Here’s something that will interest Steve Smith. CLR Forum reader John McGinnis points out this interesting article in yesterday’s Washington Post detailing European governments’ struggle to maintain architectural landmarks in times of declining budgets. Governments have taken to renting out ad space to cover the costs. Here, for example, is photo from the article, showing a billboard on scaffolding that surrounds Milan’s Gothic Duomo. I couldn’t tell from the article, but presumably the Italian government is helping to pay for repairs to the cathedral and is renting out space to H&M to defray the expenses. Or maybe the poster was the contractor’s idea. I assume the Milan Archdiocese didn’t come up with it.

Anyway, to get back to Steve’s post from yesterday. Maybe one reason why Europeans get less upset than Americans about public religious symbols is that Europeans don’t really take them too seriously as religious symbols. Religious sites and images are just part of the cultural background. If it’s OK to license use of the Colosseum in advertising, why not put posters on the Duomo? Judging by the article, Europeans are embarrassed by the commercial use of their heritage and what it suggests about the European political economy. They are not, apparently, too bothered by the sacrilege. Read the whole thing.

2 thoughts on “Well, At Least It’s a Madonna

  1. Nice post — I am less certain about this distinction between the US and Europe. There are all sorts of crass marketing and other money-making campaigns associated with religious institutions here. It is true that in the US this sort of thing tends not to be of a sexual nature, but that might be attributed to Puritan prudery (reflecting our own country’s Protestant heritage) rather than any more intense sense of the sacred. And if it came down to the choice between losing a historically and culturally important church or symbol and a little advertising, I’m fairly sure that a country that has happily proclaimed that its business is business would choose the latter without batting an eye.

  2. Well, that’s the thing, Marc. Europe sees itself as much less commercialized than the US, which is why this is so remarkable. Besides, I’m not sure Americans wouldn’t object. It’s true America has a heavily Protestant culture, without much sense of sacred places, so maybe Americans wouldn’t find ads so objectionable. But if someone hung a big ad on the side of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, or the National Cathedral in Washington, wouldn’t people complain about disrespect for religious sites as religious sites? I think they would.

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