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  #1  
Old Jun 17, '11, 7:40 pm
Joseph Kemp Joseph Kemp is offline
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Default The Catholic Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was a profoundly CATHOLIC man.

Pop culture imagines Leonardo as a homosexual rebel who hated the Catholic Church. People say he was a blasphemer who almost never wrote about God in his notebooks. They say he worshiped Nature, rather than God. They claim that though Leonardo was undoubtably a great inventor and scientist, he was almost certainly not a Christian. Or so the usual argument goes.

But I believe that Leonardo da Vinci was a genuinely sincere and faithful Catholic. I believe he was an EXTRAORDINARILY religious man. He wrote about God constantly in his notebooks. He quoted the Liturgical Calender of the Church very often. He was familiar with the Feast Days of the various Saints, and he wrote about them numerous times. He even wrote stories about the clergy - one of my favorites being a short tale about two travelling Franciscan monks, who get a clever revenge on an unscrupulous merchant who tricks them out of their supper.

Here are some of Leonardo’s words about God:

"Good Report soars and rises to heaven, for virtuous things find favor with God. Evil Report should be shown inverted, for all her works are contrary to God and tend toward hell."

"We, by our arts may be called the grandsons of God."

"If the Lord—who is the light of all things—vouchsafe to enlighten me, I will treat of Light; wherefore I will divide the present work into 3 Parts . . . Linear Perspective, The Perspective of Colour, The Perspective of Disappearance."

"God sells us all things at the price of labor."

"Fame alone raises herself to Heaven, because virtuous things are in favour with God."

And, near the end of his life, Leonardo wrote:

“I have offended God and man because my work didn't reach the quality it should have.”

Leonardo’s paintings show a profound grasp of religious symbolism that is genuinely unusual. He studied religion carefully, and he owned a large collection of religious books in his library, over 25 volumes – technical treatises on religious knowledge, very carefully chosen.

There is even a present-day book written about the “Catholic Leonardo da Vinci”:

Quoted from Zenit: “To help put things in their right place, philosopher Giuseppe Fornari has just published a book entitled, "La bellezza e il nulla. L'antropologia cristiana di Leonardo da Vinci" (Beauty and Nothingness: The Christian Anthropology of Leonardo da Vinci), published by Marietti. In the work, Fornari argues that "far from being a heretic and blasphemer, a compiler of riddles (as pop esotericism would like) Leonardo was rather a tormented Christian, irregular by necessity but profound and impassioned."”

An interview with Fornari on Leonardo can be read at Zenit, here: http://www.zenit.org/article-15524?l=english

Incidentally, the odd belief that Leonardo was a homosexual seems (to the best of my knowledge) to have originated from a very bad essay written about him by Sigmund Freud: “Leonardo da Vinci: A Memory of His Childhood.” (A typically Freudian title.) It’s over three-hundred pages long. And it is absolutely ridiculous.

FREUD believed that Leonardo was gay. But then Freud believed that pretty much EVERYBODY was gay. I think we can discount this idea from this one view alone. It is an inbuilt bias in Freud’s work, and it is unsupportable.

Modern homosexuals find Freud’s ideas about homosexuality and “mother attachment” to be highly insulting. Present day psychology has debunked most of Freud’s ideas on homosexuality, anyway. But the odd belief that Leonardo was gay just keeps hanging on. Perhaps because nobody has directly challenged it.

And if anyone still entertains doubts that Leonardo was a Catholic, here is a quote by Leonardo that almost nobody ever reprints in ANY book. Leonardo writes about the inventions of Nature:

“Though human ingenuity may make various inventions, it will never devise any inventions more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than Nature does; because in her inventions nothing is wanting, and nothing is superfluous, and she needs no counterpoise when she makes limbs proper for motion in the bodies of animals."

Then, Leonardo adds something that almost no one ever talks about, anywhere:

“The definition of the soul I leave to the imaginations of the friars, those fathers of the people who know all secrets by inspiration. I leave alone the sacred books; for they are SUPREME TRUTH.” (my emphasis)

This is an absolutely extraordinary statement. Leonardo, the “blaspheming rebel,” actually declares his allegiance to the teaching authority of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church (the friars), and to the Holy Scriptures, which are, in his words, “supreme truth.”

