Posted: June 16th, 2011
Michelangelo Revealed
Watch the Full Episode

More than five centuries ago, Michelangelo Buonarroti was the darling of the Catholic Church. The Papacy commissioned him to create many of its most important pieces, including the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. He spent his life glorifying the Church, etching Catholic ideals into masterpieces that defined religion for the masses. Yet when he died, his body was secretly shepherded off to Florence, and the Church was denied the opportunity to honor him with a grand funeral in Rome. Historians have long wondered about the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, but now, art historian Antonio Forcellino believes he has pieced together evidence of a deep rift between the Church and the esteemed artist. The cause: Michelangelo’s belief in Protestant ideals, and his involvement with a clandestine fellowship trying to put an end to the decadence and corruption of the Clergy and reform the Church from within.

THIRTEEN’s Secrets of the Dead: Michelangelo Revealed premieres nationally, Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). The film deconstructs the puzzling discrepancies between the sculptures Michelangelo created and the way he described them, revealing an intricate effort to carve his own beliefs into stone, while protecting himself from the wrath of a powerful Cardinal who viewed him as a heretic. Actor Liev Schreiber (CSI, upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine) narrates.



  • mike

    Sounds Super. This is a great series.

  • Lee

    Spectacular episode. Amazing lost history of this artistic genius and the Spirituali movement he was involved in.

  • John Karaffa

    Thank you for showing who Cardinal and later Pope Caraffa really was.

  • Debra J.M. Smith

    This was absolutely an amazing show. So glad to have found it. So glad people had the courage to produce it. In my work for my website,, I come up against so much persecution for my exposing of Catholicism. I guess I should consider myself blessed to not have to run for my life as Michael Angelo had to. This broadcast makes me want, all the more to speak up and let the truth be known even more boldly. Thank you! … Debra J.M. Smith

  • Tara

    This was an excellent show :) . I studied Michaelangelo in Art college but didn’t know about this aspect of his life and work. Thanks for shedding more light on it!

  • Charles Wright

    Thank you for a spectaular look at this period of the Catholic Church. As a Catholic I am interested in knowing of the thinking of others who might have a different slant to what is the role of the Catholic church

  • Debra J.M. Smith

    *Michelangelo (Please excuse my typo error.)

  • Jack DeBardeleben

    An EXCELLENT program that superbly tells the story of Michelangelo’s belief that eternal life is the free gift of God through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. When will this program be rebroadcast? I want others to see it!

  • Sue Smith

    Please rebroadcast this program. I would like to alert others to this great piece of investigating.

  • Debra J.M. Smith

    Are the producers going to offer it on DVD or over line?

  • steve syvanych

    worst program ever! take one line about Nicodemus and attribute the line to Michelangelo and his thoughts? horsepucky.
    Moses faces away from the altar means Michelangelo rejected the Sacraments? maybe because Moses never experienced the Sacraments or Christ is a better reason… that was not research that was an unhappy Catholic or a Freemason attacking the Church…so many errors, the next cardinal and future Pope making the sign of the Cross backwards was really brilliant…is there any truth in the media…sheeesh

  • Vincent Rigdon

    If Cardinal Pole was such a crypto-Protestant, as the show indicates, why did he join enthusiastically in burning actual Protestants as the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury under Queen Mary I? (This was during his “mysterious” trip to England.) I think that the identification of the “Spirituali” with Protestantism is very much overstated. I think the program over-simplifies the complex reality of Reformation-era Europe.

  • Joe Smith

    Faith alone is not enough. Christ came into the world and did things to show us who he was. He just didn’t walk around with all this knowledge. I think you can throw this video along with Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code. Please leave the Catholic Church Alone!

  • Ken Romero

    Ecellent attempt to uncover from actual documentation the truth about that period and those famous and infamous people. I love the catholics and once was one. My hope is that they don’t just accept blindly on faith but use their minds to uncover the truth. As the scriptures describe the apostles “reasoned with the people”. Let’s use our minds and seek the truth.

  • captblack

    How sweet the truth of the word revealed!! Bravo, every day the light is held higher to illuminate the darkness of carnal delight! Render unto Caesars what is Caesars…unto GOD what is GODS. Faith and good works go hand in hand! Good work like rain falls on everyone…faith is not blind but sees the way clearly and rewards those who keep his commandments.

  • Anzie

    You can argue the religious aspects all you want. What is left is the astounding work that this man, Michelangelo has given. It’s a shame that he had to be tormented during his life in order to create his art.
    As always, power, politics and religion “crucify” everything.

  • Bridget

    This comment section is almost as interesting as the program itself! This documentary is prescient for its pairing with the release of “Angels and Demons” and also with The Tudors. It shows a very different Reginald Pole than the one currently portrayed, rather one-dimensionally, in the very fun though not always historically accurate “The Tudors”. The figure that grabbed my attention most was Vittoria Colonna. I love finding out about women who shaped history. And finally, forget the religion stuff you all are arguing about! As a poet, I took exception to one of the commentators saying that the reformist Spirituali did not succeed over the conservatives because they were artists and poets and therefore lacked discipline. Ummm…does the Sistine Chapel look like work that comes from someone who lacks discipline? C’mon, man, give us artsy people some credit here! Thanks for a very provocative and topical show!

  • Alex P

    The significance of the theme of Nicodemus in his own-death sculpture, the fact that MichaelAngelo face in that sculpture of himself as Nicodemous in his own tomb is the message that in the 15th Century Faith [IN Christ] alone justifies therfore saves. Sola Scriptura by Sola Fide. Follow the truth wherever it leads. “I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except through me —Jesus”

  • Debra J.M. Smith

    Amen, Alex.

  • Jaoquin

    What type of computer monitor was the artist/historian using for the sculpture cutaways?
    Anyone know?

  • Alex P

    Faith and hope would no longer be faith if you see it and no longer be hope if you see it. There will be no excuses to God in the day of judgment to tell him He did not give you Faith for He has given all a measure of Faith to acknoledge Truth as scripture says. Michael Angelo understood the glosses of the Catholic Church as Jesus brought the natural taste of the Word of God to all jews, indeed to all of us.

