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Chapter 4— Salvation and the Council of Trent
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Chapter 4—
Salvation and the Council of Trent

The multivalent meanings of the Grimaldi Chapel program argued here should be understood as reflecting both Luca Grimaldi's concern for his own soul at the Last Judgment and the church's reform program. Although Grimaldi was no different from thousands of others with his resources, his choices for the program of his chapel were unusual in their combination and emphases. They reveal both his awareness of decrees laid down by the Council of Trent and his willingness to accede to them. The major components of the chapel's decorative program, the six freestanding statues of Virtues, already discussed, and the narrative relief cycle of Christ's Passion, were stipulated in the contract of 1579. To these were added a crucifix, the relief of the Entombment (Plate 12), and two paintings, The Sacrifice of Isaac and Joseph Sold into Egypt (Fig. 16; Plate 13). These additions enriched, and focused more clearly, the essential meaning of the original program. The crucifix added the central episode to the Passion story, referred specifically to the dedication of the chapel to the Holy Cross, and fulfilled the requirement for such an image made by Monsignore Bossio during his 1582 apostolic visitation to Genoa.[1] Both the crucifix and The Entombment focused on the outcome of Christ's trial and the culmination of his Passion: his death. The Sacrifice of Isaac is a well-known prefiguration of Christ's Crucifixion, whereas Joseph Sold into Egypt provides an analogue to Christ sold by Judas and a counterpart to Pilate's exchange of Christ for his own political security.[2]

As I mentioned in discussing the Virtues, I know of only two other examples combining Passion cycles and Virtues in funerary art, and their


programs differ from that of the Grimaldi Chapel.[3] One is part of the large, complex program of the Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo (Fig. 37).[4] Here five Passion scenes alternate with Virtues on the lower sarcophagus, which contains Bartolommeo Colleoni's remains. The upper sarcophagus, whose contents remain a matter of conjecture, is surrounded by an infancy cycle combined with statuettes of heroes. Whether or not Colleoni himself devised this program, the link of his own remains with the Passion cycle and Virtues remains noteworthy. Unlike the Grimaldi Passion scenes, those on the Colleoni monument (The Flagellation, The Way to Calvary, The Crucifixion, The Deposition, and The Resurrection ) focus, not on the trial, but on the body of Christ as the sacrificial offering.

Another funerary monument from northern Italy that combined a Passion cycle and Virtues was made in the 1520s by Agostino Busti, Il Bambaia, for Daniele Birago's family chapel in San Francesco Grande, Milan. Afterward dismantled and scattered, it has now been partly reconstructed in the Villa Borromeo on Isola Bella, Lake Como. The Birago, dedicated to the Passion of Christ, with a cycle much more extensive than that in the Grimaldi Chapel,[5] includes twelve Passion scenes, six of them identical to the Grimaldi Chapel reliefs in their stress on Christ's trial. Unfortunately the present reconstruction at Isola Bella, which includes saints and evangelists as well as Virtues, cannot be relied on to provide links between Passion scenes and Virtues.

A group of Flemish rood screens, in Mons, Tessenderloo, and Aerschot, suggest that a tradition of combining Passion scenes with Virtues may have existed in that context. The one in Sainte-Waudru in Mons (Fig. 12), unfortunately dismantled and partially destroyed at the time of the French Revolution, is of particular interest because of Giambologna's apprenticeship in the 1540s under its designer, Jacques Du Broeucq.[6] Hedicke's reconstruction of the screen, based on an original drawing for it, shows a Passion cycle of twenty-three scenes in relief and seven freestanding statues of Virtues decorating the upper portion of the screen. Although the Virtues and Passion scenes constituted the major part of the program, it also included prophets and three other biblical events. The destruction of almost all rood screens in northern Europe as well as in Italy and the corresponding lack of a scholarly study of their iconography leave unanswered vital questions: whether the Mons screen was typical, the extent to which its program was determined by the liturgy, and the function of the screen as the place from which the Gospel and Epistle were read.


Even the isolated examples cited do not provide a coherent source for either the general program of the Grimaldi Chapel or its concentration on Pilate's role in the narrative cycle. Pilate assumed enormous importance for the Catholic Reformation church as the symbol of the moral conflict inherent in judgment. As Roman governor, the earthly judge of Christ, and a fallible human being, Pilate faced a dilemma: if he freed Christ, his political career was finished; if he condemned him, his moral position was indefensible. Thus Pilate in his role vis-à-vis Christ encapsulated some of the most pressing contemporary concerns of the church; in art, the trial of Christ before Pilate could serve as a metaphor for these concerns.

A series of links between the patron of the chapel, Luca Grimaldi, and the Catholic Reformation in the aftermath of the Council of Trent accounts for the unique features of the Grimaldi Chapel. What emerges from an investigation of these complex interconnections is the strong likelihood that Luca Grimaldi or a close advisor, rather than Giambologna, planned the program for the chapel. Grimaldi's involvement with the construction of his chapel was intense and his piety well known.

