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Dr. Utr. Iur.


Van den Broeke

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Protestantism & Catholic Reform

One of the most destructive conflicts of the European history was the Thirty Year’s war, started in 1618 and ended by the peace of Westphalia/Munster in 1648. It was the war between the Protestants and the Roman Catholics in Germany, but got extended to the whole of Europe. Is also the age of some of the most beautiful artworks we can admire today in Rome.

   The origin of the war was the behaviour of Roman Catholic Church in Rome. Click on the left images of Erasmus for reading his satire on Julius II.

The Church day after day performed more “show” than religion and increasingly became more worldly. And we came to a point that people expected much more from the church: they wanted spiritual guidance from them. Martin Luther was not the only one who taught the Church needed reform. And than happened that not far from him, Johann Tetzel who was the tax-collector for the Archbishop Albrecht von Mainz, sold to everybody, who wanted to pay for it, the redemption of all sins: hell or purgatory. The money served for building the St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther was inspired to write his Ninety-Five Theses, in part, due to Tetzel's actions during this period of time who was said pronounced the famous phrase: “ As soon a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs,” he used to say. That forced the the reaction of Luther in his Ninety-Five Theses: a copy

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory. 28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone

That on earth you can get free of your sins and as guarantee for it having the Represent of God on earth, the infallible Pope of Rome, and just only by paying a certain amount of money, created the praxis that with money you can earn heaven. Of course, before the money arrived in Rome, some people benefited a lot. The Archbishop managed to pay his debts for becoming archbishop, the family the Medici, who were the Western Union of those days in Europe, took their 10 % and created the base of their fortune. With the rest was build the St.Peters’s Basilica and sustained the lavish court of the Popes. Martin Luther believed that sin is a personal matter and had nothing to do with the organization of the Church. He taught that personal conversion was more important.  The Church was not ready for him, even he wanted the best for it. But as I explained in my article of the Roman Empire: What’s your strenght is your weakest link, also that happened here. Only a few years earlier, Guttenberg invented the printed press. It was first used for printing the Bible, and soon after for printing indulgences. What a lovely invention the press was: no handwritten indulgences anymore, but printed ones! It is like printing money ! ... But the press was also used to spread the Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther and came as a boomerang back on the Church. Even Luther himself was surprised that in two weeks the whole of Germany knew about them. Now, a grass-rooted movement against “indulgences” and the Pope in Rome was born!

    Meanwhile, Martin Luther translated the Bible in the Vulgar language ... and something similar happened in Rome. Philip Neri received the permission to sing spiritual songs on popular tunes in the vulgar language; just like Martin Luther did. Listen to the beautiful christmas song, written by Luther on the music of an old popular theme: Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her. Bach made later a polifonic version of it. And instead of having the “over the top holy Madonna’s”, of Perugino from the renaissance, we have the realism of Caravaggio. Everybody can recognize himself in his figures and that means ... for everybody there is salvation, not only for those who just can pay for it. In my article about Borromini, the architect, we will find out that his architecture is pure spirituality. At the end, the Church should be grateful for what Martin Luther achieved: a renewal of spirituality within the Church, even it caused a lot of pain all over Europe.

Pope Pius IV

    But the Church in Rome didn’t want to listen. But as it happens today in politics, grass-rooted movements are powerful! And the Roman catholic church didn’t change from the top, it started on the base. Suddenly, charismatic movements started within the catholic church: the Theatines of Gaetano dei Conti di Tiene whose chief object was to recall the clergy to an edifying life and the laity to the practice of virtue. And there were also the Gesuits of Ignazio di Loyola, who took care of the orphans, male ànd female,  the Barnabites,  who concentrated their vocation around ministrations in hospitals and prisons, and the education of the youth. And not to forget the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri, who with his bizarre character became the spiritual dean of them. All those people were persecuted by the Church in their early years, but their grass-rooted movements changed the Church and forced it to call together the Council of Trent, in order to change the mentality of the church in the top. This council lasted eighteen years. It started on December 13, 1545 and ended on december 4, 1563. In total twenty-five sessions in three periods. Often this is mistakenly called the Counter-Reformation, but the proper name is the “Catholic Reformation”: The Church changed from the bottom to the top and put salvation before wealth. It was the intellectual counter-force to Protestantism. A very good example was Pope Pius IV

: Giorgio Vasari in 1567 spoke of a time when "the grandeurs of this place reduced by stinginess of living, dullness of dress, and simplicity in so many things; Rome is fallen into much misery, and if it is true that Christ loved poverty and the City wishes to follow in his steps she will quickly become beggarly..."

