Thursday, May 4, 2017

Art historian Elizabeth Lev continues her look at Rome-based art that confronted the Reformation

By Elizabeth Lev
Caravaggio’s 1602 "St Thomas" remains the most compelling to deal with problem of doubt.
Like the sudden storms on the sea of Galilee, Rome was rocked by powerful gales of doubt after the Protestant reformation. Martin Luther’s rejection of penitential practice had taken place on Rome’s Holy Stairs when he decided that “the just shall live by faith.” In his wake, the Real Presence in the Eucharist was denied, along with the role of the papacy and the magisterium. Doubt brought darkness and loneliness, casting a pall over the Eternal City. There are few places where the Catholic Church responded as beautifully and compassionately through art than to the problem of doubt. The first space to actively address the problem of doubt in art was none other than St Peter’s Basilica. Built on the tomb of the first pope, Cardinal Baronius confronted the issue of doubt at the very threshold of the church. [link]
The culmination of the Roman Baroque saw the most perfect integration of St Thomas into church design, when St John Lateran commissioned a series of 14-foot tall statues of the apostles for the nave.