Sistine secrets?

Just when you thought the DaVinci Code dopiness was settling down…. this is in from ABC News.

Was the Sistine Ceiling a Papal Insult?
New Book Asks If Michelangelo Embedded Hidden Messages in the Sistine’s Frescoes

April 28, 2008—

For centuries, people of all faiths have come to Rome and the Sistine Chapel to stare up at its immense ceiling and see Michelangelo’s stunning masterpiece. To most, it is a beautiful vision from the Old Testament, frescoes painted on wet plaster of the stories of the creation of the universe, Noah’s ark and Adam and Eve.

Dr. Arnold Nesselrath, the curator of the Vatican Museums, says people flock to the Sistine Chapel because "it’s one of the greatest works of mankind that were ever produced and it’s one of the greatest treasures of art."

But there are those who look at the 500-year-old frescos  and see hidden messages. [Insert sinister organ music here.]

"This, here, has so many layers of meaning upon meaning, and most of it, if not all of it, is from the Jewish tradition," says Roy Doliner, a Vatican tour guide. He and Rabbi Benjamin Blech, Associate Professor of Talmud, Yeshiva University, have written a book, "The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican."

They say that Michelangelo embedded powerful and dangerous [?] messages in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, that he encoded these messages using his knowledge of ancient Jewish texts, and that he intended some images as insults to the Pope himself.

Rabbi Blech says there’s a reason that all the figures on the ceiling are Jews, the ancestors of Christ and Christianity.

"By emphasizing only Old Testament figures in the entire ceiling & what he was trying to say was, why we have ignored our true roots?" [?]

Of course, 16th century Italy was a time and place that was overwhelming Catholic. But the authors say that Michelangelo was pointedly nudging the church to be kinder to Jews. [?] In Florence, where he was raised, the young Michelangelo grew up in the household of the great Renaissance leader Lorenzo de Medici. It was here, the authors believe, that the artist would have been [?] exposed to Judaism and its teachings.

One of the books the Medicis studied was at the center of an ancient form of Jewish mysticism: Kabbalah, [for pity's sake] as trendy then as it is today.

According to Doliner and Blech, Kabbalah is the key to cracking the code of many of Michelangelo’s hidden messages. But their first clue didn’t come from a Jewish scholar. Rather, it came from a tourist from Indiana who looked up at the famous panel of The Creation at the figure of God.

"In the late 1970′s, a surgeon went into the Sistine Chapel, took a look at this [fresco]. He said to himself, wait, this is Anatomy 101 & this is actually a cross-section of the brain, the right hand side of the brain," Blech said.

If you look at the shape that frames God, and the flowing fabric that falls down from it  do you actually see a spinal cord?

"Now, what’s interesting is in Kabbalah we have different kinds of wisdom," said Doliner. "The right side of the human brain in Kabbalah means wisdom chokhma." And God is appearing from the right side of the brain in that fresco.

How about the fresco of Adam, Eve and the serpent in the garden? Most depictions of the Garden of Eden show an apple tree, but not on the Sistine ceiling. As in an ancient Jewish tradition, the tree is a fig tree.

Blech finds it another hidden message. "I think this is one of these powerful proofs, that not only did Michelangelo know Jewish texts, but he felt it important to incorporate the ideas of these texts into some of these frescoes."

Vatican Curator Nesselrath dismisses the Kabbalah references. "Well, we have all to remember that this is the palace chapel, the main chapel of the Vatican palace, and whatever Michelangelo is painting here had to be discussed with the Pope and his advisors."

And about that Pope  the authors of "The Sistine Secrets" claim that Michelangelo was furious at Julius II, who commissioned the work. Michelangelo was a sculptor, not a painter, and was angry to put his sculpture career on hold to paint frescoes. They say that anger caused the artist to paint hidden references on the ceiling to the corruption of the papacy of his time.

"All these things upset Michelangelo very much. My own personal feeling is that Michelangelo had to get this off his chest," Blech explained.

Just how badly behaved were the Popes of the Renaissance?  [Talk about a cliche!]

"There isn’t a Renaissance Pope that didn’t father plenty of children, and Alexander the Sixth had children but this was well known," noted Michelangelo scholar professor William Wallace says.

