From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Raphael: Interfaith strokes for Vatican folks

The School of Athens
It is known for sure that the great Renaissance painter, Raphael, died on Good Friday (April 6, 1520).  His famous biographer, Giorgio Vasari, said that Raphael was also born on Good Friday (April 6, 1483).

It’s no wonder, then, that Raphael became one of the Vatican’s foremost artists.  His greatest works can be found in the Apostolic Palace, the official Vatican City residence of the Roman Catholic Pope.  These works include four frescos in the Stanza della Segnatura (Room of the Signatura, then-Pope Julius II’s library
where most papal documents were signed). 

According to Wikipedia, the themes of these frescos (theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, poetic arts) reflect the themes of the papal library at that time.  Antiquity and Christianity were depicted as being harmonious with one another.  Greco-Roman deities such as Apollo and the Muses gaze across the room at Jesus, Mary, and Moses (to name a few).

From an Interfaith perspective, this pales in comparison to Raphael’s most famous work of all – The School of Athens.  The title is a bit misleading - for this fresco portrays a gathering of sages from a multitude of
wisdom traditions.  Sure, Plato and Aristotle are center stage (with Socrates not too far away) – yet Averroes and Zoroaster have also allegedly dropped by.

For all this variety to be displayed – nay, proclaimed – on the mantelpiece (so to speak) of a major faith tradition is a High Renaissance ideal to be remembered. Regarding Raphael’s overall work in the Stanza della Segnature, Wikipedia concludes:  The theme of this room is worldly and spiritual wisdom and the harmony which Renaissance humanists  perceived between Christian teaching and Greek philosophy.


Copyright April 6, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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