this h o l y t i d e of c h r i s t m a s | listen
A selection of holiday songs that originated in the Middle Ages or the early Renaissance as well as a handful of more modern carols performed in a style reminiscent of those periods; music meant to invoke both the solemn and mystical rituals of the medieval Church and the lavish Christmastide celebrations of kings such as Richard III and Henry VIII
“La sainte famille au palmier, reproduction en relief de la gravure en taille-douce du tableau de Rapahel.” Wood engraving of the holy family, from artwork by Raphael. Included in the periodical L’Illustration, (Issue 770), published by Dubochet & Cie, 1857
“No age can be adequately defined by a short phrase, but it was a happy thought which prompted the statement that the Renaissance was the age of the discovery of man. Add the importance, not only of man in general, but of the individual.” — Murray Anthony Potter
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Saint Peter’s Basilica is one of the most well known Renaissance works with over 20,000 daily visitors during peak season. It is a stunning masterpiece totaling over 5,000 square feet of frescoes which Michelangelo exclusively designed and painted. Assistants held minor roles mixing paints and fetching supplies but Michelangelo was the sole artist.
Pope Julius II commissioned the work and refused to have anyone except Michelangelo complete the project. This is somewhat peculiar because he was a sculptor, not a painter. In fact, Michelangelo agreed to paint the chapel only after Julius promised him he would be the one to complete his tomb, an extremely profitable commission for Michelangelo. To say he was not fond of the Pope’s ambitious endeavor is an understatement. Weather, mold, his patron constantly waging war and falling ill caused several delays. If Julius died or the ceiling could not be completed Michelangelo would not receive his full commission. On top of the setbacks he had to learn a new style of painting and create a perspective that would give his designs the “right” appearance on a curved ceiling that would be viewed from 60 feet below.
The ceiling shows scenes from the book of Genesis, prophets from Biblical and Classical times, stories of the triumph of Israel, and the ancestors of Christ, with cherubs and ignudi placed throughout. There are more than 300 figures in all and the blending of biblical and pagan themes within the Pope’s chapel demonstrates the intense fascination and reverence for the ancient world which extended to the highest Christian authority.