  • Margaret Duffy

    Interesting show, but full of factual errors and glossings over of actual events. My scholarly period and specialty within it is the effect of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation on art and I can tell you this was a hoot! So full of errors and over-reachings that it really made me angry. It was also interesting that there was not one single interview with any art historian or historian that would represent a contrary opinion. So, this show is not at all to be trusted. Ranks right up there with the Da Vinci hogwash.

  • sally

    Margaret – can you please give us some specific examples?

  • John W. Bernard

    This was a very interesting program and expos’e on the life of this great artist. I would like to say that the cast of characters were very accurate in their depection of what was going on between the Catholic Church and the refermation period.

  • Melvin F. Rosenbaum

    Aha, so Michelangelo was a closet Lutheran, very interesting to say the least. How much blood shed and animosity might Western Europe been spared had the good English Cardinal been elected Pope! Amazing Grace, this “cardinal” fact of Christianity can never be for long suppressed, it will arise where ever the Gospel is proclaimed.

  • Jeff Xenos

    Of all of the points made during this program that may be disputable by either lack of direct evidence or incomplete discovery, the most striking fact still stands true beyond doubt. The Roman Catholic Church BANNED the Bible from all except the clergy. When the Bible was printed in the native language of a country or culture dominated by Rominism, the first reaction was to reject Roman Catholic Doctrine as false. Sola Scriptura Stands.
    History is so cool!

  • Bethany

    I find it hard to believe the program was entirely hogwash as one commented when the program was also quoting actual letters Michelangelo had written – where he wrote that divine grace / salvation could not be bought. I enjoyed the program because it again revealed that the people living under the Church’s power were held in bondage by not being allowed to read or own a Bible – what a tragic oxymoron. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn of more and more people like Michelangelo who had to ponder religious thought in secret.

  • Vincent Rigdon

    I fear that many viewers fall into the fallacy: “If PBS produces it, the show is, eo ipso, an unbiased academic production.” Not so. There is plenty of politics in academe. PBS has presented one, rather tendentious, theory. Just because it buttresses the sincere “sola fide” beliefs of some posters does not automatically make it a brilliant piece of scholarship.

  • Jim Nonus

    The film shows him drawing as left handed. How strong is that evidence? Do you know if he ever did preliminary sketches for the 12 apostles that he was commissioned to sculpt?

  • Dianne

    @Jaoquin: Did you find out what type of monitor Antonio Forcellino was using? Was it just an elaborate animation?

  • Alex P

    What more evidence that the roman city archives with original documents do you want people, for those who want to use unreasonable logice with this program. The facts is in their face. What happened to common sense?

  • Melvin F. Rosenbaum

    Thanks, nice to know that the Inquisition is still alive & well.

  • Alex p

    for those who cloud their minds with endless theories, pretentious false filters, there is a bottom line. What is Truth? Follow it, in spite of the consequences arround your culture, family and surroundings. Follow truth can you handle it?

  • Alex p

    I just found Battle for the Bible one of my favorite ones for it is remarkable one particular translator that I admire substancially. This is also another episodes from secrets of the dead. and the title is BATTLE FOR THE BIBLE. Thank you PBS though the scope could have been deeper in content.

  • Jaoquin

    No, unfortunately I have not been able to find that monitor after searching both google images and the Apple store.
    I think that I’ve seen that monitor before in one of the computer magazines as a concept model.

    I, like several others, also wondered as I was watching the show, if there would be any rebuttals presented on this theory. I was not completely surprised that PBS did not air a conflicting viewpoint. When I was a kid what PBS said was gospel, but I have noticed over the last ten years or so that the quality and veracity of information presented has declined.
    Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Robert Kiyosaki) comes to mind. A little bit of internet research revealed that his hometown newspaper (The Honolulu-Star Bulletin, I believe) did an investigation on him and found some of his claims to be fraudulent (”Rich Dad” may be a total fabrication).
    I used to expect PBS to vet their associations thoroughly.
    Not anymore.

  • Alan

    Michelangelo didn’t live anywhere near the period Jesus Christ was here on earth.

    What Michelangelo’s relationship was with the Catholic Church has absolutely no basis for any relevance to Jesus Christ, our Lord.

    I can tell you I have been involved in dozens and dozens of conversation with Dan Brown type fans about Michelangelo AND Leonardo da Vinci and such things as his painting of the Last Supper.

    It is astonishing just how many people are purely ignorant. It is as if Michelangelo’s and Leonardo da Vinci’s ART work, politics and religious views and science had some sort of outcome or conclusion of religious fact pertaining to Jesus Christ and/or the existence of God. IT DOES NOT!

    Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born 1475 and died at age 88 in 1564. Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was born in 1452 and died at age 67 1519.

    A period of time 1500 YEARS AFTER CHRIST!

    These guys were artist and creators of ideas and that has nothing to do with any basis of facts in regards to Jesus Christ, rather their works and/or beliefs (philosophy) were positive or negative.

    No more than what you say has any basis of fact.

    The only basis of facts and the only instrument of truth is the Holy Bible.

  • Alex P

    Alan you did not ge, and Joaquin the veracity of PBS contents has indeed substancially decrease. Hopefuly it is not run by jews for it if PBS is run by jews many filters and biases will be done and truth certainly omitted or twisted. Now, kindly, Alan, you need to read about the reformation and start with Martin Luther books for if you understood the basics of reformation and its tenets you would have understoon Michaelangelo’s turn from religion to a personal relationship with God the way the Holy Bible plainly states for anyone’s taking. The bible never mentions to believe in this or that religion, but it does say that Salvation is a Gift from God and it is FREE unlike our humanness. GOD is GOD and you and I are not. Be corageous and follow the Truth.

  • D. Ed Martin

    This documentary had a couple of glaring problems. At one point it mentions the reformation as the first time the Church was in crisis. Historically this is just terrible – The Avignon Papacy was not a crisis? Charlemagne’s reforms? The Roman Empire prior to the Edict of Milan? What exactly qualifies as a crisis? That was just off no two ways about it. Also, the simplistic notion that Michelangelo adopted protestant ideals is also off. How does this square with the iconoclastic tendencies in many sects of protestantism at that time? His art might have suggested X, Y or Z – but many of the very sects the documentary says he agreed with viewed religious art as idolatrous. This is a gaping problem as well. Very sloppy work in this documentary.

