Christian Art in Rome: Two Thousand Years of Beauty and Devotion

A four-part lecture series tracing the development of Christian art in Rome, the cult of St. Peter and the patronage offered by the popes to some of the greatest artists of the Renaissance. Presented by Fr. Michael Collins.

During these virtual tours, we descend to the underground chambers of the Roman catacombs, visit the archaeological sites underneath St. Peter’s Basilica and enter the Apostolic Palace.

This event was made possible by the generosity of the NY and CA Vatican Museum Patrons Chapters.

The Art of the Catacombs - Light from the Shadows

Where did Christian art begin? There is no start date, but Christians slowly adapted the techniques and materials used for centuries by the Greeks and Romans. From hesitant beginnings, Christian art developed over centuries to dominate Western Civilization. We descend into the Roman catacombs to see where the early Christians were buried and admire their sarcophagi and frescoed chapels decorated with scenes from the Bible. The early Christians lived in a time of imperial persecution and uncertainty and their arts can inspire us and provide us with hope today.

The Tomb of Peter - The Search for Peter in Rome

For close on two millennia, people have honored the presumed burial place of the Apostle Peter at the Vatican.But did Peter ever visit Rome and did he die during the persecution of the Emperor Nero? Our visit begins under the present-day basilica where we see the aedicule where tradition claims Peter was buried beside the Circus of Caligula and Nero. We see the remains of the first basilica built by the emperor Constantine in the first half of the 4th century. We also visit the underground excavations of Santa Rosa underneath the Vatican.

St. Peter’s Basilica - From the Elegance of the Renaissance to the Explosion of the Baroque

When the 4th century Basilica of St. Peter was demolished in the early 16th century, seven architects worked on the new building, which took 120 years to complete. Fr. Michael brings us on a fascinating visit to the upper basilica, pausing at the tomb of St. Peter, Altar of the Chair, Michaelangelo’s Pieta, the cupola as well as other hidden gems. We visit the Treasury of the Basilica and the piazza designed by Bernini “to embrace the world.”

The Banker’s Son and the Most Unfortunate Pope - Raphael’s Great Patrons

In this centenary year of Raphael’s death we acknowledge the contribution of Pope Leo X and Clement VII. Both were were cousins, members of the Medici family. Leo, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, was an important patron of the arts at the Vatican, while Clement VII was a generous patron of Raphael. The lecture introduces the patrons and their friends to these extraordinary and contrasting churchmen whose reigns moved from luxurious excess to the dramatic challenge of the Reformation and the destruction of much artistic heritage.