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Posted July 12, 2010

Book: At Your Fingertips: The Triumphs and Intrigues of the Renaissance Popes
Author: Msgr. Laurence J. Spiteri
St. Pauls/Alba House. Staten Island, New York. 2009. Pp. 314

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The Church in the Modern Era has been blessed with many Popes whose private lives have been truly saintly and genuinely inspiring. Unfortunately, this has not been consistently true throughout the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church. This volume details the dark as well as the light sides of the period known as the Renaissance. Most of the Popes during this time were extraordinary men who left their personal mark on the history of the culture of Europe. They were men who truly belonged to their historical times, most of whom do not stand out as spiritual leaders. They were rulers of the Papal States and religious sovereigns in competition with contemporary civil leaders. They were dedicated to making their beloved Rome not only the center of the Catholic Church but also the center of civilization. In doing so, the Church paid a heavy spiritual price whose results are still felt today. This book presents the reader wit a taste of the historical setting and pontificates of those who led the Church from the time of Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) up to the time of Pope Clement VII ((1545-1564).

An Excerpt from the Book:


Two of the arts influenced by Renaissance thought were sculpture and architecture. Thus, there re-emerged the free-standing statues, made of bronze, and the Greco-Roman rounded arches as the focus on balance and form in buildings began to be utilized. The medieval gothic, extremely detailed style of pointed arches, barrel vaults, spires and flying buttresses practically disappeared. Renaissance architecture was essentially Christian but greatly influenced by classical Roman ideas, especially by th architectural treatise of the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius. He claimed, in discussing (pagan) Roman temples, that the proportions of these buildings should correspond with those of the human figure. Upholding Pythagorean and Platonic concepts, Renaissance architects believed that God had created the cosmos as a mathematical harmony, in which the different parts were related to each other in harmonic mathematical ratios. Renaissance architects were convicted that the highest form of their art was the building of churches. Thus, when a church was built according to these ratio , the building would symbolize and partake of perfect beauty. In this way, a believerís thoughts would be lifted up during worship. Some artists and thinkers also regarded the circle as the ideal basis for a church plan, because it was the perfect figure and, therefore, the best symbol for God.

(A) The first great Renaissance architect was the Florentine Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446). All of his principal works may be found in Florence. He, with his friend Donatello, made several trips to Rome to study the ancient Roman ruins of ancient enormous buildings and learn the principles that had been used in their construction. He was particularly interested in the dome of the Pantheon, and from its study he gained the necessary knowledge that helped him to solve the problem of constructing the dome of the Florence cathedral, the most impressive engineering feat since Roman times. The dome has dominated the Florentine skyline since 1436, the year it was completed. He broke with medieval tradition in Florence around 1420 with the invention of linear style which enabled three-dimensional images to be projected on a flat surface. Among his many other achievements is the loggia (open porch) of the Ospedale degli Innocenti of Florence, built between 1419 and 1424. It was the first truly Renaissance building.

Table of Contents:

1. The Prelude to the Renaissance Papacy

2. Medieval Italy is put to Rest

3. Giving Re-birth to the Past: The Renaissance Movement ó Humanism

4. The Stars in Renaissance Rome

5. The New Structure of the College of Cardinals

6. There Was Always a Light

7. Families Who Supplied Popes during the Roman Renaissance

8. Other Popes during the Roman Renaissance