By 1579, when the Grimaldi Chapel contract was signed, the Catholic Reformation was fully under way, stimulated by the vigorous leadership of Pope Gregory XIII. The Council of Trent, the longest of all the general councils of the church and the most far-reaching in its effects, had closed sixteen years before. It had met three times (1545–47, 1551–52, 1562–63). The immediate impetus for calling the council in the 1540s may have been the failure of efforts to reconcile the Lutherans and Rome at the Colloquy of Regensburg in 1541. But the need for reform within the Roman Catholic church had been recognized long before Luther's urgent call. In May 1542 Paul III issued a bull calling the assembly for the following fall at Trent. Circumstances, including war between Francis I and Charles V, Farnese family quarrels, and difficulties securing lodging in Trent, delayed the opening until 1545. When the council convened, the Catholic church was on the defensive; eighteen years later, in 1563, when it ended, the church was in a much stronger position and the papacy was taking the offensive. Among the doctrinal matters the council confronted were the meaning of the Eucharist and the Mass, the redefinition of justification, and the veneration of relics. High on the list of disciplinary matters was the reform of the clergy, particularly with respect to residency requirements and proper


education. The decrees issued by the Council of Trent served as the blueprint for a massive reform effort that lasted well into the seventeenth century. This monumental body of legislation was subsequently applied locally by zealous reformers, such as Carlo Borromeo and Gabriele Paleotti. The provincial synods ordered at Trent were crucial to the reform process, providing the means to elaborate on and implement the conciliar decrees. Borromeo set the example by calling his first Milanese synod in 1565; soon after, in 1567, Cipriano Pallavicino called the first Genoese synod.[7] Visitations by officials to local parishes followed.

The relics in the Grimaldi Chapel—a piece of Christ's cross and a piece of the crown of thorns, both Passion relics—constitute the first link between Luca Grimaldi and Tridentine reform. The veneration of holy relics by the Catholic church, practiced for centuries, was attacked vehemently by Protestants in the sixteenth century. Answering this attack, the Council of Trent, at its twenty-fifth session, in 1563, reiterated the importance of the practice.[8] The Genoese synod of 1567 also called for the veneration and proper display of relics. The detailed instructions for their care and exhibition, given by Monsignore Bossio during his visit to the Genoese Cathedral of San Lorenzo, were recorded in a significant document of 1582.[9] Local parishes, such as San Francesco di Castelletto, were expected to follow these instructions.

Great prestige attached to the possession of relics. Luca Grimaldi's power and position must have enabled him to have the two relics of Christ's Passion, already in the church, moved to his family chapel.[10] Piety as well as the aggrandizement of self and family was involved in this move. The inscription identifies the relics as

Sacre Crucis, eis spine corone, plurimisque Sanctorum reliquus templo nuper huc Translatis, Lucas Grimaldus Francisci filius, sacrarium hoc P.C.A.S.

Luca Grimaldi, son of Francesco, piously set up and dedicated this shrine for several relics of the saints, and of his holy cross and crown of thorns, recently transferred here to this chapel.

Thus it is clear that they were already in the church when Grimaldi acquired the chapel, which was dedicated to the holy cross. The precise relationship between the Grimaldi Chapel and the relics is not clear, but enough is known to establish a plausible connection.


The relics of the cross and crown of thorns had been donated to the Church of San Francesco in 1322 by Niccolò di David, no doubt partly in recognition of the Franciscans' special devotion to the Passion of Christ. A chapel of the holy cross had existed in the church at least from 1406, when records mention that an Ansaldo Grimaldi, Luca's distant relative, left money for perpetual masses to be said there.[11] Although the relics are not mentioned in connection with this chapel, it seems safe to assume that it contained them. This chapel, however, was not the one Luca Grimaldi acquired, for the inscription clearly states that Luca moved the relics of the cross and of the crown of thorns to his own chapel. In all probability he had the dedication transferred to this chapel as well. Its location adjacent to the high altar, its sacred relics, and its dedication to the holy cross all indicate that Grimaldi was one of the most prominent communicants of San Francesco di Castelletto at that time.

The Grimaldi Chapel, as the repository of Passion relics, was undoubtedly the site where each year on Good Friday the rite of the Adoratio Crucis (Adoration of the Cross) took place.[12] This rite goes back at least to the fourth century, for the pilgrim Egeria describes it in her account of her pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 381–84.[13] According to the local historian Domenico Cambiaso, the Adoratio was particularly popular in Genoa.[14] It was incorporated into the Missa Praesanctificatorum (Mass of Good Friday), preceded by two lessons, the reading of the Passion from the Gospel of John, and a series of special prayers. With minor variations, it was observed all over Western Europe from the seventh or eighth century. According to the Regularis Concordia of Saint Athelwold, which conforms to the authorized use of Rome, the ceremonial opens with two deacons holding the cross before the altar chanting "Reproaches," to which subdeacons and a chorus respond. The cross, which has been laid on a cushion, is uncovered, and three antiphons and a hymn are sung. Then the abbot, with half the chorus, prostrates himself and sings the seven penitential psalms, kissing the cross to close the ceremony.[15] The Adoratio was followed by the extraliturgical Depositio , the symbolic placement of Christ's body (the cross) in the sepulcher; the Elevatio , the raising of the cross early on Easter morning; and the Visitatio , the visit of the three Marys to Christ's empty tomb. The scenario might have been as follows: a reliquary, undoubtedly a cross, containing pieces of the cross and crown of thorns, was brought up from the Grimaldi Chapel crypt into the chapel proper for the cele-


bration of all the Good Friday and Easter morning rites. As the symbolic sepulchrum domini the chapel altar, with Giambologna's relief of the Entombment mounted as an antependium on the front and the crucifix suspended above, would have been the center of these ceremonies. Together with the rest of the Passion cycle on the chapel walls, the two paintings (Joseph Sold into Egypt [Fig. 16; Plate 13] and The Sacrifice of Isaac ), family tombs attached to the walls, and the Virtues in niches, these components of the Grimaldi Chapel provided the perfect setting for the drama of Easter, the Christian promise of salvation.

The Passion of Christ, a central concern of the Catholic reform movement, resonated in the program of the Grimaldi Chapel. Granted the role of the relics and the dedication of the chapel in the choice of a Passion cycle, other religious and historical forces undoubtedly influenced the selection as well. Among those to be explored in this chapter are the Council of Trent's renewed emphasis on the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the doctrine of justification, and the observance of special Franciscan devotions.

