Skip to main content

View Diary: Implosion at the Vatican - One Can Only Hope (406 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  An old suggestion. And a well-intentioned one. (24+ / 0-)

    And I suppose if one's talking about art treasures that could be detached and relocated -- like the Pieta or St. Teresa in Ecstasy -- a good one.

    But what does one do with the Michelangelo fresci in Sistine Chapel, or the duomo of St. Peter's, or Bernini's colonnade outside in the piazza, or ...

    Believe me, I'm no apologist for the Roman church (see note below). But you can't sell an asset you can't transfer. Even so, there's plenty else here to be examined and  brought into the light, to use a NT metaphor.

    In times like these, we cannot make too much music.

    by ProvokingMeaning on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:28:35 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  It's even more complicated than that (38+ / 0-)

      Not every church has extra-territorial status from an administrative perspective--just the main basilicas of S. Giovanni in Laterano, S. Maria Maggiore, and S. Paolo fuori le Mura (maybe also S. Sebastiano but I can't remember).  Italian government authorities are often involved in the restoration of art works in Rome's churches, so even if it were in the realm of consideration to sell a major work of art located within a church, the Italian government would have some claim to cultural patrimony.  

      The Church sold many rights to the Japanese government in exchange for financing the restoration of the Sistine Ceiling.  We also have to keep in mind that removing works from its historic collections of ancient sculpture and painting from the Renaissance onward would in itself constitute a kind of artistic violence, whether or not you agree with the papacy.

      Now, the papacy has vast real estate holdings all over Italy, many of which do not contain any intrinsic artistic value.  They should be paying taxes on those.  I also wonder why the Italian government doesn't get a cut of what the Vatican Museums rake in each day with its thousands of weekly visitors.

      •  Yeah, the statue of St Teresa would loose all (6+ / 0-)

        contextural meaning if it were ever to be moved from its setting.  Even some of the framed (and portable) paintings would loose value when out of context.  As would some of the altar decorations.

        •  snark, right? (0+ / 0-)

          I have no help to send. Therefore I must go myself. Aragorn

          by Old Gardener on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:40:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No. It's not. I was speaking strickly on (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Huginn and Muninn, Ginny in CO

            historic context of material items.  If you had studied architecture you would know that the statue of St Teresa was designed and executed in conjunction with the church in which it resides.  When an artifact of virtually any type is moved from its original site, it has the potential to loose contextural value.  The statue of St Teresa will retain a certain amount of value strictly due to the artist that created it.  But, it will loose meaning if it were ever to be moved.

            In the US, if any structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places is ever moved to a different location, it will be delisted as it is no longer in its historic context.  In determining if a structure is even eligible, research must be done to prove the structure was in its present location during the 'event' that would make it 'historic'.  Although there are few structures within the US that could be moved and still retain historic status - that would be buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivian, Phillip Johnson, and a few others.  Therefore if the statue of St Teresa were to be physically removed from its location, all context would be lost because the church itself is part of the statue.

    •  They have mountains of movable treasure all (23+ / 0-)

      over the world.  Paintings (in frames and therefore movable), statues, altar decorations, books (gawd the books - some say it's the Library of Congress before the Library of Congress(which is said to have a copy of every book published in the 'free' world)), jewelry, etc.  It may have been more than 30 years since I was last in the Vatican Museum.... but, they've got LOTS of 'stuff' that is absolutely priceless aside from real estate and the art permanently attached to them.  What is on display is only a tiny fraction of what the RCC owns.

      •  one small historical note is that if a treasure (17+ / 0-)

        loses value if it loses context, it seems we should be emptying the museums of the West to return looted treasures (which has been done grudgingly in some cases). This does not start to take into account what is in private collections.

        so to give the Vatican a pass on retaining its treasures in situ would seem hypocritical unless we also advocate that museums over the West relinquish the booty of three centuries (BTW it is amazing how much retired museum stuff finds its way to Christie's or Sotheby's)

        •  True, very true. It's something that I've (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          entlord, Oh Mary Oh, Cliss, BYw, Ginny in CO

          struggled with for ages.  Had I followed my original 'career' plans, this issue would have been front an center of everything that I did.  I'm extremely torn about it.  

          Many 'vatican' treasures have already been removed to museums through out the world - many through 'renovations' of x church (in 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, etc), 'inferior' quality in comparison to other works the Vatican already has, etc.  Many of those objects retain 'value' due to the artist that made the item.  I don't think that the bulk of 'movable' art would loose more than 50% of its value if moved.  It would be things like the statue of St Teresa, which is an integral part of the design of that particular church, or the maze of the floor of the Cluny church, that would loose value from being removed from context.

        •  What?!?!?!?!?! (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pengiep, belle1, PinHole, NYFM
          so to give the Vatican a pass on retaining its treasures in situ would seem hypocritical unless we also advocate that museums over the West relinquish the booty of three centuries (BTW it is amazing how much retired museum stuff finds its way to Christie's or Sotheby's)
          No. The stuff "looted" over the centuries was for the most part old garbage that locals didn't want. The Muslim world didn't care about it's pre-islamic heritage until the 20th century. In fact some remain extremely hostile to it and want it destroyed.