This pretty much removes all doubt about his religious loyalties.

Of course, I have seen at least one Leonardo expert struggle with this passage. Scholar Martin Kemp wrote of it that “researchers have been puzzled for years by this statement, and no one is clear how to make sense of it.”

Well, if you believe that Leonardo da Vinci was a “homosexual, blaspheming rebel” who hated the Catholic Church, then it would NATURALLY be very difficult to fit this passage into that paradigm. But if you view Leonardo as an actual Catholic, taking into account all of his religious writings, Church references, religious paintings and such, then this passage makes a lot more sense. It is an infinitely more acceptable understanding.

I firmly believe there is enough evidence to have Leonardo (possibly) declared a Saint. And why not? The Roman Catholic Church already HAS a patron Saint of Scientists: Saint Albert. Why not a patron Saint of Creativity, too? Saint Leonardo? That has a nice ring to it.

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  #2  
Old Jun 17, '11, 11:34 pm
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DavidFilmer DavidFilmer is offline
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Default Re: The Catholic Leonardo Da Vinci

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Originally Posted by Joseph Kemp View Post
Incidentally, the odd belief that Leonardo was a homosexual seems (to the best of my knowledge) to have originated from a very bad essay written about him by Sigmund Freud
I believe there was some speculation before that. In Florence, he and three other men were charged with (and acquitted of) sodomy. The fact that they were charged indicates there were some grounds for suspicion.

The circumstances of some of his students who lived in his home are unusual, especially the case of Salai, a man of many vices but whom Leonardo indulged for 30 years.

But I think the greatest impediment to consideration for canonization is the fact that we know almost nothing about his personal life. He guarded his privacy very well.

But thanks for the post - I learned many things that I had not known. I truly believe Leonardo was one of the greatest men of all time (even moreso than Ben Franklin).
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Old Jun 18, '11, 11:36 am
Joseph Kemp Joseph Kemp is offline
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Default Re: The Catholic Leonardo Da Vinci

YOU WROTE: “I believe there was some speculation before that (about Leonardo being homosexual). In Florence, he and three other men were charged with (and acquitted of) sodomy. The fact that they were charged indicates there were some grounds for suspicion.”

Modern scholars doubt that this accusation has any basis in fact. Science author Michael White says in his book “Leonardo, the First Scientist”:

“The details of this whole affair are sketchy, but it seems likely there was more to the matter than a simple accusation and trial of sodomy. One of the accused, Lionardo de’ Tornabuoni, was mentioned on the charge sheet without any domestic details, not even an address. This was almost certainly because he was related to the Medicis (a powerful political family at that time). Lorenzo de’ Medici’s mother was a Tornabuoni.”

(continued) “This suspicious fact implies that the entire matter was fabricated for political reasons, and that Leonardo had somehow become unwittingly embroiled in a failed attempt to discredit the Medici family. The fact that he was an artist and that artists were known to have what some would consider “loose morals” (would have) merely added spice to the plotter’s plans.”

We find a parallel in the life of St. Majella:

QUOTE FROM A CATHOLIC WEBSITE: “I am reminded of St. Gerard Majella who was falsely accused by a pregnant woman of being the father of her child. When this happened he retreated into silence until the woman recanted and cleared him – his reputation, despite being tarnished was restored. Because of this St. Gerard is the patron saint of falsely accused people (as well as anything to do with mothers and wanting to conceive).”

I would venture to say that a grave injustice has been done to the reputation of Leonardo. Throughout his life, he seems to have held onto his virtue with the perseverance of a Saint. His own writings reflect someone very concerned with virtue and purity:

“He who does not restrain his lustful appetites places himself on the same level as the beasts. One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself…It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” ( - this is a statement I see repeated over and over in Catholic books, with regard to sex – “It is easier to uproot a sapling rather than a tree.” In other words, it is easier to stop the sexual impulse when it starts, rather than when it has progressed far along.)

