The BBC reported that preparations for the beatification of Pope John Paul II in May will include the re-entombment of the deceased pontiff's body. His remains will be moved from their current resting place in the crypt of St. Peter's to the main body of the basilica. The BBC had this to say: "But first the remains of another former pope, Innocent X, will have to be removed from this chapel and another resting place found for him in the basilica." Actually, the removal of Innocent X's body will be unnecessary as his mortal remains rest, not in St. Peter's Basilica, but in another grand Roman church- Santa Agnese in Agone.
Some of our readers might be familiar with Velazquez's famous portrait of Innocent X. When the pope himself saw it, is said that he exclaimed "Troppe vero!" (All too true!) The portrait is considered to be one of the finest examples of its genre ever created. It is currently displayed in the Doria-Pamphilj Galleria in Rome, which I believe is the palazzo of Innocent's family.
The modern artist Francis Bacon produced several visceral interpretations of Velazquez's portrait of Innocent X, which may or may not have provoked a similar reaction from Pope Innocent.
Another famous representation of Innocent X is found in a painting located in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione by the artist Guido Reni. The painting depicts the triumph of the archangel Michael over Satan. Reni has given Satan the facial features of Innocent X!
Innocent X was pope from 1644-1655. He was a formidable, volatile man and during his tenure as pope he made many enemies. Evidently, Reni was one of them. Innocent was also the great, great, great grandson of one of the most infamous popes in history- Alexander VI. Bad tempers ran in the family. You can read my thoughts about Alexander here. I don't know what issue Francis Bacon had with the long deceased pope, but whatever it was, it proved to be quite a lucrative inspiration in terms of the artist’s career.
The remains that will be moved to accommodate the body of Pope John Paul II are likely those of Blessed Innocent XI. The chapel that will be used is dedicated to Saint Sebastian and is quite near the Pieta created by Michelangelo. Innocent XI was pope from 1676-1689. He was spared having his character immortalized by any famous artists. There are some interesting points of contact between Pope Innocent XI and Pope John Paul II. Both lost their mothers at a young age, had to deal with a recalcitrant Curia, struggled with proposed innovations in moral theology, advocated friendlier relations between the Church and the Jews, and found themselves at loggerheads with dictatorial regimes. Innocent XI was beatified by Pope Pius XII, whose funerary monument (not his body), I believe, is also found in this chapel. You can watch some highlights of Innocent XI's beatification on You Tube below. Is there anything that isn't on You Tube?
Father Steve Grunow is the Assistant Director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.