A central controversy between Catholics and Protestants during the sixteenth century was the meaning of the Eucharist. The Catholic Reformation church's efforts to clarify it and renew eucharistic devotions rested on the doctrine, paramount in Catholic belief, that the Eucharist reenacts Christ's sacrifice, the central event of the Passion. Renewed emphasis on the events of the Passion thus became the means for strengthening devotion to the Eucharist.

Tridentine decrees both stimulated and reflected the reforms that took place in the church, emphasizing the Passion and making Christ's sacrifice the climax of the Mass. In its twenty-second session, in 1562, the Council of Trent reiterated the truth of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, reaffirming, in the face of the heretical ideas of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, that in the Mass the living God is present in the Eucharist.[16] With this declaration the Council of Trent reemphasized and codified the doctrine promulgated by early church fathers like Cyprian. Twenty years after the conclusion of the council, Robert Bellarmine defended the doctrine of Transubstantiation in lectures at the Roman College and made it the cornerstone of his refutation of Protestantism in his Disputationes de controversiis (1586–93).[17]

A corollary of the controversy over Transubstantiation was the discussion of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Luther did not deny the Real Presence; according to Zwingli, however,


"The true body of Christ is present to the contemplation of faith. . . . But that the natural body is really present in the Supper by way of essence, or is orally taken and eaten . . . we not only strenuously deny, but steadfastly assert to be an error contrary to God's word."[18] To combat this and other heresies, the Council of Trent, in its 1551 session, declared:

After the Consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really and substantially contained under the perceptible species of bread and wine. . . . If anyone denies that the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained in the Sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, but says that Christ is present in the Sacrament only as in a sign or figure, or by His power: let him be anathema.[19]

One of the practical results of the new emphasis on the Eucharist was the modification of the liturgy. In 1562 the Council of Trent appointed a commission to study abuses in the mass, with the ultimate goal of producing a standard missal.[20] This was accomplished in 1570, when Pius V proclaimed the missal, based on the Roman version, the standard one for the whole church. Another result of the intense preoccupation with the Eucharist was the incorporation of the Office of Corpus Domini in 1568 into the Breviarium Romanum , again exemplifying the Catholic Reformation church's regularization and codification of traditional church practice.

The publication of the catechism of 1566 was another part of the campaign to codify vital church beliefs; its contents reflect a similar concern with the Eucharist and the Passion. The catechism states, for example, that "the Eucharist is superior to all [sacraments] in holiness and in the number and greatness of its mysteries."[21] Explaining in detail the significance and benefits of the Passion, the catechism concludes with an admonition: "The History of Christ's passion is to be frequently inculcated on the people."[22]

In an attempt to involve the laity more in worship, the Council of Trent, at its twenty-second session, in 1562, issued decrees urging lay participation in the mass and the reception of the Eucharist with every attendance at mass.[23] Influential spokesmen for the council, like Carlo Borromeo and Alphonsus Salmeron, went further and advocated daily


communion, as Ambrose had centuries earlier when he said, "If bread is daily why do you take it after a year, as the Greeks in the east are accustomed to? Receive daily what is of benefit to you daily."[24] The council was thus attempting to revive a practice of the early church that had fallen into disuse during the Middle Ages, when communion, mandatory only once a year, was infrequently received.[25] As the Catholic Reformation church recognized, frequent reliving of the Passion of Christ through participation in the Eucharist was essential in strengthening faith and thereby combatting heresy. The cult of the Eucharist in San Francesco di Castelletto was a particular interest of the Confraternity of Union and Charity, a group of "nobili antichi" (old nobles) connected to that church.[26] San Francesco, which belonged to the second tier of important religious spaces, the cathedral occupying the first, was a center of this eucharistic revival in the Tridentine period. Presumably, a prominent family chapel such as the Grimaldi was the site of frequent masses and was open to communicants other than family and clergy. How important these masses and other services were we may surmise from the discovery that Luca Grimaldi's father, Francesco, provided for them in his will of 1565 and codicil of 1567. He put aside 1,700 lire from his "luoghi" (shares of stock) in the Banco di San Giorgio, the income from which was to be used for the celebration of masses, for other religious services, for the upkeep of the Grimaldi Chapel, and for the maintenance of the Church of San Francesco and the monastery.[27] Luca himself designated 200 lire, the income from which was to be used in perpetuity for the annual celebration of a mass for the care of his soul.[28]

Borromeo, in his time the most ardent exponent of devotions to the Passion, not only advocated daily Communion but also instructed that ciboria containing the Sacrament be made for high altars and, furthermore, that these ciboria be decorated with scenes from the Passion of Christ.[29] He thus made visually explicit the inevitable link between the Eucharist and the Passion. It is tempting to think that Borromeo's influence was felt in Genoa in the 1560s when the program for the elaborate Corpus Domini silver casket, which had been commissioned by the comune for the cathedral, was changed from a cycle including scenes from the Old and New Testament to one representing only the Passion (Fig. 39).[30] His close ties to the city, both personal and official, are well known. Borromeo's nephew Don Ferrante Gonzaga was engaged in


Figure 39.
Corpus Domini silver casket (Christ before Pilate  and The Flagellation ), 
c. 1565–68. 
Treasury, San Lorenzo, Genoa.

