The Counter Reformed Patronage of Pope Sixtus V at the Holy Steps in Rome (1585-1590)

I wrote this book to discuss a transitional period in the artistic patronage of Rome. At the end of Renaissance, Rome was still reacting to the Counter Reformation but its public infrastructure lacked roads and shrines to guide the pilgrims to its churches. If the Renaissance originated isolated masterpieces like the decoration of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo and the papal rooms frescoed by Raphael, those works were expression of the papal power but were not open to the public at that time. As such, those treasures did not come to fruition to the pilgrims who were coming for the first time to Rome.

Sixtus V was involved in urban planning in such a way that he commissioned roads that we still use today, such as Via Sistina. His main scope was to facilitate the flux of people arriving to Rome especially during the Jubilee years which still occur every 25 years. In order to improve the traffic flow, he used obelisks that the Roman emperors brought to Rome from Egypt to pinpoint the location of the major basilicas.

My dissertation focuses on the decoration of the Holy Steps which was part of Saint John in Lateran, the first residence of the popes. It highlights the works of the artists “as a team” under the direction of Sixtus compared to single works of the great Renaissance masters who preceded them.


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