Monsignor Timothy Verdon of Florence concurs, but can’t imagine that Michelangelo gave it any thought. "Italians always understood that these men were human. If in their youth there had been a mistress or two, if there were illegitimate children, this was not really all that surprising. If the Pope went out of his way to favor his nephews & it was considered good policy & It’s a bit hard to think that Michelangelo could have been deeply concerned with great questions of church reform."

But the authors contend that there are insults hidden in plain sight right above the place where the Papal throne would sit. They point out the fresco of the Prophet Zachariah, directly above the Pope’s seat. They say it’s actually a portrait of the Pope himself.

"This is actually Julius II," said Blech. "Behind him, are little ‘putti,’ little angels. And this perhaps is the key to understanding Michelangelo’s courage, Michelangelo’s true feelings about the Pope, and the fact that Michelangelo did not hesitate to present us with messages that might’ve been offensive."

He says one of the putti is doing the Renaissance equivalent of giving the Pope’s portrait "the finger."

"There’s no doubt about it," he says, "this little putti, this beautiful little angel, is giving the finger not to Zachariah, but to Pope Julius."

He says the ceiling is full of insults, and that the hand gesture is seen again in the fresco of the Cumaean Sibyl.

"It happens a second time & Twice, that’s a statement."

On Friday May 2 at 8 p.m. ET, ABC News anchor Martin Bashir travels to Florence and Rome and talks to to renowned Michelangelo scholars and theologians to find out if the authors’ remarkable claims are true.

 

"But Father!  But Father!", I am sure some of you are saying.  "Isn’t this old news?"

Indeed.

Here is a story from back in 2005:

Michelangelo’s body of work seen in new light By Carlos DeJuana in Sao Paulo, Brazil
June 18, 2005

Putting heart and soul into it … illustrations from The Secret Art of Michelangelo show a depiction of a human heart in the Cumaean Sibyl.

Putting heart and soul into it … illustrations from The Secret Art of Michelangelo show a depiction of a human heart in the Cumaean Sibyl.

Two Brazilian doctors and amateur art lovers believe they have uncovered a secret lesson on human anatomy hidden by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.

Completed almost 500 years ago, the brightly coloured frescoes painted on the Vatican’s famous sanctuary are considered some of the world’s greatest works of art.

They depict biblical scenes such as the Creation of Adam in which God reaches out to touch Adam’s finger.

But Gilson Barreto and Marcelo de Oliveira say in their book The Secret Art of Michelangelo that the artist also scattered his detailed knowledge of internal anatomy across 34 of the ceiling’s 38 panels. They say a tree trunk is not just a tree trunk, but also a bronchial tube. And a green bag in one scene is really a human heart.

The key to finding the numerous organs, bones and other human parts is to first crack a code they believe was left behind by the Florentine artist. Essentially, it is a set of sometimes subtle, sometimes overt clues, like the way a figure is pointing.

"Why wasn’t this ever seen before? First, because very few people have the sufficient anatomical knowledge to see these pieces like this," said Dr Barreto, a surgeon in the Brazilian city of Campinas.

Dr Barreto and his friend Dr Oliveira are not the first physicians to see depictions of human organs in the Sistine Chapel.

Fifteen years ago Frank Meshberger, an American, pointed out that the figure of God and his surrounding angels in the Creation of Adam panel resembled a cross-section of the human brain.

Dr Barreto came across Dr Meshberger’s theory when packing up to move house, and decided that if there was a brain there had to be other organs.

He searched through books and pictures of the chapel and found five or six other anatomical depictions which he showed Dr Oliveira.

The pair then spent the next three months looking for further evidence.

They discovered another US doctor, Garabed Eknoyan, had found the figure of a kidney in the panel titled Separation of the Earth from the Waters.

The pair came to believe Michelangelo had put coded messages in each panel to help viewers find the hidden body part.

Some clues are thematic, such as Creation of Adam or Creation of Eve, in which a tree trunk looks like a bronchial tube and God’s purple robe is a representation of a lung when seen from the side. One could say God was imparting the "breath of life" into Eve in the scene, Dr Barreto said.

