Next to fully understand Bernini it is important to understand what historically was going on during his lifetime. He lived during the seventeenth century which is also called the Baroque period by historians. This was a period of rapid change in the fields of science, commerce, religion, and more. For example, scientists gained a better understanding of the word around them, an example is Galileo’s invention of a more powerful telescope that allowed him to create more accurate models of space.
Additionally, Europe was in a upheaval over the Protestant Reformation against the Catholic Church and the Counter-Reformation, the Church’s response to this threat. This reformation in sixteenth century Europe completely reshaped religion, politics, and more. The change in religious beliefs was lead by northern-European revolutionaries like Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc that questioned the papacy’s control over religion and argued that The Bible, not a corrupt organization should have the final say on religious beliefs.
Next, the Church’s response to the rise of the Protestants was the Counter-Reformation, or a reaction by the Catholic Church in defense of their several hundred year monopoly on religious practices. This varied response included the rise of the Jesuits, the Spanish Inquisition, the Index of Prohibited Books, and more. First, was the emergence of the Order of the Jesuits that practiced a combination of conventional monastic discipline and teaching Catholicism. They called for a more emotional church that believed that everyone not only the wealthy, could receive deliverance from their sins by confessing their sins to a priest. Second was the Spanish Inquisition, a radical, violent movement that spread across much of Europe and captured, tortured, and killed heretics or followers of the Protestant faith.
Third, was the burning of books that preached the Protestant faith. This lead to the Index of Prohibited Books, a list of books that were banned by the Church that remained until 1966. Fourth, was the Council of Trent that in 1545 formalized many changes to church policy. These included the outlawing of corrupt practices, giving the last word on religious matters to the Pope, and saying that the Scriptures were to be understood and read literally.
Kreis, Steven. “Lecture 5: The Catholic Reformation.” The History Guide: Lectures on Early Modern European History. The History Guide. 2002. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.
Santini, Federica. “The Baroque Era.” Kennesaw State University. Il Sasso Italian Language School, Montepulicano, IT. 02 Oct. 2013.
“The Reformation.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, LLC. 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.