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!

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