Exhibition Reveals History of Church-State Separation

Display Focuses on 12th-Century Countess

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A display presented today in the Vatican Museums reveals the period of struggle between popes and emperors that led to the Western modern concept of the separation of powers.

"Matilda of Canossa, the Papacy and the Empire: History, Art and Culture at the Origins of the Romanesque" is the title of a forthcoming exhibition to be inaugurated Aug. 31 and run until Jan. 11, 2009. It will have two separate sites: the Casa di Mantegna in Mantua and the abbey of San Benedetto Po.

It focuses on the biographical and political events of Matilda's life as a starting point to examine and interpret a period of confrontation between popes and emperors that led to the demarcation and separation of the two powers -- religious and secular -- and thus laid the foundations of the modern conception of power in the West.

Countess Matilda of Canossa (1046-1115), a powerful feudal landowner and ardent supporter of the papacy in the controversy over investitures, dominated the area of Italy immediately north of the Papal States.

The exhibition -- using works of art, documents and artefacts from various museums in Italy and Europe -- reveals a world undergoing a profound transformation.

Matilda's fame and the need to make her a symbol of support for the papacy created a myth that has lasted down until our own time, and over history has inspired such figures as Dante, Giulio Romano and Gianlorenzo Bernini, who recreated her figure in masterpieces of literature, painting and sculpture.