‘The Young Pope’ showrunner Paolo Sorrentino explains the series’ opening scene

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Jude Law
Jude Law arrives for the movie premiere of "Spy" in the Manhattan borough of New York. Reuters/Carlo Allegri

“The Young Pope” showrunner Paolo Sorrentino has previously opened up about the show’s aesthetics, specifically the paintings we see on the opening scene of the show. The artworks are not only for visual purposes, but tell the story of the Roman Catholic Church. Sorrentino said the paintings serve as a sequential overview in the most significant moments of the church.

“The paintings of the opening scene are a quick chronological overview, with obvious shortcomings, of the most significant moments in the history and art of the entire arch of Christianity and the church,” Sorrentino explained. The arresting visual and aural fetes have started showing in the opening scene of the series since “The Young Pope” season 1 episode 3.

The title sequence starts with “The Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst. The artwork features a small group of shepherds as they witness the birth of Jesus Christ.

The opening scene ends with “The Ninth Hour,” a painting by Maurizio Cattelan. It shows Pope John Paul II as he is crushed by a meteorite. Sorrentino has explained what the comet symbolizes in the pope’s journey in history through Vulture

“Both seriously and humorously, Christianity begins with a comet that over the centuries takes on a different appearance and mysteriousness as a meteorite. And then, perhaps, for many different reasons, it turns into a rock,” Sorrentino said. With the comet “crashes down on an old pope and leaves the space to a young man: Pope Pius XIII,” he added.

“The Young Pope” follows the story of Pius XIII's Pontificate. Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) is a unique character for when he became a pope, he did not want to follow the rules of pope life yet he is also compassionate toward the weak and poor.

Based on the character’s description, Belardo is a powerful man who is resistant to the Vatican courtiers. The main character in the series faces constant fear of being abandoned as he once felt forsaken by his parents when he was a child. Even when he became pope, he still feared that he would be abandoned by God and the people around him.

Vatican expert and professor at Villanova University Massimo Faggioli said “The Young Pope” is honest in putting in plain sight some uncomfortable facts about Vatican politics. It shows the cruel career system and the instability of clerical alliance. Faggioli is also the author of “John XXIII: The Medicine of Mercy and Pope Francis: Tradition in Transition.”

“The Young Pope” airs Sundays and Mondays at 9:00 p.m. on HBO in the US. Fans in Australia can catch up with “The Young Pope” through HBO GO. The show has started airing on Jan. 15.