In the scene Cumaean Sibyl a bag with a red frilly border and white rolled up scrolls inside hanging beside the Sibyl was a depiction of a heart, the diaphragm and the aorta, the doctors said.

Faced with the paintings and photographs of the anatomical body part side-by-side, the theory is conceivable, although some matches require a a bit of creativity.

Dennis Geronimus, a specialist on Renaissance art at New York University who examined some of Dr Barreto’s and Dr Oliveira’s "decoded" matches, said: "The problem, and art historians too are certainly often guilty of this, is simply that we often see what we want to see."

Reuters

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21 Responses to Sistine secrets?

  1. “But Father! But Father!”

    This is always my favorite line, I get a kick out of reading it. I imagine fiesty parishoners like eager 6-year-olds reaching their hands up to be called on… “But Father! But Father!”

  2. JML says:

    Seems like it is “Silly News Day”

  3. Bro. AJK says:

    Dear Fr. Z.,

    I feel like I’m looking at Highlights with that page where you find the hidden things. Right cranial hemispheres, hearts….what next? lungs?

  4. Ottaviani says:

    There was a documentary done by Michael Calace called Rape of the Soul that investigated some of the immoralness of Renaissance artists and how they use their art to contain embedded imagery, in order to instill impure thoughts or silently attack the church. Michaelangelo was certainly an anti-Catholic in his time.

    A good blog review of the documentary can be found here

  5. Garrett says:

    In my opinion, Extra-terrestrials, conspiracy theories, hidden messages in the Sistine Chapel…these are all fantasies of a civilization seeking deeper meaning, but unwilling to find its answer through the guidance of the Church.

    Honestly, when i see the picture of the pillow and heart, I think, “Has anyone ever heard of coincidence?”

  6. John says:

    “all the figures on the ceiling are Jews”

    Really? Adam and Noah were Jews?

  7. david andrew says:

    The conspiracy theories about “embedded imagery” designed to instill “impure thoughts” that appear from time to time are just so much piffle, and just as tiresome as the argument that crops up on a Catholic music discussion board regarding the appropriateness of the organ music of J.S. Bach in the Catholic Mass, because Bach was Lutheran.

    Michelangelo anti-Catholic? Right.

  8. TRP says:

    It sounds like they’ve bought the story of a pre-V2 Church so incorrigably anti-semitic that it refused to acknowledge the Old Testament. When they see something that does not correspond to cliche, they invent stories about conspiracies and secret messages. It’s not particularly rational but it’s oh so common.

  9. Le Renard says:

    But there are those who look at the 500-year-old frescos  and see hidden messages.

    So in addition to the DA VINCI CODE, there will now be the MICHELANGELO CODE????

  10. Gordon says:

    Oh dear, Oh dear!! Michealangelo codes & anti Catholic Michealangelos? Buonarroti was certainly not anti Catholic, yes,we know he had his faults, but he did take his religion very seriously & was a far more devoted person than many a famoum artist of his time. He took on the St.Peter’sBasilca project without any fee, as also his ideas for the Gesu & numerous other things. No one without real faith could have created the Pieta. As for the Sistine Chapel, anyone with even the least knowledge would know that these paintings were part of a well co-ordinated plan, & show the Divine plan for Mankind,as well as the leading up to the ultimate gaol of Faith. One gets the impression this is one of those stories designed to create mischieve amongst the uneducated by ppl who DO know this. I can understand some not liking the less than clothed images,but we most also remember, such scenes as painted in yonder days were very regular in contemporary society. Michaelangelo apparantly was a friend of some of the greatest Counter Reformation saints. Ignatius De Loyala being one of them. Not being terribly fond of the Pope is not the same as being anti Catholic. What is anti Catholic is the folks who like to put this kind of stuff about.

  11. Boko says:

    That’s how waitress types express derision. And putti, too, we now learn.

  12. Sue Sims says:

    M. le Renard, you don’t know the half of it. In fact, the artist we know as ‘Michelango’ was an extra-terrestrial who arrived on earth in a chariot of fire (that’s why he took the name of St Michael the archangel – it was a clue to future generations [well, me and like-minded scholars] that he was from the skies). This alien was, in fact, from the bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdelene (you realise already, I’m sure, that the former was from a planet far, far away, and the Ascension was simply his rejoining his spaceship).

