St. Peter’s Basilica and In Praise of Folly


There is a lot that seems unknown about the similarities and differences of European culture in terms of literature, music, and visual arts. The European culture has broad elements that allowed different artists to delve into development of different kinds of cultural arts, music, or literature. The aim of this essay paper is to analyze the works of Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, In Praise of Folly, and the works of artists, who designed St. Peter’s Basilica.

In Praise of Folly is admirable writings about the European culture, while St. Peter’s Basilica is a Catholic church with architectural elements that are meaningful to the historical culture of Europeans. Hence, the focus of the essay shall be the literature and visual arts that the two artists performed with a view of examining their similarities and differences.

Background of the two elements

The essay entails a comparison of the elements of European culture found in St. Peter’s Basilica and elements found in literature, In Praise of Folly. St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the Italians renowned and world’s biggest Roman Catholic Church located within the Vatican City (Francia, 1998). The church is within the Vatican Hill and across River Tiber, a region that acts as a historic center of Rome.

Famous Italian architects, Donato Bramante, Carlo Maderno, Michelangelo, and Lorenzo Bemini designed this church within the highly symbolic location in a period of about a millennium ago. The huge structure is highly symbolic to the Catholic Church, which has the most important aspects about the earliest European culture and acts as the historic hub of Rome with traditional architectural designs (Francia, 1998). The church acts as the center of Roman Christianity and a historic hub of Rome.

In Praise of Folly is a book that Desiderius Erasmus wrote to demystify the behaviors of most religious individuals and ordinary citizens, who he thought they were practicing and instigating hypocrisy. Erasmus claimed that lawyers, church leaders, classical scholars, and sociologists were all fools, who praised and mimicked foolish behaviors (1876). The Dutch revival humanist and a long serving catholic priest, Erasmus, were attentive about the behavior of worshiping and acting in accordance to the principles and motives of folly.

The book gives us important literature regarding the behaviors of people, congregations, socialists, and couples, who believed to be clever, but their behaviors showed a lot of foolishness. Erasmus (1876) observed the lives led by the Italians and concluded that people live in folly because the entire universe forced them to live and dwell in accordance with certain principles.

Comparison of the Works


The book, In Praise of Folly, and the visual art that architects designed at St. Peter’s Basilica have certain similarities in major aspects related to religious traditions. In Praise of Folly is a book whose literary techniques focus on unraveling the behavior of dwelling in certain principles, perceptions, and ideologies in the worship and activities involved with Christianity (Erasmus, 1876). Similarly, the architectural works that give St. Peter’s Basilica its tantalizing appearance based on the religious grounds of Romans portray similar themes (Francia, 1998).

Although in different design and nature, the two pieces of art, which are the book and the Roman Catholic Church in Vatican, show how human beings have dwelled on certain ideologies that Erasmus believes to comprise folly. Erasmus postulates that, “Christians place their greatest stress for salvation on a strict conformity to their foppish ceremonies and a belief of their legendary traditions” (p. 159). In essence, folly has overtaken the lives of Christians since they rely on mere ceremonies and traditions as a source of knowledge.

Similar notions are present in the manner in which the architects cherish the design of church symbols that deem significant to the faith of Roman Christians. According to Francia (1998), the presence of beautifully decorated crosses in the well-designed church is part of what the believers deem significant in their devotion. In the perceptions of Erasmus, people believe they are clever, yet they remain fooled by their dedication to old ideologies, while the architectural design of St. Peter’s Basilica makes even learned people believe its holiness, its greatness, and its legacy (Erasmus, 1876).

The Church holds a unique position within the Christian world with legendary Christians believed to have originated in this holy Church. The architects themselves considered locating the church at the Vatican Hill and around Tiber River, as they believed that they were historic centers of the Roman people.


Although quite similar in their thematic structure, the literary works of Erasmus and impressive design of St. Peter’s Basilica have certain differences. According to Francia (1998), the beautifully designed and decorated church is an indication of adoration and respect that Roman Catholic members believe they offer to God. The cross symbols, the tombs of holy martyrs such as St. Peter, and signatures of esteemed designers like Michelangelo represent Christian unity (Francia, 1998).

Contrastingly, Erasmus thinks that churches persistently manipulate dwellers, as preachers seem to disobey God and live in the quaint places mistakenly (Erasmus, 1876). Erasmus believes that the souls of Christians seem fashioned and molded, and only attracted by appearances, but not the truth hidden in most churches. Erasmus asserts that if the beautiful scene of the church is what pulls Christians to this worship center, then they are wrong.

The interior design, which shows a basilica with great opulence covered with barrel and vault ceiling having dome appearance, is a true revelation of the wealth of faith associated with the Catholic Church (Francia, 1998). The spiraling columns and the altars made of bronze show the lavishness of the Church and Erasmus associates such design with richness rather than godliness.

Although the church associates the decorations of beautiful mosaic of evangelists as a sign of strong faith of Christians, Erasmus (1876), believes that the church is at fault by instilling wrong virtues on its believers as creating shrines and designing images of martyrs and saints is like having a false faith against God. Having the gigantic church structures and well-designed and decorated images of martyrs and saints entail worshiping idols instead of the Holy God, as church attendants seem captivated by appearances.


Christians consider a church as a holy place that deserves respect as it carries an important image of Christianity. The ideas of Erasmus regarding our behaviors towards certain foolish norms of religion are replicas of the behaviors of the architects, who constructed St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of the late evangelists and popes. Erasmus believes that most Christians live in folly of old ideologies and norms attributed to their religious faiths.

Contrastingly, while the Christians believe that a beautiful church designed in a modern manner is an indication to devotion and reverence to God, Erasmus sees such beliefs and practices as idol worship. Hence, Erasmus contends that the souls of Christians seem fashioned and molded towards lavishness rather than godliness, as the appearance of the church captivates church attendants.


Erasmus, D. (1876). . London: Reeves & Turner. Web.

Francia, E. (1998). St. Peter’s Basilica. Herrsching: Manfred Pawlak.

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