Terrifying Paintings at the Vatican?
June 27, 2012 12:03 AM   Subscribe

Is there a secret gallery at The Vatican of terrifying images of Christian idols?

About a year or so ago, I stumbled across a link of images from a gallery, that I think was in Vatican City, but it's hard to remember where exactly. I remember it so vividly because I was going through a pretty rough patch in my life around that time and the images were quite provocative for me at the time when I was thinking about the duality of religious symbolism. Anyway, the images were basically paintings of various figures in Christianity like The Virgin Mary, but they were terrifying looking, almost like demons. The article I read said something about how they were meant to elicit deeply spiritual feelings through the power of fear and respect. I haven't thought to look at the images again until now, but now I'm curious. This all might have been a parody, but I don't think so, the paintings looked pretty real. I wanna say they were in The Vatican in some basement according to the article, but I can't remember. Does anybody know what I'm talking about?
posted by dargerpartridge to Religion & Philosophy (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you saw one of Francis Bacon's* nightmarish "screaming pope" paintings? He did dozens in the series, and has at least one work already hanging in the Vatican.

* not that Francis Bacon
posted by Rhaomi at 12:25 AM on June 27, 2012

Unfortunately, that is not it. These were much more detailed and much more terrifying.
posted by dargerpartridge at 12:38 AM on June 27, 2012

in 2007 the Vatican had a display showing modern depictions of the apocalypse... that might have been what you saw...
posted by fozzie33 at 4:08 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nope, that's not it either. It's almost as if it has been erased from existence. I can't seem to find anything about it.
posted by dargerpartridge at 8:03 AM on June 27, 2012

I can't imagine this happening "officially"--they'll put up anything on display in and around the Vatican that's at least neutral--like the awful painting linked by Rhaomi, or the ridiculous interpretive sculptures littering the place.

But I can't imagine them taking something traditionally holy and worthy of veneration (e.g., images of the Blessed Mother), re-presented as "terrifying" or "demonic," and putting that on display as something worth looking at in the Vatican.

But I could be wrong. The last fifty years have been a wild ride.
posted by resurrexit at 8:37 AM on June 27, 2012

In all honesty, I might have been tripping on Jesus at the time. You should have seen these images. They were the most insane thing I've ever seen. May have entered into another dimension for a little while, while I was looking at them. Perhaps somebody can prove me wrong though.
posted by dargerpartridge at 8:58 AM on June 27, 2012

Also, I want to say this MAY have been an onion article. Either way, I would like to see the images again.
posted by dargerpartridge at 9:00 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Perhaps Dali's The Biblia Sacra or one of his other religious works.
posted by chrisulonic at 11:17 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Possibly something from the Vatican's Collection of Modern Religious Art, which is partly located in the Sistine Chapel's basement. It's frustratingly difficult to find out just what they have, though. It would help if you could give any details you can remember about style, period, etc.

I wouldn't bet on it being a parody. The Vatican has some very weird stuff (NSFW).
posted by Perodicticus potto at 2:53 PM on June 27, 2012

You might enjoy perusing The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance by Joscelyn Godwin. In particular his chapter 8, "Garden Magic", which includes descriptions of Sacro Bosco. This is a sculpture garden in Italy, not the Vatican; but there is a ton of other information in his well-referenced book that the answer to your question is probably in there.
posted by bukvich at 3:16 PM on June 27, 2012

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