Monday 11 February 2013

Papal Resignations - Then and Now

Today, February 11th 2013, will go down in ecclesiastical history as the day that Pope Benedict XVI resigned. A Papal resignation is an incredibly uncommon event the last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 to end the great Schism of the church. The Schism meant that for several years there were two popes one residing in Rome the other in Avignon. So lets have a look at how these two popes have been depicted throughout the years.

Then ......

An engraving of Pope Gregory XII by Giovanni Battista Cavalieri from 1584. As this post-dates the popes death the engraving was probably based upon an earlier engraving or painting.We see the pope seated, a very conventional format. He clutches a book demonstrating his quest for knowledge and understanding. In the top right is the papal coat of arms including the crossed key's of St Peter.

 Another engraving of Pope Gregory XII from a private collection, the coloration is a later addition. Sorry for the image it is only available to Bridgman users.

And now.....

This portrait of Pope Benedict XVI was painted by Michael Noakes shortly after the Pope's appointment. It is a comparatively informal representation of a pope painted in his library and presents a friendly and warm impression of the man.

This is a more formal official portrait of Pope Benedict XVI belonging to the Vatican collection. It is a painting in oil by the Russian artist Igor Babailov entitled 'The Truth, The Way and The Life'. 

The famously shy pope is shown looking humble before a marble sculpture of Christ who's hand is raised towards the pope in a gesture of blessing. In the top left we can see the papal coat of arms and in the background the obscure dome of St Peter's.

What Pope Benedict's resignation will mean for his legacy and for the catholic church is yet to be discovered but Popes, past and present, will always be remembered through their portraits.

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