One Enormous Room
- BuyTrent: What Happened at the Council by John O’Malley
Harvard, 335 pp, £20.00, January, ISBN 978 0 674 06697 7
‘I wonder if a single thought that has helped forward the human spirit has ever been conceived or written down in an enormous room.’ It’s one of the great historical putdowns: the patrician Whig punchline to Kenneth Clark’s scrutiny of Counter-Reformation art and architecture in his incomparable TV series Civilisation, before he turns from the camera and walks away down the considerable length of the Map Room in the Vatican, an Englishman abroad. His stroll is accompanied by a splendid Monteverdi setting of ‘As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be’. Well endowed with a sense of irony, Clark would have enjoyed letting that music make its own comment: the Venetian grandees who enjoyed Monteverdi’s Vespers were proud of being good Catholics, but like many good Catholics before or since, they had no time for the pope.
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[*] I have drawn on Katharine Lualdi’s essay ‘Persevering in the Faith: Catholic Worship and Communal Identity in the Wake of the Edict of Nantes’, Sixteenth Century Journal 35 (2004).