Contemporary Art at the Vatican? Pope Francis Shares His Views on Art in New Documentary

Pope Francis wants the church to use contemporary art as a tool for evangelization.

Pope Francis at the Sistine Chapel. Courtesy Pope Francis, via Instagram.
Pope Francis at the Sistine Chapel. Courtesy Pope Francis, via Instagram.

A new documentary, Pope Francis: My Idea of Art, gives the leader of the Catholic church the chance to share his thoughts on art. The film is based on his 2015 book of the same name, co-written with Tiziana Lupi.

“The Vatican Museums have to be the most beautiful place and the most hospitable. It must throw open its doors to the world,” wrote the Pope in his book, noting that based on the teaching of the Bible, the poor’s inability to pay should not prevent them from seeing the church’s impressive art collection.

Known for his progressive views—in 2016 the pontiff told Christians to apologize for their treatment of gays, who he says the church should embrace—Pope Francis also hopes to have the church, historically perhaps the world’s most important art patron, once again work closely with contemporary artists to harness the evangelizing power of art.

The poster for <em>Pope Francis: My Idea of Art</em>, directed by Claudio Rossi Massimi. Courtesy of Vatican City.

The poster for Pope Francis: My Idea of Art, directed by Claudio Rossi Massimi. Courtesy of Vatican City.

“The art of mercy is truly Pope Francis’s idea of art. It is art that is directed toward the humble,” said Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, at a press screening of the film on June 27, as reported by Vatican Radio. “And the Vatican Museums correspond directly to the Pope’s message on art.”

The film takes the shape of a guided tour of the art at the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and St. Peter’s Square, with Pope Francis selecting 11 works that he feels stand in contrast with what he sees as our current culture of exclusion and waste.

Pope Francis with Argentine artist Alejandro Marmo's statues <em>Christ the Worker</em> and <em>The Virgen de Luján</em> at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo, Italy in November 2016. Courtesy of Vatican City/CNS/L'Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis with Argentine artist Alejandro Marmo’s statues Christ the Worker and The Virgen de Luján at the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo, Italy in November 2016. Courtesy of Vatican City/CNS/L’Osservatore Romano.

The Pope singles out such noted masterpieces as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and The Deposition (1603) by Caravaggio, but also spends time with the 1984 Renault 4 hatchback he received as a gift from 70-year-old priest Father Renzo Zocca, so the pontiff would be able to drive himself around. Pope Francis also showcases two statues made from discarded materials by Argentinian artist Alejandro Marmo, recently given to the Vatican as gifts, titled The Virgen de Luján and Christ the Worker.

The film, directed by Claudio Rossi Massimi for Vatican City and Imago Film, is being distributed by Draka Distribution in four languages.

Watch a preview of the documentary:


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