Monday, February 09, 2004

Renaissance Spin 

The Renaissance pope, Julius II, was equal to anyone today in the craft of spin. At least, that is my conclusion from reading a wonderful history of Michelangelo and his painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

This book is worth your time. It is Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King (Penguin Books).

How did the Pope buff his image? He kept a preacher by him who was skilled in finding passages in scripture that foretold this Pope was to be the salvation of Italy, of the Church, of (name here). He was careful to have his portrait painted into some of the finest frescoes ever done. (His house painter, Raphael, was eager to oblige.) He saw himself as the embodiment of the revival of Rome as a powerful city and stop for pilgrim tourists. (Rome was a garbage pit at the time.) He was one of the only popes to command an army, attack in battle and project his image as a "warrior." (He wasn't much of a general or anything else militarily.) He spent vast sums on the arts to make the Vatican look pretty and the artists he hired were only too eager to pay homage.

Much of the great art at the Vatican today stems from this pope. So, he has a place in history because of that. He also has a place (in the opinion even of some contemporaries) in hell. Modern popes do not resemble him thankfully. But, there is a lesson in his art of personal publicity.


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