Friday, September 25, 2009

Via Papale = Molto Buon

Last night's movie was amazing to me. I haven't ever seen or heard something that put the world's history, religious history, art history, and architecture into a production so cohesive. It was really, truly thrilling--like being back at college all over again!

Then again, i am not a cradle Catholic, so anything about the history of my chosen faith i am very excited about. Moose, a Catholic since conception, said it was a little too restrictive for him...that an hour long format didn't allow for more information to be presented. That he would have like to have seen more historical info on the popes of the time provided so that when they talked of the making of the Via Papale, it didn't make it seem like they were just vain individuals serving as popes. I say, you have to consider the period of history--that maybe the popes were vain individuals and that is why our faith survived. Just depends on how you look at it i guess.

The movie begins with the history on the Sack of Rome in 1527, when the Pope Clement VII was elected and made a secret treaty with the French ruler. This made the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, furious, as he was in a war with the France. Charles V was formerly known as Spanish Emperor Charles the I--somewhere in history; a Medici pope must have made this change, as Charles V was a fellow in good standing with the Medici's. Hence why he was so offended by the secret agreement between P. Clement VII and France. People of the time were also up in arms about the demolition and rebuilding of Old St. Peter's Cathedral, which was the original monument and burial place of Saint Peter--hence Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation was born--at the time he was questioning the validity of a Church that would sell indulgences to fund a new St. Peter's Basilica while the old shrine looked and was "just fine", if you can say "just fine" about an Italian religious monument to that degree (and i would like to apologise now for a severe case of "Mom" brain this morning, hence this post will not read like a graduate thesis or anything remotely like it.)

With the discord of the day, Charles V was able to gather some German mercenaries into his Army and they attacked Rome in what is called "The Sack", that lasted intensely for 7 days, but had repercussions lasting many months. P. Clement V was essentially a prisoner for 7+ months in the Castle Sant' Angelo while Charles V army burned priests alive, nuns were raped, orphan children murdered, faithful citizens mutilated, raped, tortured, sold, or murdered, Roman (Vatican) treasures plundered, etc. No stone left unturned, basically.

From here, the movie takes you on a century long journey highlighting only the 6 most influential popes during that time: Paul III (Farnese family), Sixtus V (Peretti family), Paul V (Borghese family), Innocent X (Pamphelij family), Alexander VII (Chigi family), and another that escape my memory just now (that dreaded Mom brain! That'll ensure that you need to see the movie if i've piqued your curiosity enough.) Hee hee

The basic premise of the movie is that these 6 popes were committed to reviving not only a Rome that was basically on continual life support after the sacking, but also a faith that was being vanquished under the revolt and incapacitated by Protestant Reformation--their feelings were that if Rome died, so would the Catholic faith. Their vision was to recreate a territory, a Holy land as it were, through Papel procession from the Castle Sant' Angelo to the Coliseum and back, highlighting various religiously important areas, etc. Over the 100 years, cathedrals sprout up as not only memorials to the families that these 6 popes came from, but to serve as a form of urban renewal to show the faithful and the world's rulers that Rome was once again a powerful city ruled by the popes, and therefore by extension, God himself. The movie takes you on a journey through the mid 16th and early 17th centuries, highlighting the cathedrals built and the Via Papale, that up until the 19th century with the formation of the Italian gov't (rather than the Vatican-ruled Italy), the Via Papale was a sacred avenue, a tradition, a religious path, a soulful almost completely vanished by the restructuring that Mussolini's gov't completed in the 1920's and the renaming of city blocks by owners/sellers of the late 19th - early 20th century.

All in all, it was an impressive flick for only being a little over an hour long. And the beauty of the cathedrals and the landscape outside is a wonderful "pilgrimage" for those of us who haven't been to Italy. It was also a wonderful night for our church, as the two theatres were practically sold out. At $15 per ticket, our $600K debt is going to take a beating, for the first time since i've been a parishoner at St. Phil's. Hooray!!! Once that is paid, we shall be able to have paid faith formation positions and viable renewal in our parish! --they are open to discussions for using this work as a means of fund raising for parishes!!

more historic info of the time can be found at:


  1. The old St. Peter's was actually really old and kind of falling down, if I remember correctly. There were a lot of problems with the construction of the new that led to the indulgences/reformation stuff. There's a book called Basilica that's just fascinating all about St. Peter's and how it was built.

    Thanks for the post... very interesting!

  2. true, however, the movie presented it to be an offensive idea from some of the faithful masses. that a monument like that wouldn't be restored is concerning, i would think. maybe it would be like if they had asked Andy Warhol to re-paint the Sistine Chapel? :o)

    i'll try to find the book. it's a good read, eh?

  3. As the creator of Via Papale, I was very happy to read your blog regarding the screening of our film held in Seattle this past month. I was quite impressed at the amount of detail you were able to glean from the film and how articulate you were in its description. We are planning the World Premiere of the film at the Vatican in mid-December and it is heartening to know that someone not involved with the project was able to come away with such a positive and informed response. Thank you for spreading the word. You can see updates of the films distribution at our site, where I hope to get your blog attached in the next couple of days.


Thanks for taking the time to read my silly lil musings. Hope you have a wonderful day!