“How many people there are who could be described as mere channels for food, producers of excrement, fillers of latrines, for they have no other purpose in this world; they practice no VIRTUE whatsoever (my emphasis); all that remains after them is a full latrine.” (This sentiment echoes Augustine, in his outrage at the lack of virtue in the human world, and whose writings Leonardo was certainly familiar with.)

"Intellectual passion drives out sensuality.”

““The act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions.” (A fair enough observation, particularly from someone with a mind to control their sexual impulses.)

As for the trial of Leonardo for sodomy, biographer Sherwin B. Nuland of "Leonardo da Vinci" (A Penguin Life), points out:

“After two hearings, the charges were finally dismissed in June of that year, for insufficient evidence... Leonardo's guilt [is something that] virtually all biographers doubt. This episode is the only hint of sexual activity by Leonardo, and those who have been the most painstaking students of his life assume it never happened (the actual “sodomy” itself). The charges may have resulted from malice, gossip, or thin air.”

Last edited by Joseph Kemp; Jun 18, '11 at 11:50 am.
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Old Jun 18, '11, 11:41 am
Joseph Kemp Joseph Kemp is offline
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Default Re: The Catholic Leonardo Da Vinci

YOU WROTE: “But I think the greatest impediment to consideration for canonization is the fact that we know almost nothing about his personal life. He guarded his privacy very well.”

It is not true that we do know “almost nothing” about Leonardo’s personal life. Here is what the artist Vasari, Leonardo’s first biographer, had to say about him:

"In appearance he (Leonardo) was striking and handsome, and his magnificent presence brought comfort to the most troubled soul; he was so persuasive that he could bend other people to his will. He was physically so strong that he could withstand any violence and with his right hand he could bend the ring of an iron door knocker or a horseshoe as if they were lead. He was so generous that he fed all his friends, rich or poor.... Through his birth Florence received a very great gift, and through his death it sustained an incalculable loss."

And even Wikipedia says:

“Leonardo da Vinci was described by his early biographers as a man with great personal appeal, kindness, and generosity. He was generally well-loved by his contemporaries…Some of Leonardo's philosophies can be found in a series of fables that he wrote. A prevalent theme is the mistake of placing too high esteem upon one's self, and the benefits to be gained through awareness, humility and endeavour.”

HUMILITY. AWARENESS. ENDEAVOR. KINDNESS. GENEROSITY. These sound very like the qualities of a Saint to me. A particularly charming story of Leonardo’s concern for others is related by Vasari, in Leonardo’s treatment of animals:

“… he (Leonardo) always kept servants and horses, in which latter he took much delight, and particularly in other animals, which he managed with the greatest love and patience; and this he showed when often passing by the places where birds were sold, for, taking them with his own hand out of their cages, and having paid to those who sold them the price that was asked, he let them fly away into the air, restoring to them their lost liberty.”

This finds an echo in the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, who lived in the 1200’s. Saint Francis was a vegetarian, as Leonardo also was, and Francis had great concern for animals (he actually preached to them, and according to the stories, they listened to him, and gathered around him when he spoke.) A lot of people (even Catholics) accuse Saint Francis of practicing “animism,” a pagan belief, even though Francis’ theology is perfectly in line with Catholic teaching – just as Leonardo’s is, according to the link I posted above to Fonari’s book about him, in my first post.

YOU WROTE: “The circumstances of some of his students who lived in his home are unusual, especially the case of Salai, a man of many vices but whom Leonardo indulged for 30 years.”

There is absolutely no evidence that this had anything to do with Leonardo’s sexuality at all. There is much reason to believe that when Leonardo found someone with a specific look, he would keep that person around as long as possible, for the benefit of his art.

One story goes that while painting the Last Supper, Leonardo refused to complete it until he had found the perfect face for Christ, and the perfect face for Judas (indicting that Leonardo took this commission very seriously, in a religious sense.) The Abbot of the monastery employing Leonardo became so upset by this delay that he complained to the local Duke, but Leonardo remained steadfast. He finished the painting only when he found the people with the correct “look” that he was searching for.

