A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.


"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Vatican City

Vatican City isn’t really a city at all. Secreted away behind impossibly high walls within Rome it is actually the smallest country in the world with its own laws dictated by the Roman Catholic Church and enforced by the Swiss Guard in funny joker-esque attire reportedly designed by Michelangelo himself.


It takes an entire day to visit the square, basilica, and museum and you are most definitely battered and tired like Jesus in the Pieta afterwards. The actual statue sits near the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica behind thick bulletproof glass since some madman came in 1972 and started hacking away at Madonna with a hammer exclaiming “I am Jesus Christ!” I don’t think so buddy, you are a crazy zealot and an art vandalizer that ruined it for the rest of us. Just like the a-hole with a bomb in his nike sneakers, we are all forced to take off our shoes at the airport now. Thanks a lot.
St. Peter’s Basilica is so massive you can’t really describe it or photograph it properly. From one side to the other is the length of over two football fields.

The sun shining in from the circular windows above feels godly - like the light from angels - and casts beams of light on the marbled floor below.

The spiraling canopy over the altar was designed by Bernini and constructed from bronze pilfered from the Pantheon, as dictated by Pope Urban VIII, a member of the wealthy Barberini family. Which led to a famous Italian quote, “Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini" which translates to: What the barbarians didn't do, the Barberini did.

The Vatican Museum houses a huge collection of art, and like all other museums of its kind I can’t help but feel a little guilty looking at works of art pillaged from other civilizations. Even more ironic is stuff unapologetically stolen in the name of God. Isn’t that poor mummy turning over in his sarcophagus fuming over the fact that he is not spending eternity in his rightful tomb in Egypt?


Many extraordinary artists are exhibited, including Raphael - a real “player” and womanizer 15th century style, who was commissioned to paint several murals in the papal apartments.

But all of this is merely prelude, as the masses of people pushing down the hallways attest, since the entire museum is designed to lead you swiftly towards the finale that is the Sistine Chapel.

We had read Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling so we had the inside scoop on the story of it in the making. Michelangelo reluctantly accepted the massive painting assignment, as he was a self-proclaimed sculptor, who only wanted to work on Pope Julius II’s tomb instead. The book debunked some common misconstrued facts, like he did not paint it lying on his back, nor did he complete it as a solo endeavor, he had many assistants, however unlucky they felt working with the depressed often volatile artist. Who can’t relate to taking on a project that you don’t want and can’t back out of, then working painstakingly to complete it, almost killing yourself in the process. I’d be cranky too.
He had to teach himself how to fresco during the project, which is painting on wet plaster hoping you don’t make a mistake before it dries.. So what that it took him four years to complete, it is over 5000 square feet in surface area! He also became a master at foreshortening, the art of drawing figures overhead at a perspective that looks like they are leaping towards you. It really is amazing in person, the perspectives are often flawless.

I had told Ron that you couldn’t take photos but for some inexplicable reason I saw a sign on the door when you entered the chapel that I took for “no flash” photography. We pushed our way through the crowds and luckily scored two seats along the wall. I plugged in my ipod and started listening to Rick Steves audio guide (never mind I think he is such a tool). He starts out talking about the Creation of Adam so I take my camera out and zoom in so I can see the detail and snap a few photos. Suddenly there is an angry man in my face - his mouth moving but I can’t hear what he’s saying. I pop out an earbud and he is yelling at me at the top of his lungs in Italian then English telling me I can be escorted out of the building. Now I notice there are several hundred onlookers not looking at the ceiling but staring at me in disbelief. Oops. Well here it is in all it’s glory, my illegal photograph of the Sistine Chapel!

2 comments:

Akila September 3, 2009 at 10:07 PM  

We didn't get an illegal photo of the Sistine Chapel but we did get an illegal photo of San Marco's Cathedral in Venice. I do love Rome and can't wait until we get there next year.

Karen September 25, 2009 at 6:38 PM  

Going thru your blog brought back many wonderful memories of Prague,Paris and Rome. I too found the people in Prague unfriendly and almost rude....once in that city was enough for me; don't think I want to go back. Paris is certainly the most beautiful city in the world and romantic too. As a lover of art, you can imagine how blissfully content I was in Italy and France.

What an experience you're having...once in a lifetime for sure, but never to be forgotten. I'm envious...love to travel. Going to London on Oct. 28th for a loooong
weekend. Will do theater and shopping I guess. Have been to London a couple of times before, but since my daughter's orgnization won an Intl. Mkting. award and the award dinner is in London, I decided to go too.

Enjoying your blog tremendously, like living thru my various trips to Europe again. I never tire of Europe.

Take care....

PS Ratnakar left us to go to work for another company in Chicago.
Boy, can we use you now. No replacement for you yet.
Kari is on maternity, baby came very early (3 lbs.) so are out our entire Sr. Team.
Karen Sakai

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