The Lateran in 1600: Christian Concord in Counter-Reformation Rome

By Scott, John Beldon | The Art Bulletin, March 1996 | Go to article overview

The Lateran in 1600: Christian Concord in Counter-Reformation Rome


Scott, John Beldon, The Art Bulletin


JACK FREIBERG The Lateran in 1600: Christian Concord in Counter-Reformation Rome New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 350 pp.; 8 color ills., 143 b/w. $75.00

The Roman basilica of S. Giovanni in Laterano is one of the oldest, largest, and most opulently decorated churches in Christendom. Its relics--the heads of Saints Peter and Paul, the Table of the Last Supper, and the Ark of the Covenant--are among the most prestigious. It is the seat of the bishop of Rome, and within its walls five major church councils have been held. An adjacent episcopal palace was the official residence of the popes for almost a millennium-from the 4th century until the departure for Avignon in 1306. Many times destroyed and rebuilt, its survival physically exemplifies the perennial endurance of the papacy and the universal Church. The history of Western Christianity is perhaps more closely tied to this building than to any other single ecclesiastical structure. It is, officially, the "mother and head" (mater et caput) of all the churches of Rome and the world. In confirmation of this status, each new pontiff, after coronation at St. Peter's, must ceremonially parade to the Lateran to take formal possession of the Holy See.

Traditionally believed to have been the gift of Constantine the Great (the first "Christian" emperor) to Pope Sylvester I, the Lateran embodied the triumphant moment when the Roman Empire changed from persecutor of Christianity to its official secular sponsor. Not incidentally, Constantine's "donation" was held by successive papal ideologues to form the foundation of papal claims to temporal as well as spiritual authority.

Notwithstanding this preeminence, the Lateran's role in the history of the Church is still underappreciated by nonspecialists. The basilica's dusty site, with the principal facade turned away from the city, is somewhat neglected, especially by American visitors to the Eternal City, who focus their time and attention more on St. Peter's and the Vatican. (Teachers of undergraduate art-history courses must take care always to explain to their surprised students why St. Peter's is not a cathedral.) The Lateran is also relatively little studied by scholars addressing themselves to an English-speaking readership. at least in comparison with St. Peter's, where the allure of Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini has attracted much art-historical interest from a distinguished series of international scholars, many Americans among them.

Jack Freiberg's impressive new book does much to correct this imbalance The focus here is not on the entire building. Galilei's 18th-century facade is not mentioned, and Borromini's restructuring and redecoration of the principal nave with its four side aisles and ancillary chapels is described only briefly in the short final chapter. Freiberg, instead, concentrates on the great north-south transept of the church. This is a study of the redecoration accomplished there during the reign of Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) specifically for the jubilee year of 1600. Freiberg's assessment of that project is, however, so rooted in the historical, ecclesiological, and iconographic context of the entire church and its meaning that the reader gains a new understanding of the complete building and its glorious past.

The ensemble of painting, sculpture, and architecture comprising the nave clementina, as it came to be designated, cannot easily be attributed to the orchestrating mind of any one artistic genius. It is difficult here to discern the directorial hand of a Bernini who made entire teams of artists and craftsmen submit to a single, monophonic aesthetic will at St. Peter's. The Lateran transept nevertheless constitutes an easily perceptible whole made up of many distinguishable but organically related voices--a polyphonous Gesamtkunstwerk.

Just as any pilgrim or observer entering the basilica through the portal facing the city would sequentially experience them, Freiberg begins his analysis with a discussion of the preexisting loggia and towers of the northern arm's facade and Giacomo della Porta's restructuring of the transept's floor and walls. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Lateran in 1600: Christian Concord in Counter-Reformation Rome
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.