  • Alex p

    When GOD gives you a gift you do your best to put forward your ideas or GODS ideas and persons GOD has use for HIS WORD, to be proclaimed. Michaelangelo did not idolized no image, as it is clear he trun the head of moese, his last piece of work ‘moses’ towards the left instead of facing forward. Not to the right as signifying the adherance of his acknoledgment of the established church, but to the left signifying a change of repentance towards the truth that had been oscured by not providing the people with the bible in their vernacular language and of each language for that matter. It brought the scriptures to the plow of the boy in the fielf the light of truth, that the catholic Papist and cardinals and priest had obscure and continue to deny that there is only one who saves, not a catholic priest, but GOD through Jesus Christ by Faith. What happen to common sense? and in spite of the fact that many give their opinions without reading the bible as they should.

  • MB

    I love this stuff. But is it true or not? I really have no idea. Another PBS documentary claimed to reveal that Shakespeare was an underground Catholic and now they’re saying Michelangelo was an underground Protestant. But my own perception based on studying Michelangelo as an art history student is that Michelangelo regarded himself as a true Catholic rebelling carefully against corruption in the papacy, a topic that he knew up close and personal. And a topic that modern day Catholics are grappling with by the revelations about priests’ sex abuse and the Church’s extensive cover-up of those facts. No one is saying that today’s Catholics who are critical of the Church’s role in sex abuse are Protestants. So my feeling is that Michelangelo would not feel close to the Protestantism as practiced by the Germans and the English. I see this more as an expression of struggle against imperial power, a theme consistent with his early work of the David. Excellent visuals. I too am very curious about the professor’s computer screen.

  • Liz

    Bridget might be interested in a book on Vittoria Colonna: Vittoria Colonna and the spiritual poetics of the Italian Reformation. While I can’t attest to complete historical accuracy, as I cannot with PBS piece, you just cannot leave religion out of art – the orgins of all our classical foundations of art came out of faith and religion. I found this show very fascinating (and do not sucumb to Brown’s drivel). People of faith seek God, not through political power and hierarchies – the Catholic church of that time was also very corrupt & political. If the Spirituali existed and I think there is evidence they did (there is a “Benefit of Christ’s Death” historically, best I can see) I think they were seeking a simple Catholic faith centered in Christ’s forgiveness for sins, as did the Protestants, without all of the indulgences, inability to read the Bible and lavish wealth in the leadership. Yet they were truly Catholics with are heart for Christ & works were a light to the world of that faith, but not works to earn His merit. They were not Protestants.

  • Alex P

    Liz you are mistaken when you said that Michealangelo was a catholic. Watch the program again and you will see that the Catholic Church did not. DID NOT even gave him his due national burial service at all. The fact that michael angelo was fond of the catholic ins and out as he was an insider. Noticed I say insider sort of like well obama and the average joe is not an insider is it? THerefore, in spite of the facts establisk on the episode you are still reluctant Liz to admint a discover of the true word of GOD versus the opaque, distorted one the catholic papist gave the people for lack of vernacular teaching about the scripture. Even Jesus did not talk latin but the vernacular language as it is the case the Word must be in the vernacular for all. Where has common sense gone to?

  • Humphrey

    Gee whiz, Alex p. enough already!! We know where your coming from…
    Relax buddy! We are all entitled to our beliefs and opinions. (Unlike Michelangelo).

  • Alex p

    TRUTH IS NOT RELATIVE. I am thankful truth is not based on michaelangelo’s or jews, non-jews, gentiles, atheist, democrats or republicans or independent. What shall we say then, that I can define God? that I can define God with my imagination and opinion and belief and give GOD the lie for not believing my puffed up reasonins? Sicne when God is less inteligent than a person? Since when I can mocked GOD?

  • Alex P

    Gee Whiz….what are people trying to say that hypocriticaly hide the meaning in the Gee Whiz? what do persons really mean when they say
    o my gosh? yet, no moderation was anounced. Everybody knows that a person who usees the above mention slangs are not very moderate are they?

  • Tyrone Slothrop

    Alex P ~ Some people here are trying to understand this piece. Is it valid? Is it grounded in fact? If it is, then what does it mean for Catholics today as well as non-Catholics. And you keep babbling on about, well lord knows what you’re trying to say. You are obviously arguing in a language that isn’t your first language and you have no idea what you are talking about anyhow. It is hard enough to actually have a real discussion on the internet without people like you taking up bandwidth and distracting from this attempt at conversation.

    And half the rest of you who do have something to say and the language and brains to say it, what is so hard about proofing what you wrote so that it is intelligible to the rest of us, so that you can make your point and actually contribute to this interesting topic?

    Come on people. This stuff is meant to be provocative. Say something intelligent, in English for sh#ts sake.

    And no I’m not an English teacher.

  • Alex P

    Therefore, logic and Truth is square in the eye of all who are WILLING TO SEE [for those who pretend to make a lame point where there is none based their shallow view on, shall we say, pride, or the fear of being stigmatized as fill in the blank.] If Truth has pushed your buttons by the fact you cannot handle the truths that Michaelangelo’s episode has brought forth, I cannot assist you pedagogicaly or made you apply it by deduction what the episode presented. maybe some atheist, new age or humanist or relativist might help you by osmosis.
    I hope this most humble writting in the vernacular enlgish language elucidetes a much needed clarity for those who choose to indeed ignore fact from fiction. By the way more than 70% of the english language is based on Latin words my most distinguished scholarly tyron. We must know what the english language foundations consist of which I do not have the space nor the time to illustrate or explicate. Indeed, ignoring common sense that speaks clear in one’s eyes, face and hears in the episode is unresonable. When the bus has the DOOR on the right side in most of the world shall we say then that it is not a door in England because it is on the left side? Remember, the world’s sport is soccer, not futbol not tennis, SOCCER. Fortunately, out of my heart are the issues of life and out of the heart my mouth speaks. Therfore I gurad my heart above all things as Jesus has taught me. For most persons who want to advocate truth are willing to grasp truth. Truth is everywhere if you are corageous to follow regardless of what your family thinks, society, culture, social status, tradition says. I am lucky to abundanlty use my English vocabulary, indeed. Certainly my humble authenticiy only has made you an angry man. Are you angry because you are an angry man or are you are angry because you have anger?

  • Tyrone Slothrop

    “When the bus has the DOOR on the right side in most of the world shall we say then that it is not a door in England because it is on the left side? Remember, the world’s sport is soccer, not futbol not tennis, SOCCER.”

