Research Paper: Culture of St. Peter's Basilica

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[. . .] Those indulgences were instrumental in building and maintaining St. Peter's Basilica. Religion and money were closely tied during that time, just as religion and political power were closely tied. In short, Catholicism meant cash for those who were in control of it. To say that money was misused would be accurate, at least in some cases (Scotti, 58).

The creation of St. Peter's Basilica cost an enormous amount of money, and once built, the building had to be cared for and maintained. It would not have stood the test of time if that were not the case. The Basilica was an excellent representation of the Catholic religion at the time. Large and overindulgent, expensive to maintain and not necessary for true worship of a loving God, the Basilica represents the over-the-top nature that so much of Catholicism provided during that time in history (Scotti, 62). With the level of control the Catholic Church had, it was not surprising that it would build structures that would speak to that control -- and to the money that was coming in, often from people who could not afford it but felt they had no choice. To wrong the Catholic Church during that time was to be labeled on outcast and a heretic (Scotti, 63). That could get a person exiled, and could even get a person killed.

When Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the church, he was making a stand against things like the Basilica in the sense that he was making a stand against the indulgence and excess seen within the Catholic Church (Scotti, 73). Word got around that no one was to feed Luther, give him water, or allow him a place to stay. He could also be killed without consequence to the person who took his life (Scotti, 73). Although that never came to pass, the Catholic Church made it clear what could happen to people who did not work within its guidelines and did not believe in it as, essentially, all powerful and having a direct line to God. During that period of history, "good" Catholics did what the Church told them to, and did not question it (Scotti, 74).

The masses were held in Latin, so the laypeople did not even know what was being said. As the Church grew bigger, so did the buildings that were constructed in its name -- one of those being St. Peter's Basilica (Tafuri, 59). In theory, there was nothing wrong with large buildings that represented the value of the Church in society and that allowed large numbers of people to come together and worship (Tafuri, 60). It would seem as though both of those would be good things, but determining good or bad in that sense must be based on the reasons behind much of what was taking place, not just what was occurring. St. Peter's Basilica was an issue not because it represented the Catholic Church, but because of the price that was paid by the laypeople to have it built.

Conclusion

With everything it offers to the world and to Catholics in particular, St. Peter's Basilica is a reflection of the world during the 16th and 17th centuries. It does not reflect as much of the world as it is now, but is still considered to be highly significant in what it provides to those who study history and those who value it as a holy place. The Pope is there frequently, and because the church has been in existence for so long it is nearly unimaginable that it would not remain a popular and comfortable place for Catholics to gather. There are a number of historic associations that belong to St. Peter's, and that provides value to it as more than just a church or just a gathering place for those of the Catholic religion. Power, architecture, and religion all come together at St. Peter's Basilica, and it has been that way since the church was constructed. There is no evidence that will change.

The Catholic Church is still powerful, but not to the extent it once was, at least in most areas of the world. While there are many people who are still deeply committed to the power of the Church, there are also those who believe that religion should have its place -- and that place should not be at the top of the political ladder. In the 16th and 17th centuries, St. Peter's Basilica represented the overarching nature of the Catholic Church in many ways, including religious and political. It was (and still is) also an amazing representation of the architecture that was popular in the Late Renaissance period.

References

Bannister, Turpin. "The Constantinian Basilica of Saint Peter at Rome." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 27(1): 3 -- 32. 1968. Print.

Frommel, Christoph. "Papal Policy: The Planning of Rome during the Renaissance in The Evidence of Art: Images and Meaning in History." Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 17(1): 39 -- 65. 1986. Print.

Saint Peter's Basilica. Vatican City State. 2014. Web.

Scotti, R.A. Basilica: the Splendor and the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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