5 The Hero as Artist


"The scene has changed from Florence to Rome, from the city of hard heads, sharp wits, light feet, graceful movements, to a city of weight, a city that is like a huge compost-heap of human hopes and ambitions, despoiled of its ornament, almost indecipherable, a wilderness of imperial splendour....." p 117

sistine ceiling

You arrive at the entrance of the Vatican Museums before opening time, then when the doors open maneuver your way to the ticket taker and present the ticket purchased the day before, then walk as fast as you can with map in hand.  Ignore the signs pointing to Sistine Chapel, they are strategically placed as a crowd control device, hurry until you arrive at the chapel then go to the center of the room and lie down flat on your back.

You can be alone to soak in the wonder above you for maybe ten minutes before the hoard arrives. Then when the first gawker stumbles over you its time to leave the chapel and go to other parts of the museum. This is the only way to enjoy the ceiling, unless you are Kenneth Clark with a BBC television crew and special dispensation from the Vatican.


julius II
"Julius II was able by magnanimity and strength of will to inspire and bully three men of genius - Bramante, Michelangelo and Raphael."

"This splendidly over-life-size character conceived a project so audacious, so extravagant, that to this day the very thought of it makes me feel slightly jumpy. He decided to pull down old St Peter's. It was on of the largest and most ancient churches in the western world; and certainly the most venerable, for it stood on the place where St Peter was supposed to have been martyred. Julius decided to pull it down and put something far more splendid in its place." p 120.

Old St Peter's st peter's interior

Built on the supposed site of the
martyrdom of St. Peter, construction began by orders of the Roman Emperor Constantine I between 318 and 322, and took about 30 years to complete. Over the next twelve centuries, the church became a major place of pilgrimage in Rome.
Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter's is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture.

Construction of the present basilica, replacing the Old St. Peter's Basilica of the 4th century AD, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.




The Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) form a suite of four reception rooms, the public part of the papal apartments in the Palace of the Vatican. They are famous for their frescoes, painted by Raphael and his workshop. Together with Michelangelo's ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, they are the grand fresco sequences of the High Renaissance in Rome. Below is one of the frescoes, The School of Athens and below that some of the figures are identified.

school of athens

At the center are Plato and Aristotle. Plato the idealist points up towards divine inspiration and beyond him to the left are the philosophers who appeal to emotion and intuition. To the right is Aristotle, the man of good sense, holding out a hand of moderation, and beyond him are the representatives  of logic, grammar, and  geometry. Raphael put himself on the far right next to Zoroaster/Strabo.



On page 124 Clark has a full page selection of Euclid/Bramante with four students. An image of what every teacher hopes  for :  bright engaged students excited by great ideas and concepts. Just look at the expressions on the faces and the gestures.


On the opposite wall from the School of Athens is Divine Wisdom the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, the traditional name for what is actually an Adoration of the Sacrament. In the painting, Raphael created an image of the church, which is presented as spanning both heaven and earth.  With the two paintings Raphael brings into harmony the spirits of Antiquity and Christianity. The theme is worldly and spiritual wisdom in harmony. The theme of wisdom is appropriate as this room was the council chamber for the Apostolic Signatura, where most of the important papal documents were signed and sealed.


"While Human Reason is rooted to the earth, on the opposite wall Divine Wisdom floats in the sky above the heads of those philosophers, theologians and Church Fathers who have tried to interpret it. In this two flowing groups the seekers after revealed truth are arranged with the same regard for their relationship with each other, and with the philosophic scheme of the whole room, that exists in the School of Athens. In so far as civilization consists in grasping imaginatively all that is best in the thought of the time, these two walls represent a summit of civilization." p132

The Third Wall


Mt. Parnassus is where Apollo and the Muses dwell. Parnassus embodies the feminine and the poetic which are just as civilizing as those intellectual abstractions, perhaps even more.

Muse Domain Emblem
Calliope Epic poetry Writing tablet
Clio History Scrolls
Euterpe Song and elegiac poetry Aulos (flute)
Erato Lyric poetry Cithara (harp)
Melpomene Tragedy Tragic mask
Polyhymnia Hymns Veil
Terpsichore Dance Lyre
Thalia Comedy Comic mask
Urania Astronomy Globe and compass
Top left: Dante, Homer, and Virgil

 Soon after the death of Julius there arrived in Rome one more giant, Leonardo da Vinci. There has been so much written about Leonardo, there is nothing I can add. I did go see the Last Supper in Milan, but it was so faded it made no lasting impression, so I will simply include my favorite paining of his.


john the baptist
St. John the Baptist, c. 1516,  69x57 cm. Louvre, Paris. The pointing gesture toward the heavens suggests the importance of salvation through baptism.


"The golden  moment is almost over. But while it lasted man achieved a stature that he has hardly ever achieved before or since.  To the humanist virtues of intelligence was added the quality of heroic will. For a few years it seemed that there was nothing which the human mind could not master and harmonize." p137

6 Protest and Communication                                           Contents