    Ah, now that you’ve explained it like that I understand completely. How could I have been so thick-headed? So slow on the uptake? So mired in the techniques and substance of communication?

    “Certainly my humble authenticiy only has made you an angry man. Are you angry because you are an angry man or are you are angry because you have anger?”

    Yes, that it! It’s your self-imagined “humble authenticiy” [sic].

    But an even better question is this stunning tautology: “Are you angry because you are an angry man or are you are angry because you have anger?”

    Alex, I’m angry because people like you annoy the $hit out of me. And because I’m constipated.

    Have a nice day.

  • Frederick Willman

    I do hope that the low brow comments in response to the Michelangelo film do not represent a majority of your audience.

    Madison, Wi.

  • James Donaghy

    An amamazingly sloddy and tententious piece of work! I’m appalled that PBS would run it. Please be assured that I will never contribute another dime to PBS while this series in aired.

  • Joel M

    Just to let you guys know there is an argument in Rome today about why Michelangelos Moses has horns. In my opinion the clash between religion and science is gaining trust, and honestly with religion having provided nothing but death and sorrow, while science have provided most of the answers for our existence, you can’t help but follow Michelangelo, and Galileo. The earth will continue to turn around the sun, and no book can change that.

  • Alex P

    Science has not gain any trust. If you want to be corageous all scientist and advocators of scientis, science is the study of causes not the invention of them and there lies the biggest deception of scientist today. Science corroborates what GOD has revealed in the Word of God not the other way arround. When gravity was discover, NOTICED I said DISCOVERED not invented, for GOD inventeded before it was coscover. WHere has common sense gone. Science will only be contradicting and never invents only theorizes wrong hypothesis that many take as true when they have never been proven or corroborate what GOD alone has created……author of a book involves a writter. creation conveys….creator..WHere has common sense Gone?

  • Joel M.

    If you are saying that there is a source of intelligence light years away from earth in existence for many light years I would say its possible. This given the fact of what we know and what Huble revealed to us. I can’t comment on the books written by men, we all believe what we want. Michelangelo, Galileo, and thousands of scientists are familiar with many other Gods invented during thousands of years. No offense to religion, but humans are still not developed enough, and we lack the intelligence to reach light years away.

  • Alex

    joel if you want to go on a tangent of imaginary OUTLANDISH beyond resonable reason is beyond any persons intelect. The tragedy is many sects and atheist think that there life in another planet which is the equivalent of saying that a mokey is a reasonable person. It takes more faith to believe in your imaginary planet to your own puffed up nonsense than to see the facts in your face. Planet earth is a lucky planet and moreover, truly, a blessed planet. can I say blessed? the fact that you control not your death day is not lucky but the fact that you are still alive is indeed lucky or blessednes yet in its importance to differenciate general providence with specific providence is a study beyond the scope of your corageous ability to follow the truth where it leads you!!!

  • Betsy Gefaell

    Is the 5 part series on Michelangelo going to be rebroadcast? I would love to see it again.

  • Lisa Peterson

    I find the series as a whole very interesting, fascinating I am grateful for it’s content and information and Excellant very well made! Thank You.

  • Roger Pauly

    Vania Del Borga maybe a writer, but she is no historian. The image she presents of the Renaissance church is that historians of fifty years ago might have recognized. Furthermore, many of her claims make no sense. Michelangelo altered Moses because he feared the Inquistion will kill him, but decades later on the verge of death, he burns his papers because he does not want anyone to know his true beliefs. If one of my students presented this thesis, I’d give them a “D.”

  • Joseph Mijail

    This was a very well done show. The fact that it has caused so much controversy proves it. It is evident that in 52 minutes the documentary will not (and cannot) elucidate all of the intricacies of Michelangelo’s life and of Catholic Church’s history. However, the documentary makes every viewer think, examine his most deepest beliefs and take their own conclusion. That is precisely what makes of it a good program. Thank you again, pbs!

  • Allen

    A far more interesting premise than anything Dan Brown could contrive because it has real world players and ramifications. The absolute truth is probably even more interesting. This show far outranks all its cable competitors, which right now are playing hours and hours of ridiculous 2012 “investigative” shows and hunting down monsters and ghosts( and not finding any). Thanks PBS!

  • cynthia

    ican’t wait to see this tonight

  • Frank Kalich

    I have no religious affiliation, nor political. However nonsense, speculation presented as fact, is what I expect from series about Space Aliens building the Pyramids, UFO’s, things like that. This is really bad history. I killed my TV 5 years ago in disgust. But I remember that PBS used to be better than this. There is nothing here that an intelligent viewer would find convincing. I generally stay away from TV video now, because so many (such as this one) just make you more stupid than you were before you watched it. You can learn a few things maybe, but most of it is just speculation, or even nonsense.

  • Frank Kalich

    Let me give you an example (I could give dozens, but this one is particularly laughable). With about 11 minutes to go, “a record from an anonymous source close to Michelangelo” is the support for their belief that he changed the face of Moses, and why he did it. Right, I’m convinced on both accounts, that is enough for me! Also I find the alternate use of scary and angelic music when they want to influence the audience interpretation annoying, that is just a propaganda technique. I have seen some awful video, but this was on a subject that really deserves serious treatment, by people who know what serious history is, and the rules one must follow for presenting serious history.

  • John Edwards

    None of this is really new. Michelangelo and Vittoria Colonna have long been suspected of being part of a Protestant ’study group’ called the Nicodemites (hence the suspicion that the figure holding up the body of Jesus in the Florentine Pieta–a clear self-portrait of Michelangelo–is Nicodemus, although I doubt it).
    As for Forcellino’s claim that Michelangelo changed the pose of the head of Moses late in the sculpting process, the evidence, apart from that cited in Forcellino’s otherwise very flawed book “Michelangelo, A Tormented Life” comes from a letter, indeed unfortunately anonymous, that was sent to Vasari in 1564 and can be found in G. Vasari, ‘Der literarische NachlaB,’ vol. II (1930) p. 34. This is good enough for me, but the interpretation, however, is certainly up for grabs, is here heavy-handedly shoe-horned to suit these scholars’ convictions about Michelangelo’s supposed conflicted relationship with the Catholic Church, and, as far as I am concerned, does not take into account any consideration of the dynamics of sculptural composition, especially as we find it throughout the body of Michelangelo’s work which routinely uses a severely rotated head to apply both physical and psychological torsion to his work. If anything, this was, as Rodin pointed out, Michelangelo’s great re-invention of Greek contrapposto. In fact, please name one sculpture in which Michelangelo places a head squarely on shoulders. I’m not saying Forcellino is wrong, and that Michelangelo did not change the position of the head, just that the reason may have less to do with elaborate ecclesiastical convictions and more to do with artistic composition.
    As much of this documentary turns of Forcellino’s work on the Moses, I was extremely disappointed that so little of the program dealt with his findings and examined the sculpture in such a cursory fashion. It’s really the only interesting thing Forcellino has to offer. Oh, and stay away from his book. It is a mess.

