December 13: buon giorno, baroque!
2012/12/13 § 1 Comment
On this date in 1545 the Council of Trent began.
The meeting was called by Pope Paul III as an effort to mend fences after all that unpleasantness with Luther and the cathedral doors and the excommunications and everything, while condemning those actions which could only be understood as heretical. Imagined as a way to reform the church reasonably, and re-establish its preeminence in the midst of criticism, the Council sparked the most emotive period of Catholic art and architecture. Accepting some of the Protestants’ protests, the Catholic hierarchy emerged with new rules about such items as priestly behavior and education, but unwilling to abandon certain principles of the faith. Among them was the position of the saints, which was, in the years following the Council, emphasized to a tremendous degree. The early Renaissance focus on head-thinking was replaced by Baroque heart-feeling, even gut-wrenching, identification with the saints, whose narratives became best-selling literature. Believers not only knew the parameters of a saint’s story, they now expected–and desired–to understand them through more visceral means. Buon giorno, Caravaggio! and Gentileschi! Bernini and Borromini! and all the other artists and architects who enveloped worship spaces with golden domes, bright-colored marble and filled them with levitating saints and zooming putti, and canvases dripping with ecstatic scene of torture, to draw the faithful into a stirring experience of superlative everything.
Image: S. Andrea al Quirinale, Bernini (Clio’s)