Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 Meeting with Artists

On 21 November 2009 addressed a gathering of invited artists in the Sistine Chapel, echoing similar addresses by Pope Paul IV and Pope John Paul II. You can read the full text of his address here.

You are the custodians of beauty: thanks to your talent, you have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. Be grateful, then, for the gifts you have received and be fully conscious of your great responsibility to communicate beauty, to communicate in and through beauty! Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! And do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty! Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful.

About half of the 500 invited artists attending the meeting. These included visual artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, actors, and even architects. The inclusion of architects in a meeting of artists should not be assumed. Although architecture shares many prerequisite skills, functions and effects of the arts, in its fundamental activity (that is, world-creation), it behaves very much unlike the arts. That said, in examining the work of the architects on the list, the common denominator amongst the invitees is that they tend to approach their architecture more in the manner of an artist. One way of looking at the distinction is that architecture approaches the realm of art when it is seen as "more than just a building," and that attitude is evident in the architects listed below. The one notable exception to this is David Chipperfield, who I consider one of the very top few architects currently in practice. In his case, the architecture may be more than just building, but it is because of the careful consideration of what it means to build well and not a conscious focus on meaning and form outside or above the building itself.

Photo by L'Osservatore Romano

It cannot be assumed that the list necessarily represents the Pope's personal choice or tastes. It is more likely that it was Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and members of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church who made the selections. While the selection criteria is anyone's guess, many of the selections make sense. Mario Botta, for example, is a a prolific church-builder and perhaps the most prominent Catholic Architect. Quite a number of the Italians (who dominate) on the list designed recent churches for the Diocese of Rome. At the time of the meeting, Zaha Hadid was showing the nearly-completed MAXXI museum to reporters. The one entry that surprises me is David Chipperfield, other than that he seems to be massively popular in Benedict's native Germany. And of course not all of the architects are Catholics.

In the annotated list below of the invited architects (as reported in the the journal Sacred Architecture), I have provided an image of each designer's work. Where possible the chosen work is a church or in someway related to the Vatican, Rome, etc.

Eugenio Abruzzini

St Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin, Teramo, 1970

Sandro Benedetti

St Francis of Paolo, Paola, 1997-2000

Mario Botta

Torino. archi. Botta . by iJuliAn, on Flickr !!Santo Volto, Turin, 2006

Bruno Bozzini

Unable to find an image for Mr Bozzini.

Saverio Busiri Vici

St Mary of the Visitation, Rome, 1965

Santiago Calatrava

St John the Divine Cathedral, New York, 1991 !!unrealized proposal

David Chipperfield

back of the greek orthodox cemetery and the new section by chipperfield !!by doratagold, on Flickr

Vittorio Gregotti

St Clement, Milan, 1991

Nathalie Grenon & Piero Sartogo

Santo Volto, Rome, 2006

Zaha Hadid

Maxii, musée du XXIème siècle, Rome by Yenbay, on Flickr

Daniel Liebeskind

b0d48a389d.jpg Stage, scene, costume and production design !!2002 Deutsche Oper Berlin production of Olivier Messiaen's Saint Francis of Assisi

Pier Paolo Maggiora

Progetto 100Città, 2006-

Lucio Passarelli

Patron Saints and Martyrs, Selva Candida, Rome, 2005

Antonio Piva

Unable to find an image for Mr Piva.

Paolo Portoghesi

Rome Mosque - Paolo Portoghesi by Darrel Ronald, on Flickr

Tommaso Scalesse

I believe Mr Scalesse is an architectural historian and not a practitioner.

Oswald Mathias Ungers

Phot.Hamb.Museum.Kunsthalle.061017.6863 by frankartculinary, on Flickr

Please correct any mistakes or point us towards additional images if you have them.