Vatican Revives its Ancient Patronage of the Arts

Uncreation photo courtesy Pontifical Council for Culture (http://bit.ly/10lOLTr)

Uncreation photo courtesy Pontifical Council for Culture (http://bit.ly/10lOLTr)

For centuries, popes sponsored the work of artists such as Michelangelo, Raffaello, or Bernini, who went on to create some of their masterpieces within the very walls of the Vatican.

Yet over time, the marriage between art and faith grew stale — the Vatican’s culture minister even called it a “divorce” — with the Roman Catholic Church finding itself estranged from the art world it did so much to create.

Now, in a bid to revive its ancient tradition of arts patronage, the Holy See will participate with its own pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, a leading international arts festival.

On Sistine Chapel’s 500th, Foot Traffic Remains a Threat

altrendo travel / Getty Images

Painting on ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Creation of Adam, Vatican, Rome, Italy. Getty Images

VATICAN CITY — Exactly 500 years ago, on Oct. 31, 1512, Pope Julius II led an evening prayer service to inaugurate the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's newly-finished vault frescoes.

But as Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance masterpiece, the Vatican said the growing number of tourists who visit the historic site every year might eventually lead to limiting access to the chapel to help preserve the frescoes from human-born problems and pollutants.

“We could limit access, introducing a maximum number of entries,” wrote Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semi-official newspaper. “We will do this, if the pressure from tourism were to increase beyond a reasonable level and if we were to fail in resolving the problem efficiently.”

Paolucci stressed, however, that in his opinion such measures will not be necessary “in the short to medium term.”