  • thomas

    Genius of this magnitude takes an acute awareness beyond most can comprehend. J.S. Bach was at the same level, except he painted and chiseled with musical notes. It doesn’t surprise me at all that minds like this saw that confessional Lutheranism was (and still is) completely consistent with the Greek New Testament ~ Apostolic teaching ~ and Church Fathers the likes of Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and especially Chrysostom. Read them and you’ll think your reading Luther. It never was a “Reformation” that Luther wanted but a “restoration” of the original catholic doctrine ~ Grace, Faith, Christ, Scripture ~ ALONE!

  • James david

    I thinck that it is very educational. I am learning about it in school right now and i thought it was very interesting. it helped me learn so i could do my project.

  • Greg Spahn

    I am a teacher and i am teaching about this. we watched in my class i my class enjoyed it. this was very educational. their is a student in my class named corrisa hanson and i interveiwed. she said that it was very good and that she learned from the experience.she stated that the things she saw on the movie about michelangelo. she has a feeling that she would do good on her project.

  • Davod

    Jaoquin, Dianne: I think it was an ADAM-EVE Apple computer monitor. With all kidding aside, why don’t you inquire this from PBS?

    All: I didn’t hear anyone complaining though when NOVA broadcasts documentary after documentary about the earth being billions of years old and no one was called upon to air a conflicting view point. Those kind of arguments go no where and everyone one is left to choose sides anyway, much as are all the other comments being made. If you do the calculations you will see that the waters of the bible’s flood receded at a rate of over 4 quadrillion GPM. I would venture to say that with this amount of water flow that the earth could get resculptured pretty good, maybe even formed the Grand Canyon in a few days not billions of years. Anyway that I am sure will be up for debate for years to come. Scripture describes clearly that “it is by faith your are saved and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works SO NO ONE CAN BOAST!.” Catholics teach your works are what counts. This does appear to fly in the face of what the bible teaches. I believe that Michelangelo understood this and transposed it into his artwork. And, I have no problem if Michelangelo portrayed himself into his artwork as well. I would have done the same if I had his talent. And, if his conscience bothered him enough to change something at the last minute I guess we are all guilty of doing that, too. Christ taught that: “If you Love Me You will Keep My Commandments.”. It is apparent that in order to love Christ Jesus you need to know Him first. It is impossible to know Him through good works. To know Him you need to spend time with Him in prayer, study His Word; know His heartbeat, feel His passion and ASK for Salvation: “Whosoever Calls Upon the Name of the Lord SHALL be SAVED.” Remember the saying: “Remember the Alamo” I say remember the CATACOMBS. If it wasn’t for the bravery of the early Christians, who died for their FAITH, keeping Christianity ALIVE where would we be now? Let God be true and every man a liar. “Without FAITH it is impossible to please God.” “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” We are all Saints and have eternal life through the precious blood of His Son, Christ Jesus, “Do You Believe This?” “Circumcise therefore your hearts’ and be not stiff-necked any longer.” “Stop doubting and BELIEVE!!” There is one last thing I want to leave with you. The next time you visit a cemetery notice the grave stones. There is a date of birth and a date of death. Normally there is a dash between the dates. The DASH is your life. What kind of legacy in your dash are you leaving behind that is pleasing to GOD?

  • nan lesser

    excellent. every history class should show this. for that matter, every Sunday school class as well. I was literally in tears at the end. thank you for an amazing movie.

  • Mary

    This documentary totally misrepresents the debate of the time. Why does no one go into the full disclosure of Luther’s experiences which led to his desire to remove whole books from the bible, like James, where it is written “Faith without works is dead”. It is so easy to make your point when you conveniently leave out half the facts. people are so easily misled by documentaries like these because they have forgotten what the arguments were really about. Michelangelo was an ardent Catholic to the end. He never left the church. The Papcy was the one that supported his Last Judgement painting not the Protestants who even today call is blasphemous. The reforms called for did occur in the church. The truth is that faith and works do go together…that is just logical. “Even the devils believe”, said Christ, it is the work of Satan and his cohorts who are liars and who steal from others. This is an attempt to steal from the church what belongs to the Church, the true dignity of man, true humanism is a Cathholic tradition, not a Protestant one since Protestantism became so focused on spirituality being the only good that the human aspect of Christ was dieregarded. Is it not the Catholic Church today that defend the dignity of the human being from conception to the grave? Look at the fruit of Protestantism– many denominations have accepted divorce, abortion, contrception, and have been silent on euthanasia. If those are the works of ‘faith alone’ then give me the old ‘faith without works is dead’ for my compass.Look at Bernin’s ‘David’, what a glorious expression of ‘faith in action’.

  • Donald Mikkelson

    When this video was posted, May 11, 2009, I had just finished my novel THE MICHELANGELO DECEPTION. I just finished viewing this video (for a second time) . . . a year later. I spent the intervening year editing and revising the mss. My second viewing made this documentary more compelling, now that I’ve had months to absorb, edit and finalize my first draft. Thus, I have this to offer.

    Here is a description of my novel.

    The deceptions Michelangelo painted into the Last Judgment fresco –in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel—are real. This novel is a platform for bringing this stunning revelation to light. For almost 500 years the artist’s trickery has lain hidden in the painting behind a façade of what appears to be a representation of Christ’s Second Coming to judge the living and the dead . . . but that is not what it is!