1582 and married in 1586 to Giovanni Andrea Doria's daughter Vittoria; his correspondence with successive doges covers more than twenty years.[31]

Christ's Passion, a divine truth presented as a historical narrative, served church doctrine and practice, involving the laity more ardently in worship. In both the catechism of 1566 and the Apostles' Creed the


church focused on the historical Christ by clearly fixing the time of the Passion as the governorship of Pontius Pilate and its place as the lands of Judea. Christ's sacrifice became part of historical reality; his physical suffering proved his humanity and consequently the greatness of his sacrifice. Events surrounding the Passion and details of the physical suffering that Christ endured, documented by Scripture, provided a moving drama with which communicants could empathize and identify.

As important an issue for the Catholic church as that of the Eucharist or Transubstantiation was the doctrine of justification. At the center of the battle between Protestant reformers and Catholics was the question whether justification could be achieved by faith alone, as Protestants claimed, or must be accompanied by good works, as Catholics believed. For Catholics, Christ's Passion was an essential part of justification. A passage relating the Passion to salvation, a concept especially relevant for a funeral chapel, is found in the decree regarding the doctrine of justification issued at the sixth session, in 1547, at Trent.

But though He died for all, yet all do not receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of His Passion is communicated; because as truly as man would not be born unjust, if they were not born through propagation of the seed of Adam since by that propagation they contract through him when they are conceived, injustice as their own, so if they were not born again in Christ, they would never be justified, since in that new birth there is bestowed upon them, through the merit of His Passion, the grace by which they are made just.[32]

Reiterating the importance of the Passion for achieving justification, the decree states that Christ "merited for us Justification by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross."[33] The Tridentine decree thus clearly links Christ's Passion to justification itself.

Franciscan devotions may have been a further stimulus in the selection of a Passion cycle for the Grimaldi Chapel. Two of these devotions, to the Passion of Christ and the closely related Via Crucis, are clearly connected to the Grimaldi program. In a Franciscan convent and church like San Francesco di Castelletto, which dated back to the time of Saint Francis, these devotions must have drawn special strength from the feeling of connection to the early days of the order.

Saint Francis himself set the example for the Franciscans, who held Christ's Passion in special veneration. So compelling was the meaning


of Christ's Passion for Saint Francis that he miraculously received the stigmata and became an alter Christus, the paradigm for this experience.[34] "His consuming passion was to achieve an utterly literal imitation of the God-Man, especially the humility of the Incarnation and the clarity of the Passion."[35] The popular Franciscan text Meditations on the Life of Christ reveals the power of Saint Francis's example. Written in the late thirteenth century, it exhorts the reader to experience step-by-step all the physical and psychological pain Christ suffered at the hands of His tormentors.[36] Of the Passion in general, the text says,

He who wishes to glory in the Cross and the Passion must dwell with continued meditation on the mysteries and events that occurred. . . . Therefore I exhort you that, if you have studiously considered the things said above on His life, you much more diligently concentrate the whole spirit and all the virtues, for here is shown more especially this charity of His that should kindle all our hearts.[37]

After leading the reader through each painful step of the Flagellation and its effects on Christ, the Franciscan author urges, "Here, then consider Him diligently for a long time; and if you do not feel compassion at this point, you may count yours a heart of stone."[38]

In recognition of the order's special relationship to the Passion, the pope in 1342 made Franciscans the guardians of the Holy Sepulcher and custodians of the Via Crucis in Jerusalem. The Franciscans thus assumed the mission of promoting devotion to the holy places associated with Christ's Passion. The vivid experience of retracing Christ's steps on that last agonizing journey served to stimulate its depiction in painting, sculpture, and other media throughout the Christian world. After several centuries, devotions centered on the Passion crystallized into the fourteen stations of the cross, which Pope Clement XII officially established in 1731, chiefly because they had been popularized by the Franciscan friar Lawrence of Porto Maurizio.[39] A standardized meditational exercise on the significance of Christ's Passion was consequently assured: the stations of the cross required the worshiper to follow step-by-step Christ's journey to Calvary.

Between 1342 and 1731 the devotion to the stations of the cross evolved gradually; before codification the number and selection of scenes varied. The prominent Franciscan Bernardino Caimi provided a strong impetus in the development of the stations. He had served as


custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem in 1478 and apparently had been much affected by his experience. Acutely aware of the devotional value for pilgrims of visiting the places where Christ's Passion actually took place, Bernardino conceived the idea of reproducing these sites in his native Lombardy. After his return from Jerusalem he searched for the appropriate location, which he found in the hills surrounding Varallo, northwest of Milan. The realization of Bernardino's brilliant concept, known as the Sacro Monte, took three hundred years, but long before its completion it became a favorite place of religious pilgrimage.[40] Bernardino's original plan for topographical authenticity was altered in favor of a dramatic unfolding of the events of Christ's life, and the design expanded over the years to include forty-four chapels. Although not restricted to the Passion, the narrative at Varallo does focus on it. The popular realism of the life-size scenes enabled pilgrims to relive each event represented. If Bernardino Caimi initially inspired this New Jerusalem in the Lombardy hills, Carlo Borromeo became its promoter and overseer, spreading the fame of the Sacro Monte as a pilgrimage site.[41] Borromeo considered visits to the Sacro Monte so vital that although seriously ill, he made a pilgrimage there only a few days before his death in 1584.

