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Pope Benedict XVI’s surprising artistic legacy

As the first Catholic Pope to resign from his position since Gregory XII in the 15th century, Pope Benedict XVI has startled the world with his announcement that he will step down by the end of this month. While controversially conservative (and much less benevolent-appearing than his predecessor the grandfatherly Pope John Paul II), the German-born religious leader did have an open mind at least in encouraging a renewed relationship between the Catholic Church and art, viewing the use of beauty as a path to the sacred.

Named the Pope in 2005, he oversaw the 500th anniversary of the forming of the Vatican Museums by Pope Julius II, including a gathering of hundreds of “Patrons of the Arts” in the Catholic Church, as well as the permanent opening to visitors of a necropolis some 2,000 years old filled with ornate mausoleums. As the head of Vatican City and its immense Vatican Museums, the Pope casts influence not just over the Catholic Church, but the presentation of the history of art as well.

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