Cover image for The Visual Culture of Catholic Enlightenment By Christopher M. S. Johns

The Visual Culture of Catholic Enlightenment

Christopher M. S. Johns

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$89.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-06208-2

440 pages
9" × 11"
56 color/104 b&w illustrations
2014

The Visual Culture of Catholic Enlightenment

Christopher M. S. Johns

“This groundbreaking book defines in depth and breadth the parameters of the Catholic enlightenment in eighteenth-century papal Rome, revealing the extent of the Church’s engagement with the secular enlightenment through papal initiatives for religious and more secular reforms that had a direct impact on the visual arts, the sciences, and many facets of culture. A remarkable range and variety of such projects are studied in a broader cultural context, including fascinating subjects such as the pope’s coffeehouse in the Palazzo del Quirinale, the founding of the Capitoline Museum, the restoration of the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum, and the cult of the saints, to name but a few. In this lucidly written and richly researched book, Christopher Johns re-creates a complex historical fabric through the interweaving of art and culture during a period when Rome was the epicenter of the Grand Tour and Enlightenment Europe. The Visual Culture of Catholic Enlightenment should find a prominent and permanent place on the shelf of every student and scholar of eighteenth-century European visual culture.”

 

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  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
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Until relatively recently, most scholars considered the notion of a Catholic enlightenment either oxymoronic or even illusory, since the received wisdom was that the Catholic Church was a tireless and indefatigable enemy of modernist progress. According to Christopher Johns, however, the eighteenth-century papacy recognized the advantages of engaging with certain aspects of enlightenment thinking, and many in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, both in Italy and abroad, were sincerely interested in making the Church more relevant in the modern world and, above all, in reforming the various institutions that governed society. Johns presents the visual culture of papal Rome as a major change agent in the cause of Catholic enlightenment while assessing its continuing links to tradition. The Visual Culture of Catholic Enlightenment sheds substantial light on the relationship between eighteenth-century Roman society and visual culture and the role of religion in both.
“This groundbreaking book defines in depth and breadth the parameters of the Catholic enlightenment in eighteenth-century papal Rome, revealing the extent of the Church’s engagement with the secular enlightenment through papal initiatives for religious and more secular reforms that had a direct impact on the visual arts, the sciences, and many facets of culture. A remarkable range and variety of such projects are studied in a broader cultural context, including fascinating subjects such as the pope’s coffeehouse in the Palazzo del Quirinale, the founding of the Capitoline Museum, the restoration of the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum, and the cult of the saints, to name but a few. In this lucidly written and richly researched book, Christopher Johns re-creates a complex historical fabric through the interweaving of art and culture during a period when Rome was the epicenter of the Grand Tour and Enlightenment Europe. The Visual Culture of Catholic Enlightenment should find a prominent and permanent place on the shelf of every student and scholar of eighteenth-century European visual culture.”
“This is a wonderfully comprehensive and stimulating book on the reforming impulse of the Catholic Church in the middle decades of the eighteenth century and its impact on art and visual culture, particularly in Rome. Christopher Johns addresses the question ‘What was Catholic enlightenment?’ from the disciplines of cultural, intellectual, and art history, and his research has resulted in a delightful book that will be of considerable interest to a wide variety of readers. Jansenism, sumptuary laws, enlightened Catholic ideas about the connection between faith and science, and coffee drinking in the middle decades of the eighteenth century are but a few of the topics he discusses. Art and architectural historians with an interest in Settecento Rome will find the book particularly interesting.”
“This magisterial study reveals the artistic vibrancy and intellectual ferment at the heart of the Catholic enlightenment. It upends old notions of the Church as a passive spectator of cultural change and reveals the myriad and dynamic ways in which the Roman hierarchy engaged the new ideas, new sensibilities, and new institutions that transformed Europe during the eighteenth century.”
“This magnificently illustrated book, which also explores notions of Italian Jansenism, makes us aware that eighteenth-century popes recognized the advantages of engaging with certain aspects of Enlightenment thinking and explains why utility was such a prominent topic of the Enlightenment era, not only in hagiography, but also in urbanization and architecture. . . . It should interest not only every student and scholar of eighteenth-century visual culture, but historians of the Church as well.”
“This is a wonderful, odd, challenging book. Wonderful because it is learned, informative, and engaging. Odd because it brings together ideas, events, and institutions that often are thought of as disparate and even antithetical. Challenging because by means of patient argument and accumulation of evidence, Christopher Johns disturbs many long-held assumptions about his subjects. . . . Johns opens our minds and eyes to creative acts, ideas, and works that have long been overshadowed by theories and events that seemed to have little or no positive relation to the religion of the time. This is not only a good book to look at, but a very good book to read.”
The Visual Culture of Catholic Enlightenment will surely prove to be the fundamental text on its subject and, broadening our understanding of the Enlightenment more generally, makes an important contribution to many areas of scholarship.”

Christopher M. S. Johns is the Norman and Roselea Goldberg Professor of History of Art at Vanderbilt University.

Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Rome and the Catholic Enlightenment in Historical Context

Ecclesiastical Reform and the European Public: Italian Jansenism and the Catholic Enlightenment

Sanctity and Social Utility: Making Saints in the Era of Catholic Enlightenment

The Papacy and the Patrimony I: Corsini Cultural Initiatives on the Capitoline Hill

The Papacy and the Patrimony II: The Expansion of the Capitoline Museums Under Benedict XIV and Clement XIII

Enlightened Administration and Polite Conversation: Clement XII and Benedict XIV on the Quirinal Hill

Roman Spaces of Catholic Enlightenment: Sacred Sites and Institutions of Social Utility

Popes, Episcopacy, and the “Good Bishop” of Catholic Enlightenment

Epilogue: Two Portuguese Earthquakes and the End of Catholic Enlightenment

Notes

Selected Bibliography

Index

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