          The museums in the west have been instromental in preserving world heritage.

          •  so the Greeks had no objection to their (8+ / 0-)

            heritage ending up in British museums or the Egyptians were delighted the French and British looted their national treasures?  I think you are missing one of the elements of colonialism.  What local chieftain would face cannon and repeating rifles with spears and swords in order to keep his national treasures?  

            •  That's right, kiddo. (7+ / 0-)

              The Egyptians were very happy to help loot their country. So were the Turks. Antiquities were the largest export in Egypt in the 19th century and the Elgin Marbles were being cut down to be used as lime by the locals when he literally saved them from destruction.

              Most Greek architecture and art was destroyed by the Byzantine regime, all of whom were Greeks.

              •  This is a very big topic - cultural heritage (6+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                entlord, svboston, nchristine, belle1, mrkvica, NYFM

                and international law on cultural patrimony is complex. To say nothing of the history of modern nation-states...What "Turks" are we talking about, or Greeks, in the 19th c.? As for Lord Elgin, it's a big stretch to suggest that "the locals" were about burn "the marbles" for lime when much of what he took was still high up on the building when he removed them.
                I am not actually advocating for their return to Athens, but these situations in present time are far more nuanced than some here may imagine.

                You get what you deserve, even if you don't deserve it (Issan Dorsey, Zen teacher)

                by kayak58 on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 12:32:47 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  or admitted; it is an old cultural canard (5+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  svboston, nchristine, zett, mrkvica, BYw

                  that loot taken was "rescued" from the locals.  Funny that stuff that lasted for centuries suddenly found themselves in need of European rescue

                  •  Sometimes, stuff does need rescue (6+ / 0-)

                    Look at the destruction wrought by the Taliban; there has been uncontrolled looting of many sites in Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan during recent regime collapse. The great problem is the international market for antiquities of all kinds, that is supplied by looting, most of it by (yes, sorry) locals who sell to middlemen who supply the auction houses.

                    Old collections, like the Vatican's, are another story. But basically, we have been looting each other's stuff and displaying it triumphantly since forever. The Egyptians did it; the Romans; it's part of conquest and empire.

                    You get what you deserve, even if you don't deserve it (Issan Dorsey, Zen teacher)

                    by kayak58 on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 05:06:48 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  small note on regime collapse in Iraq (4+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      DocGonzo, Ginny in CO, nchristine, aargh

                      The US had the chance to protect such sites and expressly refused to, even bypassing such sites to leave them free for looting.
                      Given the chaos that ensued, the immigration and deprivation that followed the US invasion, it is the fault of the natives if they sold their heritage for a mess of porridge

                      •  You mean Iraq? (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        We screwed up big time esp. at the beginning. But there are many places at risk, including Libya, and in this hemisphere also.
                        Basically, any time there is demand for contraband - ivory, rhino horn, antiquities - esp. when the supply is finite - there will be poaching, looting, illegal networks, and buyers.

                        You get what you deserve, even if you don't deserve it (Issan Dorsey, Zen teacher)

                        by kayak58 on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 05:26:18 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                •  The Turks were the government in time in question. (0+ / 0-)

                  The Ottoman Empire controlled the Middle East for four hundred years. Look up the Elgin marbles in Wikipedia.

              •  I would point out current day Egypt disagrees (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                svboston, nchristine, mrkvica

                and wants their stuff back.  Modern states in the ME and even Europe are so 20th Century and recent compared to the looting.  It reminds me of European settlers arguing that they had bought their lands from local tribes, such as perhaps the most famous transaction for Manhattan Island  

                I am very aware that mummies were ground down into medicines and even used as fuel for locomotives; there are a lot of apologists out there also in how Far Eastern treasures ended up in European museums

                •  I've heard that the transaction for Manhattan (5+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Bronx59, mrkvica, BYw, DocGonzo, aargh

                  was actually a case of "selling a mark the Brooklyn Bridge" and the Indians who sold it had no title to it(if such even insisted).

                  Of course the Dutch, being better armed, were able to defend the transaction anyway.

                  You may think that. I couldn't possibly comment.-- Francis Urqhart

                  by Johnny Q on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 03:10:17 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Blame the Turks. (0+ / 0-)

                  The Ottoman Empire took over the area in the 15th and 16th Centuries and held them until World War I.

                  As to current day Egypt, They never did. Only a few iconic ones like the Rosetta stone and that bust of Nefratitti.

                  90% of all the really good stuff is in the Cairo museum, where it belongs. The Cairo Museum was paid for mostly by the British.

      •  The Vatican Museum (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Don midwest, Huginn and Muninn, NYFM

        and the Vatican itself is arguably the world's greatest collection of art and archaeology.

        That in itself has value.

        Would you demand that the Louvre sell off all of it's treasures to help the poor?

        The Vatican charges admission and that admission is supposedly used in the upkeep and pay of it's members and employees.

        Now the Vatican Bank is another issue altogether.