    What are the deceptions? Why did he do it? Who was deceived? These are the questions answered by our fictional protagonist, Maria Martinovna Luderenko. She is a Russian girl who is adopted by an American farm couple from Minnesota where she becomes a victim of child molestation by a priest and is accused of murder. After a near-death experience, her path takes a surprising turn that leads to a life-threatening encounter with a cabal of dissident Vatican clerics and Italian Mafiosi who are conspiring to get rid of a reformist African-American pope.

    There is nothing in this video that is inconsistent with my findings as reported in my the novel . . . except perhaps that the artist died a Protestant–reinforced by the report that a Bible was placed at his side when he was buried. (Was that done at his request?)

    Central to my novel’s findings is the idea that the artist earnestly searched for the divine light he believed could be found within, thereby assuring one of salvation while living. As is stated in the video, Michelangelo believed that “. . . man’s direct relationship with God is what matters.”

    While that might be a Protestant idea, which I believe the artist held at one time, I think he went beyond that Protestant notion and the idea that one is saved by the grace of God alone, through faith in Jesus Christ as the redeemer . . . the explosive idea that Luther held and which split the Church.

    The ultimate terror of the possibility of eternal damnation was not eliminated by Luther’s rebellion. But that is precisely what Michelangelo sought to eliminate from his spiritual longing. Therefore, in the end, he moved beyond Protestantism to an idea that all great spiritual masters (including Jesus . . . see my novel) have taught down through the millenia: “Go within to find your salvation!”

    I quote the following poem Michelangelo wrote to lend support to my assertion.

    Rend thou the veil, O Lord. Break down this wall,
    Which, by its hardness keeps retarding so
    Thy Holy Sunshine, in the world gone out.
    Oh, send the light so long foretold for all,
    To thy fair bride, that so my soul may glow,
    And feel thee inwardly, and never doubt!

  • karen

    As an art lover, I visited Rome almost a decade ago with the expectations of being inspired by Michaelangelo’s works there. I cannot speak of the way in which they exceeded my expectations. His ‘Moses’ was the visage of a man for whom even I would have left a normal life behind to follow. The Sistine Chapel, after winding my way through the tour of the Vatican Galleries, was breath-taking — no matter how many books and slides and documentaries I had imbibed in preparation.

    One thing on the tour, though, made me gasp in laughter. You see, I’m also a lover of the Bible — the whole printed Word. And as I gazed and gazed at imaged I had seen photographed in books all my life, I turned towards the High Alter and saw the lunette representing the story of Jonah.

    And, unlike all the High Church Art I had witnessed along various stages of the tour, I realized that I was seeing something that Raphael, Donatello, and even Leonardo would never have dared to paint.

    Everyone remembers the story of Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish — but above the very alter of the Sistine Chapel, where Popes are consecrated and where the vote for every new Pope is counted — Michaelangelo painted the gourd that is the subject of Job’s final dialog with God.

    If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend the text.

    It doesn’t speak (to my mind) for the idea that the Catholic Church (or any other Church) makes decisions that are binding upon God. Quite the contrary.

    And, so, seeing that scene set above the Papal Throne, I laughed — and cried — and was joyous to realize that people who lived half a millennia ago were also struggling to re-discover who is in control of the Universe. I was also struck by the number of people who have passed through that Chapel, not knowing what a profound statement the artist did, in fact, clearly convey.

    Watching this program, I was reminded by my sense that this amazing, legendary artist must have had sources and have struggled outside of the traditions of the Church to paint and sculpt the works we now see as art. I was also reminded of my conviction that his works were more the product of devotion than any commission could ever offer.

    Thank you.

  • Mike Kushner

    Having visited both St. pietro en vincoli and seen the parrially completed statues at the Acadamia Galleria in Florence brought the whole experience together. The story behind these important works, if true, change my whole perspective on the works themselves, and on Michaelangelo in particular. Thanks for this program, clearly one of the best in the series

  • Jerry Stovall

    This program refers to a book: “The Benefit’s of Christ’s Death”.
    Can anyone provide me with a link to an online English translation of this book?

  • Dionisio

    Fascinating diversity of opinions and dogma. (Fitting, no?)

    And no one died because of it.

    Consider that.

    A wise man once stated that by a person’s actions, one can know them. (Disclosure: I am a secular humanist. I have faith in humanity; As — amusingly — so did God. Or so we are to believe…)

    This conversation strikes me as amusing. “Faith is all.” “Salvation can be purchased.” “Works both do and don’t matter…” And then we have screeds for and against all the above AND our attempts to understand those.

    I stand with the folks who believe that we have brains for a reason: They became pivotal in the survival of the species. I have faith that that reason is to advance understanding; And if understanding is to be tossed aside, then we are less than worthless.

    Reject dogma. Believe in what can be — even theoretically — disproved: For once that is accomplished, understanding deepens.

    We are a wonderful paradox. We should accept that. (Or prove it to be false and move on.)

  • Aaron Culbertson

    I know it’s been quite a while since you asked Jerry Stovall, but here’s a link to a translation of ‘The Benefit of Christ’s death’:

  • sylvia

    What fascinating discussion! I’m not always a fan of PBS as I find (as others have noted) that they dont always present the opposing view. There is a verse in the New Testament that says the Church at Berea was held in high esteem because they searched the Scriptures daily, to see that what they were taught was true. It’s a good practice to apply with ANYTHING we learn, are taught, read, watch. The Michelangelo program definitely has me googling for further info on the topics of the reformation, Michelangelo, the spirituali, etc. Dont just sit there in your recliner soaking up every program as absolute fact. Dig in! Do some research! Get lost in a book on the topic! I promise you it’s a lot more fun than you think. :o )

  • David

    So what happened with his death? The show teases the mystery of his death in the beginning but doesn’t mention it until the end and then there’s absolutely no more detail than at the beginning. I’m not buying for one second that he burned his own papers. The church had every reason to burn those papers and keep his true feelings hidden. And thanks to this show not uncovering this aspect, probably the one true secret in this story, it will remain so.

  • Anna Walters

    Perception, beliefs and intrepretation are our own. No one can change the beliefs of the next person who is unwilling to even consider the possibility there is truth in what they are seeing, hearing or reading, and that their beliefs may be off track. However it is being quite closed minded to discount everthing we , read,learn,or see because it is not in keeping with our lives. I found this program quite thought provoking; I can not say that everything told in this documentary is the absolute truth or lacking in truth. I like all the posters here, was not there. there will always be questions of validity. I have heard awful things about the Catholic Church, (decades before the fictional Davinci Code), which may or may not be true. It is a duty to myself tolearn as much as possible, test what I have learned and hold onto the good. I wil not limit myself to my beliefs, which may also be wrong. I will remain open to all.

