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Published: August 3rd 2009
Disclaimer: The following blog contains discussion of religious and philosophical nature. Viewer's discretion is advised.
We all know the saying that Rome was not built in a single day. However, the Christian Church was not built in a single day either. Many martyrs and saints (in the Christian frame of reference) died a horrible death and shed their blood to spread and enhance the faith through the centuries. Therefore it was with a mind of reverence I came to Vatican, where in the legend the first Pope, St. Peter once stood and died for Christ.
I came with a mind of reverence, not only because Vatican is the holiest place for the Catholics (I am not a Catholic, however, I was brought up in an Anglican high school. I am self-styled man of faith, not necessarily a religious man), but also Vatican hosts some of the most precious treasures in the art world. The Sistine Chapel stand the frescos and rooftop paintings by Michaelangelo, Rafael, and others. I have seen those art work in books before, however, now I have a chance to stand right there with these inspired works, the thought just overwhelmed me.
I took the
train from downtown Rome (Termini) early in the morning, 7:00 am because I know that the line will be humongous later on during the day. I arrived to the Vatican city at 8:00 am and proceeded immediately to line up for the Vatican museum. I met an Italian Brazilian young woman who is living in Milan (Joanne) while waiting in line, and we decided to explore the museum together. We entered the museum at 9:20 am, not bad...thanks to our early-bird behavior. While waiting in line, I witnessed a minor incident. An Asian woman (obviously not native to Italy) somehow infiltrated into the group wait lines and trying to sell silk scarfs to the tourists...the Vatican police discovered that and forcefully deprived her of her merchandise and sent her off the square with a sense of loss and sadness on her face. I felt really bad for her...but I understood if this was not done, more and more commercial activities would take place there. However, would Jesus really be so rough to an economically disadvantaged immigrant woman? Food for thought...
Walking into the Vatican museum, I marveled at the beauty and intricacies of the interiors. Every wall is a
painting or is decorated with an artwork. In one section, it shows the ancient tapestries which describe the history of papacy; in another section, we see the giant maps of every province of Italy on the walls, showing once the power/ jurisdiction of the Vicar of Christ.
After passing many corridors full of artwork, both old and modern, we finally arrived to the the Apostolic Palace. There are 2 works that I have had great anticipation of, both by Rafaello Sanzio: School of Athens and the Liberation of St. Peter.
School of Athens is well-known painting which depicts different themes of knowledge. I will not try to re-interpret here. The Liberation of St. Peter is a work that would have made my stay in Vatican all worthwhile by itself.
Synopsis: St. Peter was put int prison by the Romans. While he was sleeping, hands and feet both in chains and shackles, he had a dream. He dreamed an angel appeared to him in extraordinary brightness (as you can see in the middle of the painting). The angel told St. Peter he was the messenger from God and took him by the hand- the chains and shackles fell
off like feathers to the ground...of course, the Roman guards did not and could not see this, because God's hands are at work here. The angel led St. Peter down the prison stairs, stepping through the sleeping Roman guards (as can be seen on the right panel) and when they were outside of the prison, St. Peter woke up. And lo and behold, he was free!!!! Meanwhile, the Romans guards were confused and perplexed, since they could not figure out how St. Peter escaped (left panel).
To paraphrase Vatican's own footnote: "In the celebration of light Raphael confronts the divine light of the angel with that of the dawn, of the moon, of the torches and of their reflections on the armour, and even of the natural light that enters from the window below, creating the most extraordinary effects."
The Pope commissioned Rafael to paint this story to demonstrate that one cannot keep a good Pope/ person down forever. However, I like the interpretation that Rafael was painting the common desire we all have- the desire to escape...the moment when all worries fall apart, no mortgages to pay, no bills to foot, nothing to hold us back, nothing
to drag us down or cloud our minds....the moment when utmost freedom was achieved. How we all long for that extraordinary brightness in our life! I find this painting extraordinary and inspiring.
We then proceeded to the Sistine Chapel where the Creation of David and the Last Judgment, both famous works can be found. I was simply awed by the beauty and majesty of the paintings and was speechless. Enough said, here are the pictures.
I will show you St. Peter's Basilica tomorrow.
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