The latest free lecture from The Teaching Company is by Prof. Kenneth Barlett on the 500th anniversary of the cornerstone being laid for the St. Peter's Basilica. They tell us to share these things, so here you go [mp3].
Interesting nugget: the sale of indulgences to raise money for the building of St. Pete's contributed to Luther's consternation with the Pope's pardons and the Protestant Reformation. I wondered if this connection were exaggerated, so I did a little research, and here's what Luther himself had to say in his 95 Theses:
49. Christians should be taught that the Pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but most hurtful, if through them they lose the fear of God.Guess I'd take a slightly different tack from Mr. Luther: Does make you think when you see all those multi-million dollar mega-churches (with their garish architecture, plush seating, and elaborate sound systems), wouldn't all the money spent building these edifices be better distributed, say, feeding the poor and providing shelter for the homeless?
50. Christians should be taught that, if the Pope were acquainted with the exactions of the preachers of pardons, he would prefer that the Basilica of St. Peter should be burnt to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.
51. Christians should be taught that, as it would be the duty, so it would be the wish of the Pope, even to sell, if necessary, the Basilica of St. Peter, and to give of his own money to very many of those from whom the preachers of pardons extract money.