How indulgencies became so popular?

We have to go back to 1308: For those who ever have seen Avignon, the french (exile) of the popes for 71 yrs. is just astouned. The whole city seems to be the palace of the pope. How they could pay for it?

You have a good company, and a very good product. Let's say Coca Cola. On of the successes of it's worldwide sales was the superb marketing. Giving the bottle the lines of the most popular girl of those days: Marilyn Monroe. Of course people (and especially men ... were indulged to buy it !!!

This was exactly what Dante Alighieri did in the beginning of 1300 by writing his epic work "The Divine Comedy".  He wrote it on commission. The Church had a product for sale: Heaven ! And his trilogy: "Heaven, Pulgatory and Hell" was exactly what they needed. His work was the PR for the Church: "Propaganda fidei" !!

The room of the Segnatura of Raphael in the Vatican explains who was behind the artists of those days. That room was the most important room for pope Julius II. It was the Sacra Rota, the supreme court of the Holy Catholic Church. The Room has 4 walls and four themes: look below:



Civil Law

Canon Law, with Mister Bean and Sly Stalone ???

When I was 23 yrs old, Michelangelo made his Pietà .... and I lost two academic years in a row by drinking. My muse was Bacchus (here the one in the Room of the Muses in the Vatican Museums). Sitting in the pubs until the morning made me a philosopher. But nonetheless, I got my degree in Law. After that a complement in Economics. Of course, my life in pubs convinced me to study philosophy, and I got my degree. It didn't gave me the idea I fulfilled my life, and so I got my degree in theology. Being already a civil lawyer, I took also a degree in Canon Law, Church law. I ended up with a degree in three of the four walls of the Room of the Segnatura of Raphael. And now it's time to turn our heads in this room towards the 4th wall: we will comission art.

The Mount Parnassus, presided by Apollo, as the God of all the Muses. On his left we have Homer and Dante Aleghieri. All the poets (Vergil aso), painters, and artist have always worked on commission of the mind of the other three walls.

Works were paid in advance to glorify the sponsor. The winner/victor is writing the history. And Dante (on the left of Homer) did his job. It always happened in the history that people didn't want to listen to us  (law, philosophy and theology), like Cicero. He twittered awful thinks about the mommy of Nero, Agrippina. She got him. She ordered to cut his tongue and his right hand. That was the end of the famous orator and former governar of Silicia.

Also Dante wrote his work on commission. His work promoted the sale of Heaven. He described it how with Beatrice he went to it: Yes, there you will eat rice with golden spoons, Jacuzzi's and James Bond girls will surround you, Madonna will sing: "Like a Virgin".... but probably, it will be the other Madonna, singing "Ave Maria".

Agrippina the Younger, beloved wife of Claudius and mother of Nero

And if you were today a warrior of the Islamitic State and martyr, and you're dying in a suicide-attac, you will receive also 62 virgins !!! Heaven was offered as a physical place were all the problems of this earthly valley of tears would disappears. And the paintings of those days are reflecting it. Look at Perugino or Pinturicchio in the Vatican Museum. (see picture in the rooms of the pope Borgia, Alexander VI). In a time when 70 % of the children died in childbirth, if you buy Heaven, we showing you the conditions in which you can deliver your child in peace.

And the Church tried to indulge people to buy Heaven by them. Wasn't the Holy Father the Vicar of Christ. And people were indulged: Indulgencies were born. But by excommunication the pope could send you to the other end. The Pope was Judge and God on earth !

Of course, you didn't have to buy Heaven, but than we will give you an alternative, said the Church. And so, Dante wrote the alternative: it was called "The Hell".

Hieronymus Bosh, fragment of Hell

And who would like to buy that ??!!

A place with fire, dragons, water-boarding and so much more. And who would like to be there ??

Hieronymus Bosh, water-boarding ?!?

Avignon 1308-1378

Marilyn Monroe

Dante & his "Divine Comedy"

Stanza della Segnatura, Raphael, Vatican

The Mount Parnassus & Apollo

Danze e musiche del rinascimento Italiano