Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rapporto di Roma 11: Santa Maria della Vittoria

The church of Santa Maria della Vittoria was closest to our hotel but always seemed to be closed when we walked by. So, one morning we made a point of visiting it.

Below is the main altar, which Sean had to photograph, as the light was very dim and my camera just wasn't up to it.

I took a photograph of the ceiling because I found it unique in that although the central oil painting is a typical heaven and hell scenario, it is surrounded by white marble angels that are applied and just hanging by means that are not readily apparent. I felt the effect was spectacular!

Here is a side altar which combines both marble inlays and bas reliefs. Stunning, isn't it? This church was built in the 1600's and I am sure would have swept anyone living at that time into Catholicism.

Another stunning side altar. The oil painting atop it is almost anticlimactic or superfluous. Again, why go to a museum, when the art is in the churches?

This small stained glass window illuminates how every inch of this church is decorated and stylised. Ornate, is it not?

Each altar is hung with it's own censer for burning incense. So I would say there were maybe a dozen or so in this church altogether. All of them are exquisitely beautiful like this one. All churches have them, including St. Peter's. Hmm. Someone should do a book on them!

This church is most notable for the Bernini sculpture of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa as noted in her diary. There was quite a controversy as to whether St. Teresa had experienced a true sexual climax, or just a divine passion when the angel of god visited her and thrust his golden arrow into her repeatedly. The church was not altogether happy with the statue's placement in this basilica. This is Sean's photo, again, as my camera could not get enough light to capture it.

Then a priest asked everyone to leave as the church was closing for lunch.
We continued our wanderings around Rome and found a house we would purchase, were we to move here [right!]:

Isn't it lovely? It is in a quiet neighborhood with little traffic, but near the embassies. It has it's own wrought iron fencing for security as well as lovely architectural detailing. We would be so happy here! La di da!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rapporto di Roma 10: Galleria Borghese

We reserved to see the Galleria Borghese at 5-7:00 PM the same day that we saw the Capucin Crypts. So, we headed up to the Pincio Park and Sean took my photo with Rome in the background.

Here is Sean's photo of the Roman sunset:

Here is my photo of the Roman sunset:

Same sunset, different cameras, different colors! Amazing!
Before we entered the Galleria Borghese, I took a photo of it. No photographs are allowed of the art inside the Galleria [of course!!!], so all the pictures of art are from the official site except for the mosaic, which is from the wiki site.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was only 25 when he completed this sculpture of David facing off against Goliath in 1624. What had you accomplished by the time you were 25? Makes you ill to think of it, doesn't it?

This is Apollo, god of light, chasing chaste nymph Daphne, who turns into a laurel tree. He began it at age 24. The figures are life size. We rented the audio tour and learned that tools were rediscovered that were used at the time, in order to clean the sculpture. The leaves ring like crystal when carefully struck. This piece is extremely impressive in person because of the free expanses of marble that just hang in the air: note his left foot and right arm. Each leaf is thin as a piece of paper! The sculpture is miraculous!

Here is Pluto and Prosperpina by Bernini; also a masterpiece. The group was completed in 1622.
This is a very impressive work in that it is so life-like. You can really sense the emotions that Prosperpina feels as Pluto's powerful hands grasp her tightly, indenting her flesh, as his foul dog Cerebrus barks loudly and tears pour down her face. She helplessly pushes him away, screaming and kicking for all she is worth; to no avail. Her fate is sealed! Alas, poor Prosperpina!

It is very regretful that there are not many more photos of the wonderful Gladiator mosaics available on the internet [this wiki one is the only one]. They were very impressive. I especially liked the ones where they were fighting animals. Also, we learned from the audio guides that the little theta symbols mean that a gladiator died. The mosaics dated from 30 - 320 AD!

Diana by Domenichino painted in 1616-17. The audio guide indicated that males were not supposed to witness Diana and her nymphs at play, yet the nymph at the bottom had spotted the observer. Hmm. So my thought was, were these "pin up girls" of the times?

Sacred and Profane Love a masterpiece by Titian painted in 1514. Painted when the artist was only 25. So... what did you accomplish by the time you were...

After our evening of high culture, we went to our now usual joint for dinner. That's right, we found a local dinner place that was family run, where we loved the food, especially the deserts, and the staff. They would sit us on the wall adjacent to the pizza ovens which was always toasty warm! We methodically went through their entire menu and enjoyed dish after dish of fabulous high calorie Italian food! Their baba were notable as they would pour the rum over them right before serving! YUM! I was addicted!

