element to the proceedings, with a mystical flavour to the readings and tributes.

The surprising feature of my conclusion is that, as a non-believer, I might be expected to prefer the secular version to the religious. But I find I do not. It is not simply a matter of having experienced impressive examples of religious services and unimpressive examples of non-religious ones. I have attended good and bad instances of both. I can recall cases of ministers and priests who have not done their homework and have shown little knowledge or understanding of the deceased, going through the motions in a routine fashion. Equally, I can recall cases of non-religious funerals which were badly organised and the tributes were ill-judged to the point of embarrassment.

What is it, then, that makes me prefer the religious to the non-religious? On any rational analysis, it is completely inconsistent. Partly it is a matter of tone and feeling. In my experience, there is a warmth and humanity about a well-conducted religious service that is not there in the secular version, which often comes across – despite the best efforts of the speakers – as cold and clinical. For many mourners, there is also comfort to be found in the familiar rituals of Bible readings, prayers and hymns.

It is true that nowadays the singing at funerals is often disappointing but, when there are a few good voices leading the congregation, it can lift the heart and spirit in a way that recorded music from a sound system cannot. Fortunately I have never had to endure a recording of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ as the coffin disappeared behind the curtains.

I suspect too that my experience of family funerals has been an important factor in my attitude. In the case of two elder brothers, who were not themselves church attenders, the services were conducted by the local Church of Scotland minister (who, unusually, had converted from Catholicism). His preparations were thorough and sensitive. He arranged to meet several members of the family to gain background information about the lives, work, character and interests of my brothers. At the services, he used this information to pay tribute to them in a way that captured the sort of men they were, citing events from their pasts, interspersed with touches of humour.

People who are not in the habit of speaking in public often do not realise just how difficult it is to strike the right note in situations such as this. The minister’s handling of both services demonstrated ‘the art that conceals art’, a skill that makes the carefully crafted seem natural and spontaneous. The whole family agreed that he could not have done a better job.

To date, I have not given much thought to my own funeral. I certainly have no wish to try to stipulate what form it might take – that strikes me as a form of vanity. I hope that there may be a decent turnout, though I suspect that some of those who might attend will be there to satisfy themselves that I have actually gone. Moreover, I would be disappointed if the service lacked a touch of irreverence and would have no objection if some of my faults received a mention in dispatches.

Excessively fulsome tributes, especially when their object is an important public figure, often strain credibility to the point where mourners begin to exchange sceptical glances. I would much prefer a smile of recognition when some dubious episode from my past is recalled.

I shall leave it to others to decide whether this would happen within a religious context, though I would fully respect any minister who declined to officiate on the grounds that I was a non-believer. (I tend to avoid using the words ‘atheist’ and ‘agnostic’ – the former because it strikes me as being too dogmatic, the latter because it seems rather like placing an each-way bet on a horse.) All I would hope for is that any sense of narrow denominationalism would be eschewed in favour of an open-minded recognition of what all human beings share as they face, or bear witness to, the end of life.

There is one final reason why I prefer funerals to have a religious dimension, even if I am lacking in personal faith and am unconvinced by the claims of ‘truth’ which are made for biblical authority. Whatever their failings – and they are many (particularly in their institutional forms) – the great religions have sought to respond to a deep need to explore the mysteries of the human condition, that sense of transcendence which is also captured in great literature.

The importance of that quest – even if it can never be fully achieved – is reflected in the way in which religion, over many centuries, has inspired some of the finest expressions of human aspiration through poetry, art and music. Simply to jettison that in favour of the crude reductionism of the secular seems an act of arrogant vandalism. I accept that my ambivalence lays me open to the charge of intellectual confusion. But the certainty of death, and the emotions that it inspires, resists purely intellectual explanations.

Walter Humes is a visiting professor of education at the University of Stirling

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August 24, 2013 · 14:48

Fr Dougal and “Cults”

Fr. Dougal McGuire: “God, Ted, I heard about those cults. Everyone dressing in black and saying our Lord’s gonna come back and judge us all!”

Fr. Ted: “No… No, Dougal, that’s us. That’s Catholicism”

Fr Dougal McGuire: “Oh right Ted”.

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