The selection of Christ before Pilate as the first scene in the Grimaldi Chapel establishes an important connection between Franciscan devotions and the Grimaldi Passion cycle.[42] This scene corresponds to the first one in both the Passion section of the Meditations on the Life of Christ and the stations of the cross, two Franciscan devotions. The match therefore seems more than fortuitous, especially since at the time the Grimaldi Chapel was being planned, no doctrinal codification, or even artistic convention, determined the beginning scene of Passion cycles. This lack of codification clearly emerges in Francesco Panigarola's Cento Ragionamenti sopra la Passione di Nostro Signore, commissioned by Borromeo and published in Genoa in 1585.[43]

Although the factors I have discussed all determined the choice of some sort of Passion cycle for the chapel, they do not account for the unusual politico-historical emphasis of the Grimaldi cycle, its focus on Christ's civil trial. Additional determinants of the scenes selected for the cycle relate not only to Catholic Reformation thought but also to contemporary religious drama and to Luca Grimaldi's personal history. If the Passion cycles are classified, according to their emphasis, as historical, devotional, or physical, the Grimaldi cycle clearly belongs among


the historical. With its thematic and dramatic orientation to the political meaning of the Passion, it largely eschews the devotional or emotional overtones of the other two types. Even by comparison with other historical Passion cycles the Grimaldi is unique in stressing the figure of Pilate. This exceptional focus highlights his role as political judge. The two paintings in the Grimaldi Chapel (The Sacrifice of Isaac and Joseph Sold into Egypt [Fig. 16; Plate 13]), added sometime after the signing of the contract in 1579, refer to Pilate typologically, augmenting this singular program. Isaac's deliverance from the hands of his father corresponds antithetically to Christ before Pilate; that is, it recalls Christ's deliverance into the hands of the Jews. Joseph being sold by his brothers parallels Christ being sold by Judas and, by extension, Pilate yielding Christ in exchange for his own political security.[44]

The uniqueness of the Grimaldi program becomes even more apparent in a comparison with two other nearly contemporary Passion cycles of the historical type, both of which Giambologna must have known. One is the silver casket made for the Corpus Domini feast in Genoa (Fig. 39), the other the painting cycle in the Oratorio del Gonfalone in Rome.[45] Although both stress the historical elements of the Passion, neither puts any special emphasis on Christ's trials, whether the religious, before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, or the political, before Pilate. Moreover, unlike the Grimaldi cycle, neither the casket nor the Gonfalone cycle presents a temporally and dramatically compressed portion of the Passion story. The Corpus Domini cycle has one scene representing the religious trial and one the political: Christ before Caiaphas and Christ before Pilate . Of all the possible trial scenes that could have been represented, the Gonfalone cycle includes only one, Christ before Caiaphas, and that is part of the religious judgment. The Gonfalone cycle covers a selection of the major events, from the Entry into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. Otherwise, only much longer cycles, such as Albrecht Dürer's Small Engraved Passion of 1508, contain any comprehensive treatment of the trial.

In contrast, the program of the Grimaldi Passion cycle (Plates 7–12, Fig. 5) emphasizes the political trial and its consequences. Pilate, along with Christ, becomes a principal actor in the drama. In addition to the two paintings typologically referring to Pilate, two of the six reliefs show Pilate judging Christ, and a third depicts Pilate showing Christ to the people. Half the cycle as it was first planned, then, involves Pilate. The other three reliefs represent direct results of Pilate's decisions. Pilate may


even be present among the group of bearded older spectators in The Flagellation (Plate 8), Christ Crowned with Thorns (Plate 9), and The Way to Calvary (Fig. 5).

Although no visual tradition exists to explain the Grimaldi focus on Pilate, historical circumstances suggest reasons for it. The Council of Trent reflected the church's desire to clarify and codify existing doctrine and practices and to eliminate those considered unacceptable. Its determination to explain and systematize extended to religious and historical events. Thus Pilate was a pivotal figure in the Passion story. He was, first, a necessary part of God's grand design for the redemption of humankind.[46] Without him, Christ could not have been crucified and, consequently, humanity could not be saved. Pilate's function as the instrument of God could thus explain the scandal of the Messiah's being crucified as an ordinary criminal; and Pilate's unjust behavior could be viewed as necessary to the fulfillment of God's plan. The official historian of the Catholic Reformation church, Cesare Baronius (1538–1607), writing in his Annales ecclesiastici, published soon after the Grimaldi Chapel was completed, states the church's position on Pilate when he says, "These things were being handled by a certain divine management, so that the Son of God might suffer the punishment of the cross for the redemption of mankind."[47]

Baronius's biblical narrative was clearly constructed to serve the didactic program of the Catholic Reformation church. This historicism, manifest in the evocation of the church's apostolic period, explains the prominence of Pilate in contemporary church writing and doctrine. Baronius is the exemplar. In his efforts to be thorough and accurate, to present as complete a history of Christ's life as possible, he gives a detailed account of the Passion story, treating all the particulars of Pilate's actions as well as the reasons behind them. Baronius affirms Pilate's crucial role for the Catholic reform church when he invites the reader to "linger awhile among these things that were performed by Pilate."[48] Basing his text on the authority of the early sources, Baronius laces his Annales with references to the Gospels and to other ancient writings.[49]

Baronius, as the church's spokesman, viewed Pilate not only as God's instrument in his plan for man's salvation, but also as a figure essential in validating the historical Jesus. The whole of Jesus' life became part of history as well as divine revelation, so it was important to recount its events as they actually happened. None of these was more significant than his death and its circumstances; therefore Pilate's tenure as Roman


governor of Judea under Tiberius assumed enormous historical significance. Early in church history the importance of fixing the time of Christ's Passion was recognized when the Apostles' Creed stated that Christ "suffered under Pontius Pilate." The later historical and didactic attitude of the church emerged in the 1566 catechism, whose fourth article states:

But, if we find it here recorded with such historical minuteness, that Jesus Christ suffered when Pilate was procurator of Judea, the pastor will explain the reason—it is, that by fixing the time, as the Apostle does, in the sixth chapter of his first Epistle to Timothy, so important and so necessary an event may be ascertained by all with greater certainty; and to show that the event verified the prediction of the Saviour: "They shall deliver him to the Gentiles, to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified."[50]

Having established the historical veracity of the events of Christ's Passion, the church cast Pilate as the instrument of God and unwilling executor of the people's will.

