The represented Council is sometimes called the Tridentine Council, after the Latin name for the city, Tridentum. The coat of arms on the left wall behind the cardinals in red is that of Pius IV, the pope at the time of the closing of the Council.
Long after the closing of the Council of Trent its importance was underscored in a didactic and journalistic fresco painted as part of an otherwise elegant and classicising decorative program for a chapel in Santa Maria in Trastevere for one of Rome’s leading churchmen, Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps. Participants in the Council session are spread row upon row across the top of the composition, their faces directed forward or turned in profile as if to record as completely and accurately as possible the individual members. At the lower right of this pictorial chronicle of the event, however, allegorical personifications of the virtues crown a figure representing the Roman Church with a papal tiara. A globe at the lower left shows Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. Thus the Church appears not only victorious, but extending far beyond Europe, where Protestantism had recently made such dramatic inroads.
The Council of Trent (1545-1563) marked the beginning of the Counter Reformation. After Luther’s widely successful protestant reforms the Catholic Church needed to bring back the people under its fold.
Where Luther and his followers were mostly turned away from the Catholic Church by the displays of decadence and opulence the Papacy tried to convince the masses with statements and interpretations that proved the Catholic Church existed according to god’s will through events and persons past.
The baroque style so predominant in that era was mostly fueled by the Catholics. All over Europe were artists and architects commissioned for works to restore the Catholic Church back to its place of undisputed eminence. In effect the Papacy used art as a form of propaganda to sway the masses in favor of their ideology over that of the protestants.
Around the turn of the century, a few decades after Council of Trent, painters and sculptors like Caravaggio, Rubens and Bernini were being commissioned by the Church to make many works of art to decorate the churches and palaces of Rome. Most of these commissions still had the tenants of the Council of Trent in mind and thus contained themes and subjects aimed at persuading the audience to the side of the Catholic Church.
Pasquale Cati (c. 1550–c. 1620) was an Italian Mannerist painter active mostly in Rome.
Born in Jesi, Cati moved to Rome, where he was known as a follower, if not pupil, of Michelangelo, and later of Federico Zuccari. Among his works are frescoes in the Remigius chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi, frescoes depicting the life of the Titular saint in San Lorenzo in Panisperna, and in walls and vault in the Altemps chapel in Santa Maria in Trastevere. He is also known for a painting depicting the assembled clergy for the Council of Trent.
Council of Trent (1588), Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome. Cati was one of the painters engaged during the papacy of Gregory XIII in painting the ceiling of the Galleria Geografica.