This was a shock. PBS has mostly deteriorated into radical political news hours and Lawrence Welk reruns. It was stunning to happen upon this three-part program (which can be streamed from the web site), which includes a very politically-incorrect critical review of Roman Catholicism.
The series centers on the research of art historian Antonio Forcellino, who proposes that the great artist was part of an underground reform movement which sought to introduce Protestant reforms into the Catholic church from within. He believes that a number of Michelangelo’s prominent works show definite anti-Catholic sentiment. The Last Judgement , for example, portrays interaction between Heaven and men, without the traditional intervention of any prominent Popes or other clergy. There are strange features in the tomb of Julius II which are inconsistent with Catholic dogma, including a last-minute recarving of Moses’ head to look away from the altar, the instrument of the Catholic hierarchy.
[The account here of Michelangelo’s work on St. Peter’s Basilica differs dramatically from the one in the guide books you would get on a tour. I thought that he was so well-off and happy to be working for the Catholic church again that he didn’t charge them for the work.]
The real shock, though, especially considering the source, is that the documentary demonstrates a credible understanding of Christian antipathy for Roman Catholic dogma and theocracy. I didn’t know they had it in them….