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Most of the world knows it best for its magnificent frescoes painted by the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti.

What has remained a little-known secret, however, is that within this citadel of Christianity lies perhaps the greatest subversive act in the history of art.

To our great delight, the book is already beginning to alter the way scholars interpret the work of Michelangelo, sparking vigorous, and sometimes heated, debate.In 1508, we know that Pope Julius II ordered Michelangelo to re-plaster and paint the crumbling ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, a demeaning job at that time for any great artist, and especially for Michelangelo, who detested painting and lived only to sculpt.The pope gave him a simple design, a very standard and banal layout of Jesus and Mary at the two ends of the ceiling, surrounded by the Apostles and a common design of geometric shapes in the center.Michelangelo's frescos emphasize the universality of God and the kinship of all mankind by beginning the pictorial narrative with the Creation story of Genesis, not with the birth of Jesus.To a Church that preached exclusionism and stressed Divine love for only a limited number of His children, Michelangelo emphasized tolerance of all faiths, even the despised Jews of his time.

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