Catholic churches in Europe host as many bones as a graveyard, with bits of saints and intact incorrupt bodies encased in glass and displayed on ornate altars.
Among the most tragic losses of the many antiquities destroyed in Iraq by ISIS has been the destruction of Iraq’s seriously understudied medieval architecture.
With Catholicism’s long connection with the arts, from Michelangelo making the Sistine Chapel a place of transcendence to the Vatican Museums’ huge troves of artifacts and art, it’s worth looking at how the incoming pope may feel about contemporary visual culture. Yet while the outgoing Pope Benedict XII was surprisingly open about art and even convened artists at the Vatican in order to improve relations, the prospects for Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who will now be Pope Francis (he’ll become Pope Francis I once there’s a Pope Francis II), seem less promising.
As the first Catholic Pope to resign from his position since Gregory XII in the 15th century, Pope Benedict XVI has startled the world with his announcement that he will step down by the end of this month. While controversially conservative (and much less benevolent-appearing than his predecessor the grandfatherly Pope John Paul II), the German-born religious leader did have an open mind at least in encouraging a renewed relationship between the Catholic Church and art, viewing the use of beauty as a path to the sacred.