    Michelangelo re-founded the Knights Templar under the name of ‘the Priory of Sion’ – this society has remained secret to this day, known only to its initiates and a number of journalists who occasionally make fortunes by publishing books about it. It has to remain hidden, since it would otherwise be destroyed by the vicious cult of Opus Dei, founded by the Zionist and crypto-Jew, ‘St’ Josemaria Escriva, whose canonisation was rushed through by the Vatican in order to pave the way to bring back the Inquisition. It will not be forgotten by my readers (or, indeed, any reader of the liberal press) that the latter organisation, which murdered 20 million faithful Protestants whose only crime was to expose the errors of Rome (a false religion based, you recall, on the idolatrous worship of Babylon, Egypt, Hinduism, the Incas, etc, etc), and burnt 9 million witches, was for many years headed by Joseph Ratzinger, now the so-called ‘Pope’: this man is actually the secret love-child of ‘Pius XII’, evidenced by their common love of Hitler.

    My forthcoming book will demonstrate that it was actually the Roman Catholic Church which instructed the Jesuits, in collaboration with Mossad, to set up 9/11, mainly to distract the public from my previous publication (The Bloody Hole and the Growly ‘Hail’), which proves that Jesus never rose at all, because when ‘he’ met Mary Magdelene near the tomb (the ‘bloody hole’), it was actually the gardener, who had a low, raspy voice. It’s not exactly news, of course, that this vile organisation was also behind the assassination of President Kennedy – as well as Abraham Lincoln – and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales; what is less well known is its involvement in the faked so-called moon landings, the deliberate spreading of AIDS throughout Africa (hence their reluctance to allow condoms), and putting fluoride in the drinking water to ensure we’re all subject to mind control. Oh, and global warming.

    I hope you’ll all buy my book when it comes out. I’m confidently expecting approaches from Hollywood even before the official publication date, and am already investigating Swiss bank accounts. Not, of course, that I’m in any way mercenary – I’m a disinterested scholar who is only interested in the Truth. It’s just a useful coincidence that the Truth has such pecuniary possibilities, proving that one can indeed serve God and Mammon.

  13. Tzard says:

    Thanks for the good laugh.

    I might add that all the Apostles were jews too – makes you think, doesn’t it. Oh come one, at least a little? Some One must have had a plan there. What about the strange fact that most of the New Testament Saints were Christians. Must be some conspiracy there. And what about the odd fact that most of the New Testament supports the teachings of the Church. That church must have had some secret, untold hand in putting that scripture together…..

    Then there’s that strange image burnt into my piece of morning toast…It looks like something familiar – or maybe it’s just toast.

  14. Le Renard says:

    Sue Sims: THANKS for the amusing story (or is it just a story?!)!

    Gordon: One gets the impression this is one of those stories designed to create mischieve amongst the uneducated by ppl who DO know this.

    This reminds me of what had happened with Pius XII and the crazy nonsense they put out about him.

  15. Gordon says:

    You got it right,there Le Renard. That is one of the things I was alluding to. Of Course, on reflection, does that human heart not look like a set of ancient bagpipes??? We could indeed all have a laugh at this kind of thing, but for the fact there are ppl who really want to believe it.

  16. nobody says:

    “DaVinci Code dopiness” will only increase… Of course, Dan Brown neglected to mention the entire other half/side of the story of the mythical ‘Holy Grail’ story and bloodline, which involves someone named Lucifer… (hint hint). Do note how his new project, a book on the masons, is delayed, and delayed, and delayed some more. Pathetic.

    Nonetheless, evil exists, and sure enough, the devil rules the world, and it isn’t funny (Sue’s post aside).

    Scoffing and mocking isn’t likely to be effective…

  17. RBrown says:

    “DaVinci Code dopiness” will only increase… Of course, Dan Brown neglected to mention the entire other half/side of the story of the mythical ‘Holy Grail’ story and bloodline, which involves someone named Lucifer… (hint hint).
    Comment by nobody

    I’m glad he didn’t mention it. The book was boring enough as it is, more pages would just have been giving the thumbscrew another turn.

