The Nativity by Federico Barocci, 1597
Not long after Martin Luther’s 95 Theses were posted in 1517, dialogue between Protestants and Catholics broke down, brother turned against brother, and devastating religious wars erupted across Europe. Desperate to restore the peace and recover unity the Catholic church turned to its longtime allies, the arts.
Convinced that to win over the unlettered, the best place to fight heresy was not in the streets but in stone and on canvas, prelates enlisted the century’s best artists to create a glorious wave of beautiful works of sacred art to draw people together instead of driving them apart.
Art historian and author Elizabeth Lev tells the story of the creation and successes of a remarkable visual-arts SWAT team whose war cry could have been “Art for faith’s sake!” Lev examines how the edgy Caravaggio, the graceful Guido Reni, the technically perfect Annibale Carracci, the colorful Barocci, and the passionate Artemisia Gentileschi, each facing his or her own interior struggles, contributed an essential element to a magnificent, generations-long project: the affirmation through beauty of the Catholic belief in saints, sacraments, and salvation.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.