Asked in PopesVatican City
Is it true that in 1857 Pope Pius emasculated statues inside Vatican City?
November 30, 2010 12:39AM
In 1557, the fig leaves were instituted by the bull of Pope Paul IV (1555-1559), as well as creating a ghetto for Jews (Cum nimis absurdum) and in another (1555) declared that the Jews were without merit to receive protection (Cum ex apostolatus officio), and Index Librorum Prohibitorum or "Index of Prohibited Books" to crack down on Protestantism. His numerous "nephews" (many became cardinals) ran the Vatican and this nefarious Pontiff worked heartily at enriching his family (as did most Renaissance popes). Most of the fig leaves that we see were put in place on the personal initiative of Pope Innocent X (1644-1655) who, for reasons of his own, preferred metal leaves to the plaster ones. This Pope, to his credit, spared most of the art in the Vatican. Clement XIII (1758-1769) had the Vatican mass produce fig leaves for statues that still sported penises. By 1857, Pope Pius IX discovered that these few remaining statues constituted grave threat to the faithful and destroyed most of them; the fig leaves were promptly added by his successor to stop the iconoclasm. All in all, the campaign raged for 450 years and resulted in the destruction of Catholic visual art. What is strange to note, is in linguisitic theology, the fig leaf notes the fall of mortals from grace (as with "Adam" and "Eve" creating an "apron" to hide their nakedness) and a demonstration of shame (in the Middle Ages only the "damned" were naked; the "saved" were clothed).