The Grimaldi cycle follows the thinking of the church, showing Pilate torn between a sense of justice and political expediency.[51] The Jews' demand that Christ be crucified forced Pilate, out of fear for his own political survival, to condemn him. This view of Pilate began in the Gospels, was expanded in the apocryphal Acts of Pilate, and appears in many other accounts of the story written by historians and theologians such as Justin Martyr, Eusebius, Tacitus, Ambrose, and finally Baronius.[52]

In the Gospel accounts of the trial, Pilate emerges as nearly blameless in condemning Jesus, while the Jews, by implication, are guilty. Luke 23:1–24 and John 18:28–40 and 19:1–16 illustrate this point of view through narratives composed chiefly of dialogue between Pilate and Christ. Jesus appears repeatedly before Pilate, who interrogates him and finds no justification for punishment. To placate the crowd, Pilate orders Christ flogged. When this tactic proves futile, Pilate, hoping to avoid responsibility, offers the crowd a choice between Barabbas and Christ, thinking the crowd will choose that the criminal be crucified. The worst that can be said of Pilate, according to this way of thinking, is that he was weak. The decision was, in any case, inevitable.

The apocryphal book Acts of Pilate offers more detail and is probably the most extensive treatment of the trial and of Pilate's part in Christ's


death.[53] Pilate emerges not only as an innocent but as a positively sympathetic character, who tries to save Jesus by questioning him, by obtaining corroboration of his innocence from Herod, and finally by ordering the flagellation, an alternative and much lesser punishment that he hoped would appease the mob. Pilate did not intend the flagellation as a prelude to crucifixion; as he himself said, according to Luke 23:16, "I will therefore chastise and release Him." Ultimately, as we know, Pilate fails because of the unremitting demands of the crowd. As further proof of Pilate's good intentions, the author of the Acts narrates the story of Pilate's conversion to Christianity on his return to Rome from Judea. Of the early commentators on the trial of Jesus only Philo and Josephus deviate from this benign view of Pilate, portraying him as a corrupt and unjust administrator who loved violence.

Patristic writers like Ambrose and Augustine follow the same view as the Gospels and the Acts of Pilate but are even more explicit in condemning the Jews.[54] In his commentary on Luke, Ambrose wrote,

similiter in hoc typum omnium iudicum arbitror esse praemissum, qui damnaturi essent eos quos innoxios aestimarent. tolerabiliores tamen gentiles esse quam Iudaeos coniuncta Pilato persona demonstrat et magis eos posse diuinis ad fidem operibus admoneri. quales autem illi qui dominum maiestatis crucifixerunt! nec inmerito homicidae absolutionem petunt, qui flagitabant innocentis exitium. tales leges iniquitas habet, ut oderit innocentiam. scelus diligat. in quo tamen nominis interpretatio speciem dat figurae; Barabbas enim patris filius latine dicitur. illi ergo quibus dicitur: uos ex patre diabolo estis, uero dei filio patris sui filium antichristum praelaturi esse produntur.[55]

(Likewise in this matter, I think that of all judges one type is in the forefront—the ones who are ready to condemn those they think are innocent. Nevertheless, the role played by Pilate demonstrates that the gentiles are more tolerable than the Jews, and more capable of being admonished to the faith by means of divine works. But what a sort are those who crucified the lord of majesty! Those who demanded the death of an innocent man ask no absolution for their unjustified homicide. Iniquity is ruled by its hatred of innocence and its love of wickedness; concerning which thing, the interpretation of the name gives an image to the figure. Barabbas means "son of the father" in Latin. Therefore, those to whom it is said, "You are from your father the devil" appear as ones who will prefer Antichrist, the son of their father, to the true Son of God.)


Ten centuries later, Baronius revived many details and attitudes of Ambrose's account, carrying on the Gospel tradition but condemning the Jews more vehemently and exonerating Pilate:

Pilate began a hearing in accordance with the serious offense, asking him whether he was the king of the Jews. But when it had been understood that his kingdom was not of this world, again going out of the Praetorium and up to the leaders of the priesthood, who were waiting outside, he testified that he found no reason for the death penalty in that man. And he had led Jesus with him, and when many Judeans accused him and he did not respond to them, although he was urged to deal with these charges by the governor, Pilate indeed marveled much. . . . But with the priests and ministers clamoring that he should be crucified, Pilate, when again he bore witness that he found no reason for death in him, still desired to set him free. Finally, nevertheless, with those men urging and forcing it upon him, that if he were to let him go he would be an enemy of Caesar, he sat before the tribunal and, reckoning that there was no possibility of freeing him, since they were clamoring rather violently and the uproar was becoming greater, affirming that he was undertaking to do a most unfair thing, he called for water. When it had been received, he washed his hands before the people, saying: "I am free from the guilt of the blood of this righteous man, and you yourselves have witnessed it." The people then answered him: "His blood is upon us and upon our sons." Then Pilate, when Barabbas had been released, handed over Jesus to them to be crucified.[56]

Pilate's act of washing his hands assumes great importance for Baronius, who says, "He washed his hands and professed his own innocence of the deed, not at all in accordance with Roman custom or any custom of the gentiles."[57] Baronius asserts that Pilate followed Jewish custom in performing this act. Because it symbolically exonerates Pilate from the guilt of Christ's death, it must be stressed, in the Catholic Reformation view, as part of God's grand plan. The hand-washing scene had not been especially popular in art since the early Christian period, a time similarly preoccupied with establishing the historical validity of Christ's life on earth. Its presence in a short cycle like the Grimaldi leaves no doubt that it coincides with Tridentine thought, establishing one more link between the chapel program and the official church position.


