GREENVILLE, S.C. — Walking across the tidy campus of Bob Jones University, there’s no obvious sign this bastion of Christian fundamentalism is also home to one of the nation’s largest collections of Renaissance and Baroque religious art from the heart of Catholic Europe.Read the rest here.
It’s all the more surprising since the school’s old-time Protestant leaders have for years taught that Catholicism is a “cult” and even the “Mother of Harlots.”
“You go into that gallery and its big, amazing paintings are really staggering, and you know you can’t buy altarpieces like that anymore,” said David Steel, curator of European art at the North Carolina Museum of Art and a longtime fan of the BJU collection. “They’re just not on the market.”
Edgar Peters Bowron, who oversees European art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, agreed.
“It’s one of the best collections in the Southeast generally, and certainly in terms of Italian painting from the Renaissance through the Baroque, it is one of premier collections of Italian paintings in America, without contradiction,” he said.
Just as surprising as the collection itself, however, is that the man who started it 60 years ago was Bob Jones Jr., the school’s second president and the son of the university’s namesake.
The younger Jones was not only a purveyor of fine painting but also of the hoariest anti-Catholic tropes, calling the church of Rome “a satanic counterfeit,” for example, and “drunk with the blood of the saints.”