On our last night there, I hugged the waitress warmly and kissed her!
Much more Rome to come!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rapporto di Roma 9: Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini

The day after the Vatican did us in, we awoke and went upstairs for our complimentary breakfast and was stunned by a beautiful rainbow! It was as if the world was making peace with us and promising no more rainy days on our vacation! Neat! "But it is really cold!" said our waitress. We didn't mind the cold at all! It was Roman cold! Ha, ha, ha!

So we walked out of the Hotel Barberini to the nearby Piazza Barberini, which we need to cross diagonally to get to the Via Veneto. Right in our path, was the famed Triton Fountain, as photographed by Sean:

The Triton Fountain was sculpted by Bernini in 1642-43. We crossed the square and immediately found ourselves at the:
Fontanella delle Api - Via Vittorio Veneto

Immediately after the erection of the Triton Fountain, Bernini was charged to plan a small drinking fountain for horses, usually to be found near all monumental fountains.
This beautiful example of Roman baroque was demolished in 1867 and carried to one of the deposits of Testaccio. Thanks to the pressure made by students, the fountain was rebuilt in 1916 with some material of the previous one.

But according to the design of the Dutchman Lievin Cruyl, of 1665, the result was not very faithful to the original.


Of course, Sean made me sit on the cold marble! At least it wasn't wet!
Here is Santa Maria della Concezione. The entrance to see the Capucin Monk's Crypt is around the side. "Offerte(s)" are welcome. People have umbrellas, but it is only spitting. Notice the blue skies.

All of the photos of the Capucin Monk's Bones are from Wikipedia, as photography is not allowed in the crypts.

So you walk through all these dusty, gloomy rooms that are packed to the ceilings with thousands upon thousands of bones and of course it is deathly silent in there. The message you get loud and clear is that life is short.
But, this being Italy, there was a group of people in the last chamber having a heated argument in Italian. What on Earth could they be arguing about? They were really going at it. I refused to be intimidated and moved into the final chamber with them. That did not quiet them. They were not hushed by the sanctity of a holy space; not at all. I mean, I'm not even religious, but these people showed no respect.
Sean never even came into the final chamber. He thought the entire thing was way kinky. I mean, who lives and dies to put their bones up on a wall?

So we left there and entered the main church. Workmen were busily doing stuff in there. Huge scaffolds and ladders were being moved from behind the altar space, which was opened by a gate in the confession railing. I snapped a photo of this painting of St. Micheal, my confirmation Saint [back when I was Catholic], painted by Guido Reni in 1635.

While I was busy doing that, Sean was misbehaving and entering the altar space. The head priest swiftly had him tossed out. Sean, heathen that he is [he was raised Northern Baptist], had no idea that he was committing sacrilege. Poor thing! But, when the priest in charge left, a little Sri Lankan man rushed up to us and started saying "You from Seattle? Right???" He was extraordinarily pushy and his English was very hard to understand as he spoke very quickly and had a heavy accent. Turns out, that he was in charge of the church when the priest was gone. He was sort of the head janitor. He had seen Sean wander into the Altar area and he offered us a tour of the back of the church. That is how we got to see the following [and Sean took these photos:
The Apparition of the Virgin by Sacchi in 1645 in a private chapel used only by the clergy. The bible is very old and was made on a printing press. Reportedly, Popes have celebrated mass and prayed here.

I have no idea what the story was with this little chapel, but we were rushed in and out of it.

This is the tomb of St. Crispin. I kept elbowing Sean to take a photo of the coffin, but he didn't get the message. He later explained that he had no idea what we were looking at. Oy!

Of course we knew he would want money. So Sean gave him some coins and we were on our way. He even did a little sailor's jig for us. Egad.

We exited the church and began to shop on the Via Veneto. I was hunting for a leather bag and we went into a couple of shops. One shop in particular had some nice crocodile bags at reasonable prices and I was looking at one when Sean said "Where do you think you will wear that?" He was right. It was white and yellow and I had no place to wear those colors. Then he looked around and spotted some metallic bags that were really cute. I fell in love with one and bought it. Here it is:

It is about 7 x 8 inches [17 x 20.5 cms] and she knocked 30 Euro off the price. I love metallic and shiny stuff! In Rome, everybody has at least one shiny thing on; either on their shoes, or handbag. I am so glad this trend is making a comeback! I missed it!
Next, I was looking for beads for my mom's birthday. I was thinking maybe some marble ones would be nice. So as we were walking down the street, a necklace catches my eye and we MUST go in and check it out. But once we do go in, I notice this wonderful marble inlay table and photograph it.