Baronius's concern for historical accuracy and detail arose from the same concerns as the reports and writings by Tridentine reformers on art. Ecclesiastical leaders like Carlo Borromeo and Gabriele Paleotti elaborated on the general statement about sacred images issued by the Council of Trent at its twenty-fifth session, in 1563, urging a return to historical truth in works of art depicting religious events.[58] Surviving records indicate that artistic production in Genoa came under close scrutiny. Church synods were held to explicate Tridentine decrees as early as 1567, when one was organized by Archbishop Cipriano Pallavicino.[59] Subsequently, apostolic visitations, such as that of Monsignore Bossio in 1582, resulted in specific directives to each church in the city.[60] By this time the Grimaldi Chapel was under way. Surviving records on San Francesco di Castelletto indicate the thoroughness with which such inspections were conducted. Bossio looked closely at architectural, sculptural, and painting decoration to ensure their conformity to Tridentine regulations.[61]

Pilate may have been useful in the church's efforts to establish the historical validity of Christ's life, but the story of his confrontations with Christ also provided material for a compelling drama. The minidrama of the Grimaldi cycle transforms the eternal time of Christ's Passion into the stage time of a play, which in turn is analogous to our experiential time. Moreover, so striking is the resemblance of certain features of the Grimaldi cycle to mystery plays that one cannot help seeing a link between the two. As in a mystery play, the major portion of the cycle constitutes one dramatically cohesive episode from the Passion story: the trial of Christ and his condemnation at the hands of Pontius Pilate. Furthermore, the episodes chosen from this portion of the drama unfold sequentially, as they would in a traditionally constructed play. Unlike many other Passion cycles in Italy and northern Europe, whether painting or sculpture, the Grimaldi does not give what can be considered a comprehensive coverage of events from the whole Passion story, from the Entry into Jerusalem through the Resurrection, but illustrates only a small portion of it, in which the episodes are interdependent and tightly linked. From the opening scene, Christ before Pilate (Plate 7), through The Way to Calvary (Fig. 5), each relief in the Grimaldi cycle depicts an event causally tied to the preceding one. Thus Christ is flagellated as a result of his appearance before Pilate and is then crowned with thorns. After these two punishments he is brought before the


people by Pilate in the hope that the crowd will grant him a reprieve. When they refuse, Pilate washes his hands and directs the soldiers to lead Christ away to begin his journey to Calvary.

The popularity of the Passion as a subject for dramatic performances throughout Europe is attested by the abundant texts of plays and records of performances from the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries.[62] Until recently, the study of Passion drama in Italy has lagged behind that in England, Germany, and France. A few isolated studies show that Passion plays were performed in Italy in the late Middle Ages. In fact, what may be the earliest one in the West was written at the Abbey of Montecassino in the twelfth century, and Good Friday plays were performed at Perugia in the thirteenth century.[63] There were performances of Passion plays at Siena around 1200, at Padua in 1243 or 1244, and at Cividale in 1298 and 1302. The records of these performances seem to coincide, at least in general, with the depiction of Passion cycles on the aprons of the most popular image of the dugento, the painted cross. The relationship between art and religious drama thus long predates the Grimaldi Chapel cycle.[64]

It seems likely that the parallels between the Grimaldi Passion cycle and religious drama are more than fortuitous. How close the correspondence could be is evident in one of the Good Friday Passion plays performed in Perugia in the thirteenth century. Based on the Gospel of John, it contains dramatic sequences comparable to those of the Grimaldi cycle. Although the Perugia play includes many more scenes, and thus more detail, than the Grimaldi cycle, only six locations are used.[65] Limiting the number of locations, a device used in both the play and the cycle, focuses attention on that short period of time that encompasses Christ's trial and condemnation. Furthermore, the episodes unfold, as already noted, in a tightly knit sequence, a characteristic of stage drama.

From the thirteenth through the eighteenth century Passion plays were performed in and around Genoa, in private homes as well as in churches.[66] The popular ludus peregrinorum (the play of the journey [to Emmaus]) is an example of this practice. In time these performances must have deviated from their strictly religious intent, for the church in the sixteenth century issued warnings against their performance. Finally, during a period of intense religious conservatism, in 1574, the provincial synod of Genoa forbade the performance of Passion plays, declaring,


Le rappresentazioni che hanno per oggetto la dolorosa istoria della Passione del Signore, e le mirabili geste dei santi, e pongono sotto gli occhi del popolo in modo sensibile per mezzo della scena quei santi argomenti; . . . la malizia e nequizia dei tempi nostri le ha talmente pervertite che esse invece di lagrime eccitano il riso, e in luogo di pii affetti muovono a perversi desiderii.[67]

(Those plays, whose purpose was to relate the painful story of the Passion of the Savior and the miraculous deeds of the saints, and to put those holy arguments before the eyes of the people in a sensitive treatment of the scene, have been so perverted by the malice and wickedness of our times that instead of tears they incite laughter, and in place of pious feelings they move to perverse desires.)

Despite this official prohibition performances continued, apparently too compelling to stop.

Regardless of the synod's policy vis-à-vis the performance of Passion plays in Genoa, the Grimaldi cycle captured their dramatic effect, which remained to exert its power over the beholder. Each time an act of devotion was performed in the presence of these scenes, the viewer would recall once again the vivid experience of attending a Passion play. Such a concentrated dramatization of the trial of Christ before Pilate inevitably involved the worshiper in its gripping story and must have been an effective aid in reliving the Passion.

