Raphael's Portrait of Pope Julius II
Raphael, Portrait of Pope Julius II, 1511, oil on poplar, 108.7 x 81 cm
(National Gallery, London)
Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
Pope Julius was a very ambitious man who realized that he could use the arts to increase his own prestige and power and also the prestige and power of the church.
He is responsible for commissioning the following:
1. He commissioned Michelangelo to sculpt his tomb. Michelangelo completed several figures for this important and ambitious project, including Moses and the Slaves.
2. He commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In fact, Michelangelo refused several times, until at last the Pope absolutely insisted.
3. He commissioned Raphael to paint frescos in several rooms in the Papal palace (that place in the Vatican where the Pope lives and works), including the School of Athens.
4. He commissioned Bramante to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica (notice I said re-build). This church, located in the Vatican, is THE central church of the Catholic Church. At the time when Julius II was pope, there was an old church of St. Peter that was rather run down. Parts of it dated back to the 5th century. Pope Julius II decided he wanted an entirely new church. In fact he reportedly asked Bramante to design for him the biggest and most beautiful church in all of Christendom.
Why did Pope Julius II do all this?
He was motivated by several factors:
1. He wanted to increase the power and prestige of the papacy and the Church
2. He wanted to restore the city of Rome to its former glory. Remember that the city of Rome had once been a magnificent capital of an entire empire
It is important to remember that at this time in history, Popes are more like Kings than the way that we think about Popes these days. They had political as well as spiritual ambition, commanded armies, and lived rather luxurious lives. They often had mistresses and illegitimate children. This will all change when Martin Luther questions some of the practices of the Church in his 95 Theses and begins the Protestant Reformation.
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