Friday, January 09, 2009

Vatican Museums, Baroque Churches and Ancient Rome

My wonderful friend Vicky came to visit for a week, (part of the reason there has been a scarcity of posts here) and we took her for the Rome Starter Kit tour: St. Peter's, S.Clemente, The Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and the Vatican Museums which culminate in a nightmarishly crowded glimpse of the Sistine Chapel.

Oratory groupies the world over will recognise this one. The copy in the Chiesa Nuova isn't a patch on the real thing. I stood in front of it mesmerized for ten minutes until I had to be dragged away.

I'm told that part of its extreme realism comes from the fact that Caravaggio could not paint from the minds eye, but had to use living models.

I could not help looking at this one and humming "Iiiit's the faaaal of Aaaaancient Rome...the Laocoon hacked to bits with an axe..."

The Pantheon piazza in "winter". I did actually wear my big Canadian woolly winter coat, but just because it seems the expected thing to do here...when in Rome...

Ancient stuff. A good idea of the rising of the street level since Imperial times. All the ancient stuff is accessible by steps downward.

Vicky and the incredibly cool perspectivey ceiling in St...
one of the Jesuit churches near the Pantheon.

(they tell me it has something to do with math.)

Vicky loved the ancient stuff.

The Ratzinger Effect in action? The "Benedictine" altar arrangement on the high altar in the Pantheon.

Now there's a faldstool cover.

The best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings, is so because while it was still merely "old", the Church paid to have it turned into a church.

Me pretending to talk on my mobile. "No no, I'm sure they said it was the Parthenon...and ooooo look! you can see right out the hole...What? Can...can you hear me? You're breaking up...You sound like you're standing at the bottom of a well in a crowd of angry geese..."

Vicky touching the ancient bronze doors.

Cats in the Torre Argentina, steps away from the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated.

Vicky told me she wanted to see Baroque art. Well, we were able to oblige her.

...and ancient stuff.

Look what I found!

Self and Chris Wells, who served heroically as tour guide and pack horse for Vicky's bags all week.

Chris told us that the medieval engineers who shored it up with bricks, did so in the barest nick of time. These cracks were there at the time. It was literally falling down as they were building.

The area in the foreground is the ancient gladiator school attached to the Flavian Amphitheatre.

Arch of Constantine.

The apse of the nave in S. Clemente, one of Rome's most venerable basilicas.

Vicky with a Bernini angel growing out of the top of her head.

Very rainy day, best spent in the world's largest church.

The big disk of red marble just inside the main doors of St. Peter's is called porphyry and was regarded in the ancient world as one of the most precious substances, akin in value to gold. To give an idea of its value, the mausoleum of the empress Helena, which is in the Vatican museum, is made of porphyry. This disk was that upon which the Emperor Charlemagne stood when he was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800.

I found it quite depressing actually. When we came in, a group of teenagers were milling around on it, gawping. I wanted to chase them out with knotted cords.

Holy water stoup in St. Peter's. To give an idea of the scale, if the angels were to stand up straight, they would be over six fee tall.

The archangel Gabriel announcing the birth of Christ to the shepherds in St. Peter's nativity scene.

Marble lace in St. Peter's

This is not Pope Joan.

Angels on the Baldachino. St. Peter's, I'm told, was designed to have the prespective be somewhat deceptive. It is supposed to look smaller than it actually is. To give an idea, a grown man can walk between the angels' legs without stooping.

Exciting angled shot that I took surreptitiously. We were in the part of the Basilica that is actually used as a church, waiting for Vespers to begin, and you're not supposed to be taking pictures. Vespers was very good. Novus Ordoed, but all in Latin with the proper Christmas antiphons and fairly good chant.

The little Bavarian medieval Madonna in front of the Holy Father's altar brings things back to a human scale.


Anonymous said...

Well, haven't you been all busy!

A couple of points:
Ummmm..." ... Ignazio

'"Benedictine" altar arrangement'? Err, no, it's just the simple traditional Roman altar arrangement. 'Benedictine' (for those who use such terms) means verus populum with a crucifix in the middle; get thee to the New Liturgical Movement.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

One can hope.

John said...

Wonderful pictures! I'm not sure why I always enjoy yours so much. I've seen travelogues. I've looked at picture books. Indeed, I own a few. Perhaps it's the human touch. These were taken by someone I almost sort of actually know who is actually there. In any event, they're a delight.



Anonymous said...

If you want to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel for free on September 27 it'll be free entrance.

franco said...

If you want to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel for free on September 27 it'll be free entrance.