Czarny Pies's Reviews > Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King
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bookshelves: european-history
Recommended for: Those in need of entertainment. It's a hoot.

Although balderdash from cover to cover, Ross King's "Pope's Ceiling" is wildly entertaining. I heartily recommend it to anyone planning to visit Rome in the next twelve months. However, muddled the facts may be, the text is clear and easy to follow making the book ideal for reading on a long trans-Atlantic flight.

The thing that set my teeth on edge (Jeremiah 31:29) was King's decision on page 203 in a discussion of five medallions of the Sistine Chapel fresco modelled on a recent printing of the Book of Maccabees was to say that the Book of Maccabees were Apocryphal and hence of doubtful provenance. Despite the dominant role of the Roman Catholic Church in the commissioning of works, Ross King like most experts on the art of Renaissance Italy appears to know remarkably little of the Christian faith. The 14 books of the Apocrypha have been included in the Bibles of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Coptic churches since the second century and remain there to this day. It was not until the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century that that their validity was challenged. Michelangelo being a good Catholic drew heavily from the Apocrypha. In addition to the medallions mentioned by King, Michelangelo's fresco includes panels based on passages from the books of Esther and Judith that are also considered to be Apocryphal. King, however, does not mention that these two panels are linked to the Apocrypha either because he was unaware of the fact or did not wish to acknowledge how important the Apocryphal books were top Michelangelo.

King's sin however is one of ignorance. He is anything but anti-Catholic. King is clearly an admirer of Julius II the pope who commissioned the Sistine Chapel frescos. King in fact makes it clear that Pope Julius not Michelangelo was the driving force behind the whole project. In addition he lavishes praises on Pope Julius as a military commander, filling his books with stirring passages describing Julius rallying from his death bed to lead his army in battle against the enemies of Italy and the frescos. As a Catholic, I found these passages quite inspirational. Nonetheless, I have to think that Ross too readily accepted at face value the contemporary accounts of Julius' many near scrapes with death.

Take everything with a grain of salt but read this book nonetheless. It is wildly entertaining.
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Reading Progress

June 30, 2019 – Started Reading
June 30, 2019 – Shelved
June 30, 2019 – Shelved as: european-history
July 3, 2019 – Finished Reading

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