Shirley Smith

Renaissance Art Historian

Tel. +44 (0)1728 638 271

Email. [email protected]


The Garden House, Bruisyard,

Saxmundham, Suffolk, IP17 2ED

Michelangelo's 'Last Judgement': A Triumph of Faith or a Victory for Heresy?

A contemporary critic complained: "Things in front of which brothels would shut their eyes in order not to see them. Your art would be at home in some voluptuous bath-house, certainly not in the highest chapel in the world." And what was he describing? Michelangelo's 'Last Judgement'. Pope Paul IV threatened to destroy it and even in the 20th Century the writer Leo Steinberg condemned it as heresy.


So what caused such an outcry? How did it differ from the traditional image and to what extent did it reflect the fears and uncertainities of a Church which the Protestant rebellion had rocked to its very core and of Michelangelo himself?



Michelangelo Last Judgement 1537-41

Image source: Web Gallery of Art