Reading the news reports about the recent conclave in the Vatican to elect the new pope, it was amazing to see the cardinals gathered in St. Peter’s for the pre-conclave mass before they entered the Sistine Chapel to begin their secret deliberations, and recall that we had stood in that sacred space the summer before last. St. Peter’s Basilica may not be as breathtaking from the outside when compared with other well-known cathedrals . . .
. . . but, the interior of the Basilica is indescribably beautiful.
Before traveling to Italy, I read Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, which recounts the life of Michelangelo and paints a vivid picture of the Italian artisan culture during the late 1400’s and early 1500’s. Michelangelo was 72 years old when he took over as the architect of St. Peter’s and left his mark through the design of the massive dome that acts as a beacon from so many vantage points throughout Rome.
Michelangelo is often best-known for his sculptures, and one of his most memorable pieces, the Pieta, is safely preserved behind bullet-proof glass in St. Peter’s after a mentally-disturbed man attacked the work of art in the 1970’s. Michelangelo’s Pieta is a remarkable representation of Michelangelo’s love of the human body, and his talent for teasing the most delicate sculptures from large blocks of marble. It is truly exquisite and moving.
Reading the fictionalized biography of Michelangelo, I appreciated the grueling conditions under which he worked to create one of the most spectacular pieces of art ever completed — the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. I complied with the “no photos” rule in the Sistine Chapel, and so have none to share with you here. Some day I will have to write a post about one of my biggest travel pet peeves — travelers who disregard the rules and subject the rest of us to things like security guards loudly “shushing”, admonishing “no photos, no photos”, and disturbing what should be a wonderfully reflective moment of admiring the incredible work of Michelangelo spread across the ceiling of the Chapel. But, I digress. . . . back to St. Peter’s.
Wandering the vast interior of St. Peter’s, I found myself often looking up to take in the layers of sculpture, painting, carving, and architecture.
The view of St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) from the top of the steps of the Basilica was surreal, as if it were a postcard or a movie set backdrop. As we descended the steps to walk across the Square and leave the Vatican, I knew our half-day visit had not done this venue justice.
He who has seen one cathedral ten times has seen something; he who has seen ten cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all. ~ Sinclair Lewis
Ciao! ~ Kat