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A candid look at how the Vatican wields power in non-religious matters, including its influence on Western art and European politics, and its behind-the- scenes role in the collapse of Soviet Communism.
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Despite the title, there are (unsurprisingly) no gossipy revelations in this A&E-produced two-video set. What you get instead is a thorough look at the history and culture of the Roman Catholic municipality and its sovereign leader, the Pope. The 53-minute first tape concentrates on the history, exploring the construction of the first St. Peter's Basilica by 800 of Constantine's subjects to honor the crucified apostle above the spot where he was said to be buried. Narrator Mike Farrell details centuries of power struggles between various popes and government leaders, along the way to the church's eventual demolition and replacement in the 1500s, with Michelangelo at the artistic helm. The 42-minute second half takes a look at the modern Vatican, its gardens, its phenomenal art collection, and its Pope. John Paul II's personal history, his political influence, and his legacy are discussed by a series of historians, writers (including Watergate's Carl Bernstein, who wrote a book about the man), and clerics. --Kimberly Heinrichs
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