Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Agony of da feet


Walking 12-14,000 cobblestone steps a day can prove to be quite agonizing, however, once you reach a monument, fountain or breathtaking statue like Bernini's "The Ecstasy of St Theresa" in one of 900 + basilicas/churches, you are reinvigorated and energized to find your next work of art.  It is the end of our 3rd week here in Roma Italy and we are over-awed. It seems we turn every corner and run into another fountain, piazza, monument, basilica, villa, pallaccio, that fills us with "Wow"!!!

One of the nice improvements with travel today vs 32 years ago is technology and walking apps, information, maps etc. After using some crummy "Lets Go Europe" book then, to now having experts of art and history on your iPad as well as navigation to get there, it is quite a difference. We still get lost, but that is when we stumble into something we had not planned, and many times more memorable for being found.
Wander into St Peter's - a treasure trove of art - Michelangelo's famous marble statue La Pieta.  Look up and you can see more Michelangelo and Bernini and other Renaissance and Baroque artists -  St. Peter's is of course the most famous basilica - but there are more, walk into any church and you will see the most magnificent frescoes, reliefs, mosaics, this being how the artists of the day made their living.
Of course the artists of today include the pizzerias and gelaterias and for a very small price, you get to experience the local gastronomic artisans at work. They do call the gelato creators Artisional for a reason.

One of Bernini's  works of sculpture the "Ecstasy of Saint Teresa".  located in the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria.  He called this "his most beautiful creation".  This picture does not do it justice -how does one sculpt marble to show such emotion and movement? 

For many, coming to Rome is a Pilgrimage and as one of the most visited cities in the world there is no such thing as an off-season here. There will always be a line to visit St Peter's  - it is free and definitely worth the wait.  There are churches everywhere - almost like the fountains you find all over Rome, sometimes you see 2 churches on the same block.  We tried to stop in as many as we could - didn't hit all 900, but by accident we did go into some small churches that had some amazing art work such as a Caravaggio chapel, sculptures by Michelangelo that  I never heard of, and elaborate Bernini tombs.  A stop in a quiet church was a great way to recharge our tired feet and fill our souls with awe.

A few of our favorite churches:

St. Peters the greatest work of Renaissance Architecture - designed and improved upon by many - Bramante, Michelangelo, Maderno and Bernini.  A famous place of pilgrimage, 500,000 people will sit in St. Peters Square during the Easter Services.  During elections of Popes there can be up to 4 million people lining the surrounding streets.  Yikes!  Talk about Agony of the Streets!

View from the top of Saint Peter's.   Visiting a church is free, but there is a cost for a view - worth it!

Saint Peter's Basilica.  Michelangelo's fingerprints are all over this church.  Pope John Paul XXIII top right is buried in glass in St Peters (a little spooky), but a Pope I do remember growing up in Catholic School.
Agony for these tourists waiting in line to get in to St. Peters.  (we knew when to visit without the lines)

Michelangelo though from Florence, came to Rome and created some of his greatest masterpieces.  At age 23 the Pieta, his first masterpiece, can be found in St. Peters.  So crazy to think at his age that he understood things so deeply and was able to transform a piece of hard marble  into something so profound

 Before visiting the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museum, we watched The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone.....The ceiling became more alive after seeing this movie again.  5,000 square feet of frescoes and over 300 painted figures on the ceiling - we spent over an hour with inclined necks marveling at this work of wonder.
I was able to sneak a picture of the Sistine Chapel before getting caught by security.  One feels  Ecstasy  seeing this magnificent kaleidoscope of art by Michelangelo that he is probably best know for.   Michelangelo delighted in the naked human body, after he died one of his pupils was ordered to paint draperies over the many genitals and buttocks.  (What prudes!)

After a  long is not a sin to enjoy the ecstasy of gelato.  

The original Pantheon was destroyed in an earthquake and was restored in the 3rd century as  a temple that was filled with pagan statues and where animal sacrifices were carried out under the oculus.  When pagan worship was outlawed  it was the first pagan temple to become a christian church. The walls of the Pantheon are filled with tombs including the artist Raphael. 

Basilica of Saint John Lateran is the first church to be built in Rome.
This immense cathedral is the official seat of the Pope,  just not quite as nice as the Vatican where he is now.  Supposedly the altar is the table used during the last supper.

Images from different churches we were in.  Top right is a Michelangelo "The Risen Christ" (a gold loin cloth was put over the statues genitals and not by Michelangelo)  Center are Caravaggio paintings on an altar.  Bottom left are tombs that are found under many altars that seem to be in quite a few churches.

The Vatican Swiss Guards -  I don't know if it's agony for them to be wearing these uniforms supposedly  designed by Michelangelo.  I don't believe Michelangelo would have put so much clothing on these guards, maybe it was Raphael...