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Art and Architecture of the Baroque

The Protestant Reformation had many causes. These varied from the abuses of indulgences in the Church to the opulence of the popes during the Renaissance period, as well as the politically motivated art commissioned during the period. Once the split occurred, questions were raised about how the Church should handle the extravagance of the Renaissance. Some Church leaders believed that nearly all art should be eliminated to prevent patrons and artists from being able to alter a biblical story or event to suit their own purposes, as in the case of the Sistine Chapel’s Last Judgment. Others argued that art had to be retained because it served as a valuable teaching tool for the illiterate in the society. In the end art in Churches was retained, but any work had to be painted or sculpted according to the information given by its source. In other words, a patron could not commission an artist to paint the face of a political opponent on a condemned person in a scene from Revelation. With these new rules, art became more elaborate, but it was also more accurate to biblical texts and was considered to be useful to the Church.

During my time in Rome I saw many churches from the Renaissance as well as the Baroque period. Over Thanksgiving I travelled to the Tirol region in Austria, where I was able to see another form of the Baroque. This region, in the heart of the Alps is just south of the German border. In fact, the town that I was staying in is a one hour walk from Neuschwanstein castle. Unlike Baroque churches that you might find in Rome or France, these churches are built with onion domes which make them look somewhat Byzantine. On the inside the churches feature the ornate biblical or historical scenes swirling across the ceilings which are typical of the Baroque era. One church in this region is particularly notable. The pictures that I have are from this church. The first picture is of the exterior of the church, which features the Bavarian/Tirolian onion domes. The second picture, also from the same church, exemplifies the elaborate nature of Baroque painting. The final picture is a depiction of saintly cardinals, bishops and popes in Heaven.

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