Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day Three - Roma!

We didn’t spend a lot of time in the hotel room before heading out into the city. We had 3:00 pm tickets for the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel and it was nearly 2:00 by the time we got our clothes changed. The Vatican has strict dress codes and we planned for this.

The walk from our hotel was 2.8 km, according to Google. Should take us about 45 minutes, we figured. Got directions from the hotel clerk, walked out of the hotel and were lost within two blocks. Apparently the streets (vias) change names every other block, so the street you were just on isn’t called by that a block later, but your map doesn’t necessarily tell you of the name change.

Add to that the fact that the Romans don’t know what a right angle is. Not one single via in the old part of the city comes into another at a right angle. Obtuse, acute…yeah, they’ve got those covered! But right? Nah…why go 90 degrees when you could go 100?

The cobbles close up; the white
line separates the pedestrians from
the traffic. Yeah, right.
And then there are the slate cobbles that make up the street paving. Steven thinks they’re really old, I think they’re not. Just blocks of unmortared stone (I *think* it’s slate, but  they’re pretty thick) that are about 6 inches square and are worn down and uneven. And slippery. As in your shoes slide right off them like you’re skating down the street, pushing off from every step.

Suffice it to say, dress black flats are NOT the shoes to walk through Rome in. I purposely didn’t wear my comfortable sneakers because of the Vatican’s dress protocols. Had the roads been concrete, I think I would’ve been okay, but that slate…did I mention it was slippery? No blisters, but very, very sore feet. Steven’s pedometer says he walked 10 miles today. I’m good with that. It certainly felt like ten miles.

The Vatican Museum is filled with lots of cool stuff. Statues I’ve only seen pictures of staring down at you from their lofty heights, Roman mosaic floors that are thousands of years old – and we’re walking on them! Frescos by Raphael, tapestries from the 1600’s – wood carvings on the doors that are stunning.

But all this, of course, is just stuff you “get through” to “get to” the piece de resistance: the Sistine Chapel. While Michelangelo wasn’t the only one to paint frescos on the walls, his are the most famous. And the Vatican Museum curators aren’t stupid: you have to go through everything else first before you can get to what everyone wants to see. Because it was so late in the afternoon, we rushed and didn't even stop to take any pictures.

The Sistine Chapel is a holy space and security personnel are adamant: NO CAMERAS. Period. No flash, no still cameras, no movie cameras, regardless of size. Silence or quiet whispering is allowed, nothing full voice.

Once you are in, you are expected to just be. To rest in the Holy Spirit, as it were. We had audio guides and only used them to listen to the pieces o the Chapel. When done, since my feet hurt, I went over to the side and waited for space to open up on the bench that runs the circumference of the room. These are the same benches the Cardinals sit on when voting for a new pope! I don’t think my girl-cooties contaminated the bench, though.

Once seated, however, the room takes on a different feel. I sat back and just…looked. The colors, the themes…it’s a very peaceful place. You wouldn’t think it, to look at The Last Judgment on the entire back wall, but it is peaceful. Everyone gets what’s owed him or her, yes, but ultimately, the ceiling and the wall tell the story of man’s redemption. Of being saved by the coming of the Messiah.

We spent over half an hour there. I didn’t expect to be moved by it…after all, we’ve all seen the pictures. Over and over again. How many jokes have come out of Adam’s lazy finger just barely touching God’s?

And yet, to stand there, looking up at the original in the original setting…it all makes sense. It’s beautiful. The colors, the shadings, all the techniques amaze me, who has no talent with painting let alone fresco work. But it’s more than the technique and it’s more than the subject matter. It’s also the history, the stories of Michelangelo’s troubles in painting it that have been handed down, embellished and handed down again. It’s all the history of the Catholic church – both good and bad – rolled into one room.

And I stood it in today and yes, I cried, touched by the enormity of all it represented.

Play safe, 

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