Emerging from a groundbreaking international conference on the papacy of Pope Benedict XIV Lambertini (reigned 1740-1758) and its legacy, the anthology Benedict XIV and the Enlightenment: Art, Science, and Spirituality, edited by Rebecca Messbarger, Christopher M. S. Johns and Philip Gavitt, was recently published by the University of Toronto Press. The symposium of 2012 was hosted by Washington University in Saint Louis, Saint Louis University, and the Missouri State History Museum and included scholars from Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Benedict XIV and the Enlightenment offers a broad and nuanced assessment of Benedict’s engagement with Enlightenment art, science, spirituality, and culture. Revised versions of eighteen of the contributions form the body of the anthology. Issues as far-ranging as canonization procedures in the context of European Enlightenment, anatomy, art, architecture, and archaeology in the context of papal cultural policies, the Church’s relation to modern science, and the reform of conventual practices are examined.
Johns, the Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Professor of History of Art, one of the volume’s editors, has contributed two essays: “Introduction: Benedict XIV and Catholic Enlightenment” and “The Papacy and Coffee Culture: Benedict XIV’s Coffee House in the Quirinal Gardens.”
Pope Benedict XIV Lambertini (r. 1740–58) was one of the driving forces behind the Italian Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. His campaign to reconcile faith and empirical science re-launched a dialogue between the Church and the European intellectual community, and expanded papal patronage of the arts and sciences, helping restore Italy’s position as a center of intellectual and artistic innovation in the broader European context..
*The book cover features the portrait of Pope Benedict XIV Lambertini by Pierre Subleyras (French, 1699-1749), oil on canvas, 1746. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.