Here is the necklace I found! The artist is Pasquale Bruni:

Is it not just for ME! You will have to click to enlarge it. It was a good 2 inches [4.8 cms] across and felt and draped like fabric. I did not try it on, or ask the price. Even I have limits to my nerve! Sigh. I'm afraid it is beyond all our resources though. But if any of you wish to purchase it for me as a huge surprise, the name of the jeweler is: Capuano Gioielleria.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rapporto di Roma 8: Cappella Sistina

After seeing the basilica we also visited a temporary exhibit of a large [2 feet tall] ancient gold and jewel embedded cross and a few rooms of other Papal valuables such as rosary beads, crosses, crucifixes, chalices, reliquaries, etc. The riches were a trifle overwhelming and of course, no photos were allowed.

Then we left the basilica and walked out in the rain, through the colonnade and outside of the huge, thick wall of the Vatican, all the way around the block to the side entrance of the Sistine Chapel. The wind blew rain in our faces, but my hat kept it at bay and Sean had an umbrella. There was no line and we had to buy tickets for both the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, even though we only wanted to see the Chapel. If we only had known then what we know now! We were directed to take the circular stairs [Wiki photo] and head on left to the Chapel. It sounds so straight forward, doesn't it?

So, we got to the top of those stairs, and there were two signs pointing to the Sistine Chapel. Both pointed to the left, one into another room and the other into a freshly plastered wall. Both of us walked up to the wall and said "This is where it is." And that is where it is and was the last time I was there. They closed it off. But why?

So that they can drag visitors through all the fucking garbage of the Vatican Museum that no one would look at if they could just run in and see the Chapel and leave. Or, more importantly, they need to sell their "holy" crapola, shit souvenirs and make every dime they can off the dimwitted dolts that fall into their web.

Well, trying very hard not to be bitter, we moved on. The aforesaid "fucking garbage" is in reality priceless works in marble and other valuable materials. This little wooden china cabinet caught my eye. The chair rail behind it is about 8 feet (2.4 meters) high, so the piece is about 10 feet tall (3 meters), give or take. The wood seems to be maple. One problem: I don't have a room it will fit into!

The hall contained all kinds of other interesting things such as old globes and solar system models, with the earth at the center. There were also valuable paintings.
In addition, we toured through rooms upon rooms filled with frankly, ugly amateur paintings that were truly a non sequitur with the priceless treasures around them. Why were they displayed here?
Next as we twisted and turned, we entered seemingly endless halls filled with urns and smaller sculptures. Here are a few I found worthy of photographing:

Isn't this one gorgeous? Look at the depth of the yellow! I wonder if it is marble or agate?

This one has such an ancient look!

I love the swirled concave fluting on this one.

Here is a square one.

The delicate floral decorations and angel wing handles on this one caught my eye.

Here is a marble faun. I was so excited to find one, because I had just read Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Marble Faun at the suggestion of my mom! I looked very closely to make sure he had pointed ears! Where art thou Donatello?

Here is a close up that Sean took. We never even spoke about the faun! How cool is that? I tried to google the artist and date, but without luck.

Here is another marble sculpture that I remember seeing before, but cannot remember the name of the artist. Why doesn't the Vatican put the artist's name on their art??? Duh?

Finally, we reached the Map Room. Phew, I thought we would never get there! but to my complete astonishment, there were two souvenir shops IN THE MAP ROOM! You have to understand, that this is a very sensitive area that is climate controlled and no photographs, especially with flash, are allowed. The windows are permanently shaded to prevent sunlight from entering. And here of all places, they are hawking crapola! You can even see it in the Wiki photo below! See the posters on the left, that is where there is a souvenir shop.

How crass and capitalistic can the church be? They have no shame! We need Jesus (if I believed in him) to come down and throw these money lenders out of his church! I mean, WTF?
So, we saw the Sistine Chapel. It was really dark and gloomy, as it was a rainy day. This was the third time I have seen it and what struck me most is what a fire hazard that room is. It is huge and holds well over a hundred people, all of whom are gazing upwards. They are packed in there like sardines. God forbid there ever be a fire in there, because the exit is funneled down to one person at a time. The place would be a panic stricken madhouse. There is one fire extinguisher and it is really tiny. It is not strapped to anything and just sits on the floor. It would be lost and if not, completely useless in a real emergency.

