Contemporary art Italy

Sixty artists for 60 years of Pope Benedict's priesthood

The head of the Roman Catholic Church appeals to artists, architects and musicians to create works that inspire truth and charity

Left to right: the German photographer Mattias Schaller, Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Ravasi, The photos are of Schaller's "Disportraits", real spaceman suits, with the light reflected in the visors showing the phases of the moon

ROME. “The proud and the arrogant excluded themselves”, sniffed the Vatican newspaper, the Osservatore Romano. That was the only, semi-official reference to the fact that some of the artists invited to take part in the exhibition, “The Splendour of Truth, the Beauty of Charity” (until 4 September) celebrating the 60th anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's ordination, declined the honour.

Still, Gianfranco Ravasi, the dynamic president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, with a sophisticated understanding of contemporary art, persuaded 60 artists of various kinds to accept (only seven women among them: does this reflect the proportion invited, one wonders?), among them El Anatsui, Mimmo Jodice, Jannis Kounellis, Matthias Schaller and Arnaldo Pomodoro.

Not surprisingly, architects are to the fore, with Oscar Niemeyer sending a model of the campanile for the cathedral of Belo Horizonte in Brazil, Renzo Piano, the designs for the Santuario of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, and Santiago Calatrava, a model of his work for St John the Divine in New York. Among the musicians, Ennio Morricone, famous for his soundtracks for spaghetti Westerns, has contributed a musical score in the form of a cross.

At the opening of the exhibition on 4 July, the Pope, who had already met 250 artists in the Sistine Chapel in November 2009, appealed for the artists present “not to divorce artistic creativity from the truth and from charity…but to make the beauty of your works stimulate a desire and need in those who see them to render their lives beautiful and truthful”.

More from The Art Newspaper


9 Aug 11
18:12 CET


This pope is a very cultured man and actually knows quite a lot about art. As a fine pianist, he has written extensively about music and frequently punctuates his sermons with references about art. You don't have to agree with his ideas about religion to respect his great intellect.

4 Aug 11
21:30 CET


How about not divorcing the catholic church from truth and charity, Benny?

Submit a comment

All comments are moderated. If you would like your comment to be approved, please use your real name, not a pseudonym. We ask for your email address in case we wish to contact you - it will not be made public and we do not use it for any other purpose.


Want to write a longer comment to this article? Email


Share this