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Published: June 22nd 2008
interior of St. Peter's
this dome is higher up than a football field is long
Now we arrive at the ancient city of Rome. Of course it is a very modern city, I just like saying "ancient". We are still processing what we've seen. It is not simply a matter of describing the trip, but expressing our amazement. After all, these are places and events that helped shape our culture. Walking through Rome we would turn a corner and come up on the Pantheon, and then the Colosseum. Modern Rome is built up around these landmarks, and it sort of takes the tourist by surprise!
Seeing sights we've heard so much about - the Spanish steps, or the multitudes of people sitting on the steps. Wandering through the Villa Borghese Park, people watching. Trevi fountain was a shock. So many people bunched up in the small square that dead ended into the fountain. It's night time lighting is nice, and the statues in the fountain are fantastic, King Neptune taming the water! I had a coin to toss into the fountain, but completely forgot about it until the next morning when I found it in my pocket! About $3,000 is collected from the water each day and used to subsidize a grocery for Rome's poor.
In the Vatican City, we were walked or herded, through the museum on our way to St. Peter's Basilica. We were so anticipating seeing the ceiling in the Sistine chapel, that the art in the museum's rooms should renamed the most "unappreciated art in the world". Everyone was stretching to see how many more people and rooms there were until we got there, hardly noticing that we were surrounded by beautiful images. Trying to describe the Sistine chapel, will be too hard, so just like we said with the statue of David, get over to Rome and have a look for yourself. (bring binoculars) In fact at this point in the trip and now in writing about it, I am at a loss for words. If you have read any of our blogs, you are tired of reading the words, 'beautiful', 'wonderful', 'amazing', ect. And you know, that may be the most difficult aspect of traveling, wanting so much to share this experience with you and not having the ability to give justice to what we have seen. Yet, it will not stop me from typing away!
It seems like Michelangelo has been the theme of Florence and
Neptune and his horses
Rome. And I was anxious to see his statue the "Pieta" in St. Peter's basilica. In April, I saw his Madonna with Child, at The Church of Our Lady in Brugge. Now, having seen both sculptures, this "Pieta" is a moving piece of art. Mary's face is the same in both statues. Art historians speculate about why he sculpted her 'young' , when many artists depicted a distrought, older mother, for their renderings of the "Pieta". There are several "quotes" from Michelangelo explaining his young face on Mary, one is ...."it seemed to me that the Virgin Mary would not age. She was pure; and so she would have kept the freshness of youth."
To me, Mary's young face makes sense, mothers are always young when we are with our child. We have in our heart, that hope, and the promise, and the fulfillment that children bring. How much more for Mary, to be depicted hopeful, yet in the knowledge that her son was the Hope of the world. We, the viewer of the statue, are seeing with our eyes how Mary's heart felt as His mother- young and hopeful, just as she did at His birth. "Pity" was a
popular theme during the Renaisance. Many artists rendered their idea of pity and this scene from the crucifixion. It was "sorrow" that they were expressing. This sculpture in St. Peter's breaks my heart.
Mamertine prison is a small site, just outside the Forum, where tradition has it, that St. Peter and St. Paul were held. We hear a lot about tradition and legend when we are reading about the historical sites. Which is to say that "maybe they were here and maybe not", but my imagination leads me to think that these places are real. Didn't take any pictures, sometimes in a place like this, a photo would take away from the feeling I have just being there. I can't speak for the friends with us, but the whole city of Rome is a moving experience. This tiny dungeon of a cell is of great importance to those who believe, and now reading Paul and Peter's writings will have new and fresh impressions.
Another sacred place that came as a surprize to us (meaning I didn't do my research) was the church were St. Peter's chains are displayed. Relics were essential to the
church in dark ages and during the Renaissance. Just like an heirloom or keepsake, their presence in a church helped the people relate to the bible and gave their simple minds something concrete to believe in. Also provided income to that particular church, by way of offerings, still does. Here at San Pietro in Vincoli, St. Peter-in-Chains Church, are the chains that held him in Jerusalem. The legend of this relic is that those chains miraculously fused with the chains from his imprisonment here, in Rome, when in the mid fifth century, Pope Leo I comparing them, held them together. This church is on the tourist route for the Michelangelo statue of Moses. The one where the rays of light coming from his head look like horns.
It's interesting to stand in the Forum, and realize exactly where it is that you are standing! We were surrounded by ruins, but for a time this was the center of the civilized world. The colosseum, it too is beyond description. It was interesting to find out that the events, and the food and drink were free to all who came. It was a symbol of the enormous social power of
window in St. Peter
from inside the basilica looking out
the Roman Empire.
Being with a group has been a little different from the way we usually visit a city. It has freed Keith up from planning the reservations, and transportation issues. This tour company gave us most of the day and evenings to ourselves. While providing local guides who share their love of their cities, along with the historical facts. We were glad to be around folks we could sit and chat with! And they are a great bunch of people!
As our new-touring-friend Barb said "I'm so glad we had this time together, Just to have a laugh and sing a song, Seems we just got started and before you know it, Comes the time we have to say 'so long'...(If you are an old fart you will know the tune to this song!)
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