Scholars often discuss the persuasive iconography that decorates the walls of the Vatican’ s Room of Constantine as well as the patronage, but most neglect the unusual ceiling program. Pope Gregory VIII commissioned the ceiling fresco, entitled the Triumph of Religion, from the Sicilian painter Tommaso Laureti, because the wooden coffer ceiling was on the verge of collapse. Upon his accession, Sixtus V then further changed the program and the painter to suit his needs. Ultimately, he is responsible for completing the decoration of the room and determining its concetto. The subject and style of this final work is important, not only for the interpretation of the room as a whole, but as mirror of the evolving nature of Rome during the period. This ceiling was commissioned to integrate with the rest of the room, and to reflect the specific political views of its patron.
An examination of three areas of research will make this claim more apparent. These include analyzing the image defined with sharp one-point perspective and looking at contemporary literary sources, including sources that provide insight into the intentions of its final patron and his connection to Constantine. The iconography, albeit unusual, does mesh with themes of the room as a whole. Furthermore, the ambitions of the papacy during this period reveal a desire to renovate the city and will make the correlations all the more evident. The Triumph of Religion should be called the Triumph of Christianity, where the message of Catholic Restoration is at its heart.
Stephanie Wendler, ’06 Champaign, IL
Majors: Art, Religion
Sponsors: Christina McOmber and Richard Thomas