The Vatican has started a firestorm in the art world by issuing a statement condemning the symbolic “depravity and nudity celebrated by the morally corrupt”. The Catholic Church has launched a new campaign to clothe Michelangelo’s statue of David.
The message continued that: “We must stop shielding ourselves behind a culture of art and forsaking religion.”
The resurgence of morality comes in the weeks preceding the beatification of Pope John Paul II, when huge crowds of Catholic pilgrims are expected in Vatican City to observe the spiritual event.
The long history of Church censorship began in Michelangelo’s own time when Pope Julius II (1503-1513) commissioned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Scandalized by the unclothed figures, Pope Julius II attempted to force Michelangelo to repaint the religious figures and cover their nakedness.
Pope Innocent X (1644-1655) started the original fig-leaf campaign, chiseling the exposed phalluses off Roman statues and fitting each sculpture with a more ‘modest’ leaf. The systematically defacing of art for religion continued through Pope Pius IX (1846-1878).
Pope Benedict XVI stopped short of calling for any part of Michelangelo’s David to be removed, but insisted that the statue must be fitted with a removable fig leaf to cloth the nude masterpiece. The Pope has called upon the Italian government to protect the innocence of visitors to Florence’s Accademia Gallery by covering David’s nakedness.
The Vatican statement ended with a message of hope from the Pope who encouraged observers and non-observers alike to have a “Happy April Fools Day!”