  • Jim Nonus

    Was Michelangelo left handed as he is shown in every presentation about him and if so, why has the British Museum claim, he is right handed? My red chalk drawing of St. Mark was drawn by a left handed artist. I think it is by the hand of Michelangelo.

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  • Damon Vanzant

    It seems that Michalangelo was being challenged with his own personal views, the church and his obligations to Pope Julius the 2nd. The hypocrisy identified by Martin luther, Paul and the Spirituality weighed heavily on Michalangelo and it was dipicted in his art in the chapel that was dedicated to Julius the 2nd. These contradictory views put the artist in a unusal place because his depitions of the 2nd coming of Christ were rejected by the church because of its nudity, but depicted the artist view of faith in the death of Jesus instead of the church’s conventional views. It seems that the hypocrisy of the church did not go unnoticed by the artist but his obligation to the church fueld the mixed feelings he was experiencing.

  • Palmira Nan from Brazil

    It’s fantastic! My son studies at Universidade de São Paulo (the 3rd year of Classic Music – accoustic guitar) and his teacher asked him to provide a Seminar about Michelangelo. For sure this episode of Michelangelo Revealed will give him enough support to achieve its objective ! rsrsrs Tks a lot!

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  • John ma

    Michaelangelo is buried in the church of Santa croche in Florence along with other famous Florentines. He always considered himself a florentine. Perhaps considering his fame and poor relationship with the Pope he wanted to ensure that he was buried in his beloved Florence…….in a church.

  • Ted

    This particular episode was beyond fascinating. Thank you PBS!
    How and where to purchase this DVD?

  • Linda H

    well, that was pretty anti Catholic. Especially the part about Bibles being illegal. It resurrected the old anti-catholic protestant myth that the Catholic Church discouraged people from reading the Bible. A complete lie since the Bible is read at every Mass. The Church was well within it’s rights to discourage the reading of unauthorized translations. By the way, the altar is not the focus of the priest but the tabernacle of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. Something that Luthor also believed in. Hardly think Michelangelo would turn Moses away from Jesus as a political statement.

  • Samantha D

    I really enjoyed this episode. It just aired again tonight on PBS. I went to Rome in 2006 and Michelangelo’s art was one of the highlights of my trip! I am in awe of the man. The Sistine Chapel is seriously awesome! And his statues…David in Florence…what can I say?

    Spiritual beliefs…to me, basically all God concepts are just that, conceptions in the human mind. The good news is we get to choose the God concept that makes the most sense to us. We can even make up our own concept and if enough people agree, guess what, it forms a religion. This is how religions were made over the years. Jesus’ way makes sense to me and all the different religions may not agree on the type of love Jesus taught but they all agree he was selfless and one for all. I know there are many other paths besides Jesus’ way and I say live and let live, and look for the Good in all things. I won’t comment anymore regardless of who says what. Peace and Joy to all of you!

  • Rosemarie Carrafa

    I watched this episode and I must say it was quite interesting all about Pope Paul IV and what I didn’t know exactly about this era.

  • Marty Nichols

    A nice spectrum of views on a very interesting subject. I would just add that the comments of Samantha D. are unfortunate in that she appears to be disinterested in learning truth, or admitting that it exists.As for Linda H. —

    If one complains that a presentation is “anti-Catholic” then that complainer is admitting that they are trusting and committing themselves to that particular tenet, and identifying with it. Otherwise why take it personally?

  • Virginia B

    This show was so full of errors and deliberate twisting of historical fact that I cannot believe it was aired. I would not know where to begin to list the falsehoods. Even a quick look thru Google will make you cringe. A look at scholarly sources will make you wonder what PBS’ agenda really is in airing this nonsense. Try Reginald Pole, just for starters.

    It is sad that so many people watch TV and think it must be true. No wonder money is being pulled from PBS–regretful as they do many things very well. I’d really like to know where the money for this series, Secrets of the Dead, comes from. Now that would be a story worth watching. Why do I think that’s not going to happen?

  • Benedicta

    I’m really sorry to see a once-superb series of archeological and forensic documentaries deteriorate into shaky, semi-historical hatchet jobs on Catholic Church history. Yes, the Renaissence Church had corrupt popes whose main interest was wealth and power; and yes, there were abuses by persons with authority in the Church. However – there were plenty of people within the Church who urged reform, including St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Philip Neri, Pope Pius V, and St. Vincent de Paul. Michelangelo and his associates were not protestants, they were devout Catholics who deplored the state of the Church they loved, and wanted to restore its original Christ-centered focus.

    And I’m really, really weary of that tired old lie that non-Latin Bibles were banned. There was an Armenian Bible in the 6th century, and St. Cyril, creator of the Cyrillic alphabet, had translated the Bible into Bulgarian by the end of the 9th century. There were Czech Bibles by the 15th century, and a complete German version in 1477 (way before Luther). Yes, there were translations that were banned, but that was not because they weren’t Latin, but because they contained serious doctrinal errors.

    Stick with the science, and please stop broadcasting these propagandistic historical travesties. There’s plenty of good material out there – please use it.

  • Bruce McLeod, Jr.

    A very interesting show. After reading many books about “The Sistine Chapel”, I was tremendously impressed with the story about Michelangelo and his amazing sculptures. The reform movement within the Catholic Church through the “Spirituali Movement” was influenced by the Protestant Reformation which was anathama to the Catholic heirachy. Please continue to provide these type of informative viewings which serves as an enlightenment to many people.

  • Thomas C. Quinn

    I was flabbergasted by the tendentious, ignorant and unprofessional level of this program that would be an embarrassment even to the pop culture folks at the History Channel. Speculation abounds about Michelangelo’s secret religious views constituting a secret agenda behind his work, with various minutae of his art works being ridiculously parsed to support this supposition. No, the historical record, as anyone who has taken Western Civ 100 knows, is quite different; whatever Michelangelo’s views were, they were in fact commonplace, moreover the idea that he belonged to a quasi-Lutheran secret cult for which he risked persecution is without any evidentiary support. In fact his association with Cardinal Pole shows exactly the opposite.

