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On a positive note, this book on the building of St Peters does have some strengths. Scotti describes the dynamics between the patrons (the powerful dynastic families of popes and cardinals sponsoring Roman cultural projects) and the artists - and these are vivid personalities all. She breezily recreates scenes involving popes and painters, such as this typical passage describing the artist Perugino meeting the adult Raphael, formerly his pupil:
"Perugino, eyes moistened, rushed forward and embranced Raphael
like a son. It was an emotional moment for the old painter.
He pinched the boy's cheeks affectionately, marveling at how he had grown."
Although Scotti doesn't seem too bothered to examine original sources to create these scenes (the bibliography is entirely second source material), no matter, they are fun, lightly paced, and charming if this sort of pop historical creativity appeals to you.
Unfortunately Scotti's creative energy also involves fundamental fictions about her subject matter. There are the annoying, small errors like misnaming buildings in the Forum. These are forgivable -- what tourist hasn't got these confused? But then there are howlers that demonstrate she's unfamiliar with the building she's writing about: for instance, she incorrectly asserts that St Peters was built with cast structural concrete. In order to "cast the concrete vaults for the Basilica," as Scotti puts it, Bramante (the 16th century architect building St Peters) would have had to... invent concrete. Concrete as a technology was developed by the ancient Romans, but knowledge of its process vanished with the collapse of their building culture. So Scotti states that Bramante had studied the Romans and rediscovered their methods of using concrete. It's sad that a quick google search could have helped her straighten this out - concrete was rediscovered in the 19th century, not 16th. St. Peters was built with mortared masonry, and contains no concrete nor any cast material approximating it. If she didn't know the basics of how St Peters was technically constructed - and remember this is a book about the construction of a building -- it might have served Scotti better to have skipped all of this, rather than making it up.
Still, even this pales to the inaccuracy of the larger point of the book, the "Scandal" in the subtitle. Scotti attempts to link the construction of the St Peters, in particular its exorbitant expense, with the Reformation itself. In her argument, the Popes were so corrupt, so decayed in moral sensibility, that they constructed St Peters regardless of the burden it would bear on their finances, and the basilica's expense caused outrage throughout the Christian world -- leading to a the Reformation and Protestant split from the Church. She varies her positions on this influence, and obviously recognizes that there were more factors to the Reformation than this building. But in many cases her claim that the building program of St Peters caused the Reformation is clearly stated: had the handling of the basilica's construction been more carefully managed, less divisive, then the Protestant church may not have even happened: "the demands for reform might have been heeded, the rift healed, and the grand enterprise of the century progressed without corrupt indulgences, confused plans, or extravagant expense."
Anyone considering themselves Catholic or Protestant would be offended by the childish reduction of the split between their faith as due to the mere expense of a building -- as if the Popes had listened better to their accountants then the Reformation would never have occurred. Nothing could be further from the case. The Protestant and Catholic Church split on theological issues. The issues that drove Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin to separate from the Catholic church were issues of faith, they were issues of sacrament, of justification to God, of the role of church hierarchy, and of differing views on the nature of salvation itself. To reduce the Reformation as causally due to the extravagant cost of a building is fundamentally misunderstand it, and is fundamentally bad history.