Another striking characteristic of the Grimaldi cycle involves the forceful stress on the act of judgment and its attendant conflicts. This issue of authority at the moment of judgment dominates the action of the Grimaldi cycle and suggests that it had special meaning for the patron. The unusually strong emphasis on Pilate's role in Christ's fate, and on the question who has authority to judge, points to a direct relationship between the patron and events in his own life. Grimaldi's involvement in public life and service to his government has been well established. It does not seem too farfetched, therefore, to suggest that contemporary circumstances played a large part in determining the iconographic choices made in the Grimaldi Chapel.[68] Boggiano's references in his 1605 oration to Grimaldi's abilities as a public and private mediator are tantalizingly unspecific. Boggiano mentions the many civic offices Grimaldi held and the official duties he performed, from ambas-


sadorial to administrative to judicial, and he praises Grimaldi for his tireless efforts in settling public as well as private disputes.[69]

That the issue of judgment was paramount during Luca Grimaldi's lifetime is clear from contemporary letters and accounts. That most severe dispenser of judgment, the office of the Inquisition, had been greatly strengthened in the sixteenth century. Correspondence between Rome and local authorities in many parts of the Italian peninsula reveals that the church considered heresy one of its severest problems. Genoa, because of its proximity and commercial ties to Reformation centers like Geneva, was of particular concern. In the second half of the sixteenth century the government of Genoa vied more or less continuously with the papacy over the authority to judge local cases of heresy and to mete out appropriate punishment.[70] Pius V (1566–72) and Gregory XIII (1572–85), the most vigilant of popes, mistrusted Genoa's ability to deal with heretics and kept a watchful eye on the city's treatment of them.[71]

An incident during the reign of Pius V illustrates the controversy between Genoa and the papacy over this jurisdictional matter and suggests the prevailing atmosphere in Grimaldi's city at the time.[72] This struggle, recounted in letters, lasted from October 1567 to May 1569; it concerned an apparently dangerous heretic named Bartolomeo Bartoccio of Città di Castello. In 1550 he had fled to Geneva and was known to be proselytizing for Protestantism in northern Italy in 1567. Genoa, having arrested him at the request of the papacy and having subsequently been threatened with economic reprisals by Geneva and Bern, asked for permission to release him. Thus caught between her material and spiritual well-being, Genoa attempted to negotiate a solution to the problem. The pope, however, remained intransigent, not only refusing to accede to Bartoccio's release but also demanding that he be sent to Rome for trial before the Inquisition. Reluctantly, Genoa complied with the pope's orders and handed over the prisoner to Rome. Continued efforts to gain clemency failed, and Bartoccio was burned at the stake on 25 May 1569. Genoa evidently felt unable to risk an open break with the papacy, unlike Venice in the early seventeenth century.[73] The interdict of 1606 was the punishment Venice suffered for continuing to resist the papacy's attempts to impose its political leadership there in a long succession of incidents.

Genoa's dilemma in her struggle with the papacy has a counterpart in the choice Pilate faced between saving his own political skin (thus


disregarding his conscience) and acting according to his sense of morality (thus risking his career). Similarly, Genoa had to decide whether to act in its own best economic interests, thereby defying the papacy, or to submit to ecclesiastical authority. During much of this period of tumultuous relations between Genoa and the papacy, Luca Grimaldi was a member of the Genoese government and, as such, close to the center of the ongoing controversy. At the time of the Grimaldi Chapel contract in 1579, he had been in public service at least twenty years. As one of the ruling elite he served at various times on the Council of One Hundred and the Council of Four Hundred; he also filled magisterial offices such as procurator of the Republic and was given many ambassadorial duties. Another indication of just how close he was to the inner circle of the Genoese government is the manner in which he secured the services of Giambologna, through a direct appeal by the doge and governors of the Republic of Genoa to the grand duke of Florence.

Because of Grimaldi's long years of participation in the Genoese government, he not only must have known what was going on in government circles but must also have been directly involved in much of it. Genoa was an oligarchy ruled by the doge in conjunction with his councilors. Since each doge was elected from the councils to serve only two years, many council members could expect to become doge. Luca Grimaldi himself achieved this office in 1605, at the venerable age of seventy-five.

It is not difficult to imagine the dialectic the Bartoccio case continued to evoke in Grimaldi's official circles. Questions about the nature of judgment must have persisted, and inevitably, Grimaldi would have been concerned with them. It is likely that in his capacity as a member of the government, drawn from the council, he served a turn as an advisor in the court proceedings of the Inquisition.[74] The scenes for the Passion cycle in the Grimaldi Chapel were chosen in an atmosphere so charged with awareness of the conflict between religious and secular responsibilities that those depicting Pilate were almost inevitable choices. These explicit references to judgment surely reflect Grimaldi's responsiveness to current church thought as it often conflicted with governmental affairs.

We have a substantial picture of Grimaldi's public persona as a pious, highly respected member of the ruling power structure. It is not surprising that the program of his family funeral chapel reflected what appears to have been his orthodox mentality. Although the issue of salvation


was a universal concern, it must have been especially pressing for Luca Grimaldi and his contemporaries in the late sixteenth century. The church was beset by controversy both within and without and, as we have seen, was preoccupied with the topic of justification because of its direct bearing on salvation. Furthermore, Geneva, a center of heresy and an important commercial connection, was just over the Alps from Genoa. For a conformist like Grimaldi the best way to ensure his and his family's salvation was to be as inclusive and comprehensive as possible.


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