Friday, April 3, 2009

Vatican Hoarding Dildos?

I learned something new today (from an episode of QI, of course). Apparently, Vatican church officials went through their collection of Roman statuary and chipped off the penises of male busts, sometimes adding leaves to hide the naughty bits. I don't know why I just assumed the Church would refrain from defacing art, allowing ancient Roman willies to fly free, but I was wrong.

This same episode of QI also suggested (perhaps as a joke? Didn't seem so) that the church may have held on to the severed penises. I can't help but crack a smile at the thought of a secret repository of marble dildos hiding away somewhere in the Vatican. Whatever might they keep those for??

The early wave of Calvinist Puritanism is not really the fault of Catholicism, I'm just surprised to see they caved in to such an overblown sense of propriety. What would they think of the Japanese Penis Festival?


SuiginChou said...

In all fairness, it seemed like 90% of the people in the crowd had their digital cameras out, arms stretched high in the air in an effort to get a better snapshot or video recording of the giant statue. That alone should tell you that even for the Japanese this is an atypical part of their culture: you'd do better to compare it with girls going wild at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, not with the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center.

With regards to "Vatican dildos," again, not to be such a bubble-burster, but aren't most of these statues micropenisized? Like Michelangelo's David, where his muscles are all big and ripply but his scrotum looks to be much bigger than his phallic shaft? I thought that was how most, if not all classical GrecoRoman statues were. Am I wrong? Is that perhaps a Catholic imposition seen only in the pre- and post-Renaissance periods but which did not exist in the Roman empire (which we'll place before "pre-Renaissance" ;p) ?

LOL @ the close-up of the little girl curiously rubbing the Good Luck Penis and then smiling. I can see so, so many watchdog groups wetting their pants over that one.

LOL @ the reporter stifling her laughter at 0:36 when she mentions that the shrine has been celebrating this festival for the last 1200 years. Actually, that's kind of cool iff the festival was commonly known about by Japanese historical figures. 'Cause what it means to me is, the festival is older than the first great Japanese civil war (1180s), the Japanese warring states period (late 1500s), or the second Japanese civil war (mid-19th century). It's a testimony to this childish observation: "empires come and ago, but Man's fixation with the penis will last forever."

SuiginChou said...

Out of curiosity, I did some further research, and I wanted to share a clarification with you:

The Hounen Matsuri (which is what this video is talking about) is celebrated on March 15 in Komaki (near Nagoya).

However, the Kanamara Matsuri is celebrated on the first Sunday in April in Kawasaki (near Tokyo).

The two festivals have completely different histories and (imo) the Hounen Matsuri is much more famous, but Wikipedia's editors are making it sound like the Kanamara one in Kawasaki is the big deal, so *shrug*, whatever, but the point is, be sure not to confuse the two! Hounen's is about fertility. ("Hounen" meaning a bountiful harvest.) Kanamara's, no clue, but Wiki makes it sound like it got its start as a superstitious thing for prostitutes afraid of catching venereal diseases.

Jay said...

To be fair, isn't taking snapshots and videos with digital devices PART of Japanese culture now? lol It also looked a lot to me like it was mostly foreigners taking pictures.

I still haven't been able to find a great source about the destruction of statuary, but this guy seems to know what he's talking about:

"In the eruption of Counter Reformation fanaticism following the Renaissance, the edict of the Council of Trent forbade the depiction of genitals, buttocks and breasts in church art.
In 1557, the fig leaves were instituted by the bull of Pope Paul IV. Most of the fig leaves that we see were put in place on the personal initiative of Pope Innocent X (1644-1655) who, for reasons of his own, preferred metal leaves to the plaster ones. This Pope, to his credit, spared most of the art in the Vatican. By 1857, Pope Pius IX discovered that these few remaining statues constituted grave threat to the faithful and destroyed most of them; the fig leaves were promptly added by his successor to stop the iconoclasm. All in all, the campaign raged for 450 years and resulted in the destruction of Catholic visual art."

Apparently, Dan Brown provides a somewhat fictitious account of "The Great Castration" in Angels and Demons --he even makes the character wonder if there is a crate somewhere in the Vatican vault filled with dildos.