Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Only Church for a Courtesan

            What is a Courtesan? Well, Courtesans are prostitutes, but they are a bit different from the typical prostitute. Courtesans were private lovers of noblemen during the 16th Century and usually were valued at a higher price because of their natural beauty. They are so beautiful that many men would want them.  Usually the only ones who could afford a Courtesan were the wealthy. The question is what would they have to do with the Caravaggio walk with Lauren, our docent? Well, we visited the only church which allowed Courtesans to enter and say their prayers. This church was the Church of St. Agostino.

            This church was really unique because it was intended to be more of a female’s church where, even Courtesans, were allowed to attend. The Courtesans, along with other females, were placed in the front of the church during mass because their beauty would distract the men.   This kept the men from turning around during services.  There is something very interesting in this church that everyone should go and see, Caravaggio’s Madonna of Loreto/ Madonna of the Pilgrims (the painting has two names).  It is located in the Cavalleti Chapel. Caravaggio is a painter who worked quick but loved to gamble and waste away all the money he earned.   Churches did not like his paintings because they were realist paintings that had nothing to do with religion. He made people in the streets pose for him and showed the dirty feet of the beggars, even St. Marie who he depicts in some of his paintings. What’s special about his Madonna of Loreto painting is that the model was his lover. This lover is also a Courtesan named Maddalena Agnoletti, Lena for short, and in the painting she is holding a child whom many say is their son. Yet, the real question is why the church decided to keep this painting. The reason why is because the church is a church for women and they wanted everyone to feel welcomed. Even the famous Courtesan of that time, Fiammetta Michaelis who is the lover of Cesare Borgia went to the Church of St. Agostino.


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