Finally, completely tired out, we searched for the exit. How hard could it be to find an exit? Very hard, it turns out; especially when the obvious ones are closed off! We could see the daylight from where I was standing, but would have been stopped if we had gone under the velvet rope and escaped. No. We had to walk around, and around, and around, past all the Vatican shops again and again. I was stumbling tired! I just wanted to be on the bus to the hotel already!

And when we finally did escape the Vatican, I was so relieved, I can't tell you!

Tomorrow we shop!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rapporto di Roma: 7: Visita Basilica San Pietro

The next day was rainy! We decided to take a bus to the Vatican. The concierge at our hotel directed us to a bus stop nearby and with our bus map, we found a bus number and it was easy enough to catch one that took us right where we wanted to go. Once we arrived, dark skinned Asian people flocked to us selling umbrellas. It was like mushrooms in the rain. Where did they all come from?

There was no line to get in today! But I saw what the problem was; they were screening for security. Thank you terrorists! Colorful Swiss Guards were gone in favor of serious guards dressed somberly and scanning our bags and giving us a watchful eye. After being allowed entry, I climbed to the top of the stairs of the basilica and took this photo of the bleak weather looking back, while I waited for Sean to check his bag [a new requirement].

And so we entered Saint Peter's Basilica. The last time I had been there was in the mid-90's. The first thing I noticed was that the Pieta by Michelango was behind a huge glass barrier and tons of people were in front of it. Eh, I have seen it before. The next thing I noticed, was that you could not just walk up to the confessio and gaze down at the Tomb of Saint Peter. I don't know if this was permanent or not, but what a disappointment after telling Sean about it.

My camera flash was inadequate to take any indoor photos, unless they were of white marble. So Sean had to take this altar photo [51, 52, 53]. My first time here, they were making marble pews. I wonder what happened to them?

Here is the famed bronze baldacchino by Bernini, which lies in the center of the dome. I have no idea how Sean got this photo since the area was roped off...

This is a small side chapel on the right, perhaps near the transept of the church were penance was being given. Sean was taken with the types of marble and took this photo.

Sean noticed the four statues set in niches of the four piers supporting the dome and photographed the sculptures there. This first one is Saint Veronica holding her veil with the image of Jesus' face by Francesco Mochi.

Sean also took this photo of Saint Helena holding the True Cross by Andrea Bolgi.

This is the monument dedicated to Pope Innocent XI (1676-1689). He is flanked by Faith and fortitude. The sculpture was completed by P.E . Monot. I thought it rather a fine sculpture of three figures.

Many people go to St. Peters and look at the large sculptures and the big picture as we have done already. I decided to look at the details and see what I could find about the workmanship of the day.

Here are some darling angles. Examine their facial features. The one on the right is so pouty. Now, look at their little chubby feet. They are so irresistible that over the years, many have fondled them, leaving the white marble yellowed.

Sean had to take the photo of this life size lion since confession (in many languages) was being offered in that section of the basilica and it was barred to non-penitents. Also, the priest on duty quietly denied my polite request to enter just to photograph it. The exposure was 4 seconds and that is why the photo is blurry. We also had not brought our tripod. But wasn't it worth it???

This is a small dragon (it was about a meter long) at the bottom of a sculpture, representing evil, I suppose. I found it pretty cute, and I am not alone, judging from all the handling it has had [NB: yellowing of the marble].

This is a life size bas relief of an angel that stands on a marble column towards the left rear of the basilica. I took the shot because it is the only full adult nude in the entire church. What a work of art.

A bas relief of a white dove holding the olive branch of peace at the bottom of a major column. These lovely white dove motifs appear throughout the church and are probably a detail that nobody notices at all while they are gaping at the Pieta, which is now entirely behind glass.

Floral carving detail in white marble at the base of a column and over a screen. Incredibly, All done by hand. Note the continuation of the bee theme.

A heavy marble railing with solid marble balusters. Identical balusters were noted in another Roman church dating to the same time period as St. Peters. There must have been a marble factory just churning out these orders for the church way back then. They are probably honed to the millimeter as far as specifications. Very impressive when one considers the tools available at the time. Look at how gorgeous they are!

Colorful marble inlays top the communion rail. Identical inlay patterns were at every junction of the marble.

A detail of a bee from the white marble of the communion rail along the front of Saint Peter's.

Next, the Sistine Chapel!