Trent could not have been clearer. Images were permitted in churches to instruct the faithful and confirm their faith. And bishops should approve only those commissions and depictions that would serve such purposes. Late in 1563, the council's twenty-fifth and final session explicitly advised that "stories of the mysteries of our redemption . . . in paintings and other representations" enable visitors to reflect on articles of the faith challenged at that time by Protestants less well disposed to the use of images. Trent, to be sure, issued guidelines. Nudity was frowned on. Ambiguity ought to be avoided. Scriptural stories should be presented simply, as they had been told. The council aimed to answer reformers' complaints and to counter Reformation iconoclasm. Prelates in attendance echoed Pope Gregory I's sanction of images—his characterization of art as scripture for the illiterate—while instructing artists on their religious obligations. And no bishop took the council's decrees on images more seriously than did Gabriele Paleotti, who attended the last session before returning to his see of Bologna.

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Copyright © 2004 Catholic University of America Press. This article first appeared in Catholic Historical Review 90, no. 4 (October 2004): 634-49.

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