        I can tell you that two weeks ago there were no lines to get into the museum.  Part of that obviously is the fact that it was January and just above freezing in Rome, but the cash only policy - which the Vatican described as "temporary" - has to be hurting their revenues.

        Are there no prisons? No workhouses?

        by meatballs on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:11:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  asdf (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Don midwest, BYw, Ginny in CO, melo

          "Would you demand that the Louvre sell off all of it's treasures to help the poor?"

          The Louvre wasn't founded by a man that preached caring for the sick, poor, and elderly.

          The Vatican Museum and Vatican Bank are part of the same institution.  If their bank arm has broken the law of whatever land its in, it should be penalized.  Should the punishment cause the Vatican to have to sell off some of its 'treasure', then guess what, that's what it's got to do.  They're not above the law and consequences of breaking them.  The Vatican's 5th rate inventory of artifacts is probably vastly superior to the collections of many other museums.  They can afford to sell to meet their financial obligations.

          I know that the Vatican is supposed to use the moneys from the Museum for its charitable works and that depends upon people being able to conduct business in a manner that is useful to them.

          •  Perhaps it could (0+ / 0-)

            pare down it's inventory in effort to continue charitable works, but the Vatican collection is hallmark achievement for all of human society.  

            The sacredness of the Vatican extends well beyond Catholic Dogma.  

            Have you ever been to the Vatican?  It is a place you can go again and again and still get a sense of wonder.  The collection of treasures there should be kept from being dismantled for as long as possible.  

            The scope of the renaissance classical style art that is kept there is beyond description.  It's not as if its 20th century collection of abstractionist work is shabby - because it is impressive in its own right with Matisse, Gauguin, Klee, Picasso, Dali, Dix, Rodin and list goes on and on.

            The magnitude of the entire collection is a reflection of the achievement of human understanding.  

            My understanding of the Vatican Bank is that the Vatican wants it to remain separate and autonomous.  The EU banks want a say in the Vatican Bank dealings.  This is a struggle for power and wealth.  If the Vatican Bank profited 33 million Euros from it's business dealings, then great.  The Vatican does authentically participate in charities - they do.  They are not perfect, by any means, and some of their more senior members of the clergy live pretty well, but all in all the Vatican produces a net benefit on the global society - I believe that.

            I know the new pope is an old school guy - he's not the most progressive. The Catholic Church itself has lived in infamy over the last two decades over some pretty vile cover ups with some of it's priests - in no way do I give that any kind of pass in any way whatsoever.  It's just that - I'm a little skeptical over these banking issues because I do not know to what extent these accusations aren't motivated by greedy EU Banksters who have been coveting the Vatican Bank.  I don't know all the facts.  

            I know that the Vatican have historically been great patrons of the arts.  I would personally like to see that be unaffected now and in the future.

            Are there no prisons? No workhouses?

            by meatballs on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 07:17:25 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I have no issue with the Vatican having its (0+ / 0-)

              collection and yes the RCC, among other institutions, have been magnificent patrons of the arts through out history.  I too would hate to see the entirety of its collection disbursed to the wide world (private collections).

              I've been to Rome twice, both times in the early 1970's.  The Vatican was one among hundreds that influenced me to get my Bachelor's degree in Architecture.  I lived in Italy for 3.5 years in the early 70's and was exposed to thousands of pieces of art and architecture.  Naples, Pompeii, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Monte Carlo, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Salzburg, Venice, San Marino, Bari, Ostuni, Crete, Athens are just some of the places we visited when living in Italy.

              Read all my comments in this thread.... I was just agreeing that the Vatican has an insane amount of treasure that should the need ever truely arise, they have the means to make restitution.

              I don't get the whole bank thing.  The diary was circumspect, in my opinion and didn't just spell out the details well enough for me.  It's about power on all sides, IMNSHO.

    •  thanks for calling it the Roman church nt (4+ / 0-)

      "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

      by eXtina on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:16:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  some people buy art then leave it in the museum (0+ / 0-)

      There's no reason why frescoes or sculptures built into walls couldn't also be auctioned.  Simply say that leaving them in place is a condition of the sale, and the only people who would bid would be those who can accept that condition.  Besides, who would want to damage their new acquisition ... not to mention reduce their cut of tourist revenues?

      Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

      by Visceral on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:57:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Some things are world treasures (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, Cliss, Ginny in CO

      and should belong to no "one" but us all. Protected like World Heritage Sites.

      "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

      by high uintas on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 10:10:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Seems to me one of the measures Greece (0+ / 0-)

      was offered to get their debt in control, was to sell off the ancient national historical treasures, in situ.

      Apparently some 1%ers had the notion the ancient sites visited by millions of tourists could be turned in to good, reliable, capitalist ventures. (As I recall, Greece quoted Cheney and mentioned Lorena Bobbitt.)

      The Vatican could well present some problems given the number of folks worldwide who currently worship that brand of faith.

      If they were to get hit as hard in this debacle as some of us are fervently hoping, selling the place would allow them to rebuild.

      Maybe they could work on the canons as well.

      "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

      by Ginny in CO on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 10:58:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site