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Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Church of Shame

[photo from Tripadvisor]

The church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, in Rome, is famous nowadays especially because of the elephant-and-obelisk monument designed by Bernini, placed in the little square in front of the building and, inside, because of the grave of Fra Angelico. Moreover, it contains the remains of St. Catherine of Siena. But inside the church a "scandalous" sculpture by Michelangelo (and disciples) is also kept, the Risen Christ. Scandalous since the Savior was completely naked, in fact a golden loincloth has been added, nor has it been removed even if the loincloths in Michelangelo's Last Judgment have.

But there is more to it. In this very building in November 1623 Giovan Battista Marino, in spite of the powerful friends he had in the circles of culture and international politics and even of the Church, before the eyes of the Apollonian Christ had to recant his long poem Adonis. Now, the logical object of the verb "to recant" is a theory or an idea, not a poem! The reason would be clearly expressed in 1627 by the head censor of the Papal State, Fr. Niccolò Riccardi, who charged Marino (who had died meanwhile) with irreligiosas hiperboles, profanum usum sacrarum vocum, "ungodly imagery, and the profane/blasphemous [read: erotic] use of religious terms." That was- - -  simply true, as we have seen in part, and will have many opportunities to see. But the opposite is true as well: a sacred use of profane terms.