Both Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood take place during an uncomfortable historical period for a proud Catholic (not just Catholic .. ROMAN Catholic! All the way back to the ROMAN EMPIRE!!! JULIUS CAESAR, baby!!!) ) like me. The Catholic Church during the High Middle Ages and Renaissance was riddled with corruption, with no better example than Pope Alexander VI, whose real name was Rodrigo Borgia, his son Cesare and daughter Lucrezia.
Indeed, the Borgias are the chief villains of Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. Rodrigo (played so well by French-Canadian actor/singer/comedian Manuel Tadros that I don't think anyone else will be able to even match it) murders his way through Assassin's Creed 2, but moves more into the background in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, where Cesare does most of the devilment.
|Manuel Tadros as Rodrigo Borgia, later Pope Alexander VI.|
But aristocrats out for influence and power tend to be more corrupt than people who go into the priesthood to minister to spiritual needs. The Borgias are simply the most extreme examples. I have no problems with them and their supporters being portrayed and treated as villains. Then again, as you probably have guessed given what I've gone through this year, I have a pretty thick skin and don't offend easily. I don't look to be offended. As a Catholic, I take my share of insults, both direct and otherwise. Knowing that in many ways the ROMAN Catholic Church is the continuation of the Roman Empire -- a very important point for me -- allows almost all of it to roll off my back.
Nevertheless, as much as I love Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, they both make me uncomfortable. Not the plot, mind you. Both games contain a database of famous landmarks that you will come across in the course of the games. They give some good background and are actually pretty educational. Usually. They sometimes take a snarky approach to the entries. That's fine. But they also ... well, I'll show you an entry, this one about St. Peter's Basilica:
Basilica di San Pietro
The original Saint Peter’s Basilica, built in 326, as opposed to the epic basilica that exists today, was constructed in the form of a Latin cross. An atrium, called the Garden of Paradise, stood at the entrance beckoning followers through the main doorways of the church.The shots at the Church here are simply gratuitous. "Catholicism" got all over that? Don't they mean "the leadership of the Church?" And the "religion" became incredibly corrupt? Again, couldn't they have just said "the leadership of the Church?" Now, the institutional Church definitely has had its corruption, and still does. Most Catholics, like myself, separate the religion from the institutional Church. This entry takes shots not at the institutional Church, but at the religion itself. Twice. And needlessly so. I find this insulting.
Unlike pagan temples, which were lavishly decorated, the facade of Saint Peter’s was plain. Thankfully, Catholicism got over all that when they made the new Saint Peter’s. Of course, the downside was that the religion became incredibly corrupt, but, hey, beauty has to come at a price.
The Basilica was built on top of the old Circus of Nero, but before you start pulling out your popcorn and cotton candy, this wasn’t a modern circus. The Roman crucifixions of Christians was the main act. Saint Peter, among many others, was hung up to die there. The Basilica was built on top of this anti-Christian site, as almost an intentional modification of history by Emperor Constantine, because if it no longer exists, it never happened, right?
Not to mention, what is so bad about turning a place of death -- the site of the execution of St. Peter -- into a place of life. It's not a denial of history as much as a magnification of it.
Here is another one, on the Castel San'Angelo:
Built between 135 and 139, as the tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the Castel Sant’Angelo was designed to be slightly larger than the Mausoleum of Augustus, because, as this database has shown time and again, size does matter.The cruelty of the Renaissance popes is duly noted. I take no issue with that. But "stolen by the Vatican?" Again, another gratuitous shot. And untrue. Much of it was used to defend against barbarian raids.
The building was converted into a military fortress in 401 and was promptly sacked by Visigoth looters in 410, who scattered Hadrian’s ashes everywhere. What was left was recycled, i.e. stolen by the Vatican.
In the 14th century, the tomb was converted into a castle for the popes and connected to St. Peter’s via a covered passage called the Passetto di Borgo. Reflecting the delightfully sadistic side of Renaissance papal rule, the castle contained both sumptuous apartments and a prison. Giordano Bruno, the famous scientist and Hermeticist, was held there for six years. Executions were carried out in the small interior courtyard for the Pope’s enjoyment.
One more, not so much aimed at Catholics, but at the first Christian emperor:
The Castra functioned as the ancient barracks for the Praetorian Guard of Imperial Rome. After Constantine’s victory over Maxentius in 312, he destroyed the barracks. Although the Guard had been the Emperor’s protectors for centuries and were simply doing their job defending Maxentius, it appears Constantine was unable to forgive them. They were disbanded forever.
Talk about a bad day at work.Talk about an inaccurate shot at Constantine. The Praetorian Guards were notoriously corrupt. They had raised and deposed emperors for centuries, sometimes basically or even literally selling the throne to the highest bidder. I'm not totally certain why the Castra Praetoria (or Castro Pretorio) is even in the game, since it was supposedly destroyed by Constantine some 1200 years before the events in the game. When I was in Rome I saw the site of the Castra marked -- it is considered a neighborhood of Rome -- but there was no castra, so to speak.
There are other database entries of this type in Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. I'm not trying to cause a stink here; I LOVE both games. But these gratuitous shots make it a bit uncomfortable. And there was no need for them. Apparently, I'm not alone in feeling that way, either: the Assassin's Creed Wiki contains a different (maybe "corrected") database entry for St. Peter's than the one in the game, which is why I had to link to another site. The original entry for St. Peter's is difficult to find on the Web.
So, should I be offended? Normally I'm not, but it's hard not to notice the shots I've just shown, mostly because they are needless and inaccurate. Am I wrong here?