There is also documentary evidence stating that the even HANDS of the Last Supper’s Christ were separately inspired by the hands of one particular male model in Leonardo’s studios. So it seems that since Leonardo could often not proceed until he had found the appropriate “look” for a painting (or a sketch), he kept that look around for as long as possible when he DID find it, for inspiration.

For example, plenty of sketches in Leonardo’s notes display the features of Salai, a young male model who Leonardo referred to as “The Little Devil.” Leonardo points out that Salai was "thievish, lying, obstinate, greedy.” But Salai had a particular look that Leonardo was trying to achieve in his art, so he kept him around anyway. Scholars believe that, humorously put, Leonardo was willing to suffer for his art. He put up with Salai so he could achieve what he wished in his work over the years. It is thought that Salai provided the features of the youth in Leonardo’s “Portrait of an Old Man and a Youth,” and plenty of other drawings. There is absolutely no good evidence that the relationship was a sexual one in any way at all.

To say that Leonardo was homosexual is to make an argument from silence. There is no good evidence of any kind that he was. It is a very strange idea. But then perhaps, not so strange. The holier a person is, the more lies are often told about them. Even Blessed Gerard Majella was lied about in a sexual fashion, as were several of the Saints. There are quite a number of Saints (rather than just one) nominally known as "Patron Saints of the Falsely Accused," for precisely this reason. I have to wonder how many more people would be classified as Saints than there are now, simply because these lies get in the way. I would like very much to see more a more factually grounded challenging of such silly myths, particularly in the case of Leonardo da Vinci.

Last edited by Joseph Kemp; Jun 18, '11 at 12:01 pm.
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Old Jun 18, '11, 5:06 pm
patrick457 patrick457 is offline
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Default Re: The Catholic Leonardo Da Vinci

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Originally Posted by DavidFilmer View Post
I believe there was some speculation before that. In Florence, he and three other men were charged with (and acquitted of) sodomy. The fact that they were charged indicates there were some grounds for suspicion.

The circumstances of some of his students who lived in his home are unusual, especially the case of Salai, a man of many vices but whom Leonardo indulged for 30 years.
Which seems to have not been entirely unusual for late medieval-Renaissance Florence. In fact in 1432 the city established a brigade called the Ufficiali di Notte (Officers of the Night) to root out vices such as sodomy, then a very widespread misdemeanor. Between its 70 year tenure (1432-1502) as many as 17000 males were incriminated under the charge of sodomy and some 3000 were convicted by the office (including heterosexual sodomy). Heck, in modern German Florenzer became a synonym for 'sodomite'!
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Old Jun 18, '11, 9:38 pm
Joseph Kemp Joseph Kemp is offline
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Default Re: The Catholic Leonardo Da Vinci

You are partially right. “Florenzer” was a synonym in German for “sodomite” even in Leonardo’s time (the 1500’s). It is a VERY old term.

There was widespread homosexuality in Florence during the Renaissance. It was nominally tolerated, and very hard to prove. There were plenty of openly homosexual artists working in the Renaissance who were very successful.

Given this atmosphere, it would have been easy for Leonardo to announce his homosexual status, if he had chose to do so. But he never did.

Interesting. This suggests, together with the evidence of his other comments and writings, that it (Leonardo’s homosexuality) NEVER EXISTED AT ALL. An argument from silence (without evidence) is not an argument. I don't know why this particular one continues to be perpetuated in any way.

I suspect that "Leonardo's homosexuality" is simply a deeply ingrained modern myth that may be very difficult to uproot. What is it they say? "It is easier to uproot a sapling than a tree?"

Very accurate.

Last edited by Joseph Kemp; Jun 18, '11 at 9:57 pm.
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Old Jun 18, '11, 10:05 pm
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Default Re: The Catholic Leonardo Da Vinci

Great posts, Joe
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