    Pole, an Englishman, was a staunch papal loyalist whose family was executed by Henry VIII and who returned to England under Catholic “Bloody” Queen Mary as her chief enforcer. Yes, under the Counter-Reformation instituted after the Council of Trent in the 1540s, certain of the more egregious abuses, like the selling of indulgences, were abated. This, however, was not the product of any subversive radical cult, but rather represented official Vatican policy. It was in this period, for example that the Jesuits were founded. This is another example of the Erich Von Daniken like school of pop history that the tabloid media panders to. It is unbecoming of PBS, which strives to maintain a reputation of intellectual seriousness, to sponsor such frivolous material which contributes to the historical illiteracy among Americans that has recently been commented on in the news.

  • Thomas C. Quinn

    I neglected to include a link to the Wikipedia article on Cardinal Pole in support of my views expressed in teh above comments. Thanks.

  • Tom Cod

    link to Wikipedia article on Cardinal Pole that demolishes the thesis of this program:

  • Rod

    Why do great artist have to have ulterior motives. Maybe Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo DiVinci and the other Great Masters were just trying to make great art.

    Art used to be about creating something of beauty not secret or blatant political messages.

  • Heather

    For the post who references Wikipedia as proof that this episode is bunk: ha, ha, ha, ha! Wikipedia isn’t exactly an academic resource. I actually did a graduate paper two years ago whch included much of the same info. It was gratifying to see others with the same conclusion. Here’s some ACEDEMIC resources for futher research.

    Collings, Matthew. “Art is the New Religion.” Modern Painters 19(December 2007/January 2008): 38-41.

    Dickens, A.G. Reformation and Society in Sixteenth-Century Europe. London: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966.

    Dillenberger, John. Images and Relics: Theological Preceptions and Visual Images in Sixteenth-centry Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

    Ellis, Richard S. “Images at Work Versus Words at Play: Michelangelo’s Art and the Artistry of the Hebrew Bible.” Judaism Vol. 51 Issue 2(Spring 2002): 162-175.

    Mayer, Thomas F. “The Art of Grace.” Christian History & Biography 91(Summer 2006): 32-36.

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  • JDE

    @Linda H: “Especially the part about Bibles being illegal. It resurrected the old anti-catholic protestant myth that the Catholic Church discouraged people from reading the Bible. A complete lie since the Bible is read at every Mass.”

    It is not a myth. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    “The Church was well within it’s rights to discourage the reading of unauthorized translations.”

    And you’re a brainwashed fool. The reason the Catholic Church has been able to destroy as many lives as it has is that it’s been supported by people like you. You have blood on your hands, Linda.


    enjoyed the show very much! :) quite thought-provoking, really. there has already been plenty of accepted historical information out there about the subject matter of michelangelo, the catholic church, reformation, etc. it is intriguing and stimulating to be exposed to thought that is not just traditionally or typically known and accepted.

    i, too am more curious about all this now and want to do searching on the internet to learn more. variety is far more stimulating than a mere traditionally and limited historically accepted flavor, if you know what i mean? enjoy more dimension, depth, fill in the blank, etc.


  • sunmee

    It shows Catholic was more interested in power, leaders, control. They only cared about themselves, they mislead so many people and was willing to kill to stay in their filthy power. They don’t even enter the Kingdom themselves or lead others in. Instead Satan has blinded them, so they couldn’t see the real truth.

    We are save not by works or charity, it is only by what Jesus Christ has done on the CROSS for us. He alone was perfect and lived a pure sinless life on earth. We are worshiping and serving risen King. Who is coming and will not delay. Man are not to call any man father, for we have only one. We are not to bow down to anyone, for we bow down to Jesus Christ alone, who is author and finisher of our faith. Even today, no matter how much Catholic tries to hide or say, they can hide from the real truth. They are man made religion, man made tradition and ritual.

    Revenge belongs to our King Jesus Christ and he alone will judge the filthy wicked, who has lead so many astray. Satan’s time is coming close to end. Catholic ritual and religion will not stand, they will be destroy at the end. Truth will be told and nothing will be hidden. All will come out soon or later. People can now see the real side of Catholic.

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  • Alisha

    I thought this video was going to be about Michelangelo but felt it was more based on the Catholic religion & all it’s problems back in the day then on an astonishing artist / sculpture. I was a little disappointed in that but all in all it was interesting.
    I do want to say one thing about the religion topic everyone is so focused on. There are people who did do things back in the day and even today in every church all have had flaws and there is always someone who is power hunger. Do not blame the whole CHURCH or the PEOPLE who worship there for these confused peoples mistakes, everything and everyone in this world changes. Instead of worrying about others faith and religion we should just focus on ourselves and our own faith!

    I hope everyone on here has a very Merry Christmas!! :)

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  • Nadine Iha

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  • Gregory

    Wow, just wow! You would think PBS wouldn’t air something so…..”abducted by UFO’s, big-footy”, and taut it as history. OK, I won’t even go into the complete lack of evidence of the assertion made of Michelangelo in the program. That has been addressed by some good commentators above. I will just stick to the more elementary and obvious falsehoods that anyone who has had a good catechism class or studied Catholicism would know, which apparently the “brilliant” mind who came up with this drivel never bothered to check or intentionally misrepresented. The Catholic Church does not now, did not then, nor has it ever, believed in salvation by “works” as the program, over and over, insists on and uses as a major point of contention affecting Michelangelo’s thinking. Ironically, such a belief is now, was then, and has always been, considered a heresy by the Church and has always been condemned. Comments concerning the bible and the Church’s view of Scripture, was also not just wrong, but the kind of wrong that a freshman student taking a class on Western Civ. would know. Just an awful or intentionally anti-Catholic program. Shame on you, PBS!

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  • Nate

    I thought I was watching PBS, not reading tabloid magazines in the checkout aisle at the grocery store! What happend here PBS with “Secrets of the Dead”? Leave programing like this to the History Channel and others who want to present biased, opinionated history; sprinkled with facts, and mixed with speculation presented as fact. I can get that type of information anywhere. Please stop airing programs produced to draw attention, but rather please produce and air programs created to educate, inspire, and elevate our minds.


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  • Ernest


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