Italian Renaissance Art, My Bucket List And The Protestant Reformation

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The Holy Family by Botticelli

During my freshman year of college, I took an overview class on Italian Renaissance art (fall semester) followed by a class on High Renaissance art (spring semester). I loved all of it, and developed a desire to visit Florence and Rome to see some of the pieces I’d studied in person. Especially Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

Shortly after moving to the Greater Boston Area to marry John, complications from my disability curtailed my ability to travel. Providentially, however, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has hosted several exhibitions of Italian Renaissance art, allowing me to see works by Titian, Tintoretto, Donatello and even sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo! Last month we saw an exhibition of Botticelli which also included works by Fillippo Lippi and Verrochio.  Okay, not everyone’s cup of tea, but I praise God for bringing these artists to my doorstep.

Therefore I’ve been content about never visiting Italy. That contentment has grown as I’ve learned more about the Protestant Reformation and the events that led Martin Luther to post his 95 Theses.

As I’ve explained in numerous blog posts, Luther protested the selling of Indulgences, Pope Leo X’s primary means of financing the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Basilica, offended that the Roman Catholic Church preyed on the fears of poor people by propagating the unbiblical notion of Purgatory. Terror stricken peasants eagerly purchased Indulgences in hopes of minimizing time in Purgatory, never realizing that Christ completely paid  for the sins of all who believe in Him.

In other words, Rome exploited the fears of people who believed their false doctrine of Purgatory for the purposes of financing Saint Peter’s Basilica. Really comprehending that horrible fact made me kind of glad that I can’t go to Rome. It sours my taste for seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling (though I might enjoy his Last Judgment fresco, in which he put Leo X in hell).

A couple days ago, however, John and I watched a YouTube video called Introduction to the Life of Martin Luther on Bruce Gore’s channel. Gore reiterated the account of Luther being grieved by the sale of Indulgences, mentioning the role of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Then he remarked that Protestants can enjoy the Basilica as the catalyst for our Protestant heritage.

Although I still feel content with the marvelous Italian Renaissance art that the Lord has brought to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, I greatly appreciate the perspective Bruce Gore articulated regarding Saint Peter’s Basilica. Though I’ll only see it through books and Internet articles, I’ll know that God used the evil means of financing that building to bring about the Protestant Reformation. Doesn’t He do all things well?

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