  18. Matt Q says:

    TRP wrote:

    “It sounds like they’ve bought the story of a pre-V2 Church so incorrigably anti-semitic that it refused to acknowledge the Old Testament. When they see something that does not correspond to cliche, they invent stories about conspiracies and secret messages. It’s not particularly rational but it’s oh so common.”

    )(

    Same thinbg the Nazis did to the Jews. They created all these falsehoods, distortions, and exaggerations, over and over and everywhere until they were believed as fact. Then the next step happened. Yup. Can’t anyone see what is going on, and particularly against the Church?

    ==========

    Gordon wrote:

    “Oh dear, Oh dear!! Michealangelo codes & anti Catholic Michealangelos? Buonarroti was certainly not anti Catholic, yes,we know he had his faults, but he did take his religion very seriously & was a far more devoted person than many a famoum artist of his time. He took on the St.Peter’sBasilca project without any fee, as also his ideas for the Gesu & numerous other things. No one without real faith could have created the Pieta.

    As for the Sistine Chapel, anyone with even the least knowledge would know that these paintings were part of a well co-ordinated plan, & show the Divine plan for Mankind,as well as the leading up to the ultimate gaol of Faith. One gets the impression this is one of those stories designed to create mischieve amongst the uneducated by ppl who DO know this. I can understand some not liking the less than clothed images,but we most also remember, such scenes as painted in yonder days were very regular in contemporary society. Michaelangelo apparantly was a friend of some of the greatest Counter Reformation saints. Ignatius De Loyala being one of them. Not being terribly fond of the Pope is not the same as being anti Catholic. What is anti Catholic is the folks who like to put this kind of stuff about.

    )(

    Well said, Gordon.

    Further what Michaelangelo did was what all artists do and especially of his time. They put all kinds of little inserts into their work. One example is St Therese of Lisieux herself. She painted a fresco on the wall behind the Tabernacle of her convent chapel and added herself as a sleeping angel. It’s cute. It was pictorial book on her life showing where she actually lived and the very things she used during her time there. So, in that, I don’t think Michaelangelo was being nefarious at all. I think it is also very wrong to take someone from the past ( whom also cannot defend himself ) and ascribe all kinds of insidiously devious attributes and infer his mind-set, and with the conclusion he was anti-Catholic or anti-Church. Notice the insidious evil of these people? Always with an anti-Church conclusion!

  19. Le Renard says:

    You got it right,there Le Renard. That is one of the things I was alluding to. Of Course, on reflection, does that human heart not look like a set of ancient bagpipes??? We could indeed all have a laugh at this kind of thing, but for the fact there are ppl who really want to believe it.

    Comment by Gordon — 28 April 2008 @ 8:28 pm

    Gordon:

    Unfortunately, the Pius XII incident is not the only one where devious revisionists deliberately attempt to replace the truth with their heinous fiction. Another example would be how the Catholic Church had always been against education for the advancement of society — never mind the fact that it was the Catholic Church that was responsible for the university system itself and, moreover, establishing universities across Europe at a time when ignorance was as deadly and prevalent as the plague.

    Examples abound but needless to say, they’re beyond the scope of the topic here.

  20. Gav says:

    It’s obvious it is full of hidden messages. It would hardly be the first painting to have hidden political meanings.

    It just makes me laugh how Christians/Catholics are so blinkered to what’s really going on. You can’t believe that the images have 2 meanings, but you believe that all the events represented actually happened? I can barely comprehend how stupid you must be.

    The Catholic church should be smashed. You choose to ignore & disbelief things which we know ARE actually true.

  21. sienna says:

    Not believing that artists concoct secret symbolism in their works is like not believing there are hidden meanings in the Bible.
    Michelangelo and others of his time might have been religious but that does not mean he was a lover of the Papacy. The Papacy of the Roman Catholic church was corrupt and vile. They lived in extreme decadence. Pope Julius II had children and syphilis a horrible temper and was a megalomaniac with innumerable enemies> Michelangelo was an extremely intelligent artist who was treated like dirt by julius ii and there is no reason to believe that he would not criticize the decadence of the papacy during his time> the church was greedy