The past three days have been a whirlwind of sightseeing and tons and tons and tons of walking. We visited the Colosseum on Tuesday – it really is enormous and a feat of engineering built by Jewish slaves – it was good to be a Roman citizen. Part of it was destroyed centuries ago in earthquakes and parts of it were plundered for building materials to be used elsewhere – we found the practicality of ancient Romans quite humorous. We also took the Forum Walk and saw some of the important but now ruined buildings of ancient Rome – the site where Marcus Aurelius made the famous speech, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…” after the assassination of Julius Caesar. Neat!
Yesterday, we went to the Borgehese Gallery – one of the best art museums in Europe. We loved the works of Caravaggio (his art was the special exhibit this year – how lucky for us!) – thanks to Anne, our amazing PhD profesore for the additional context on the art. We found it most especially interesting that Cardinal Scipione made certain to get whatever artwork he wanted, by hook, crook, or upon threat of death – even from other Cardinals. What a guy – we debated whether or not he ever saw the holy gates. We were especially enthralled with Bernini’s marble statues Apollo and Daphane and Pluto and Proserpina and David.
Today was spent on our own personal pilgrimage to the Holy See – the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. The museum was quite interesting and had some of the most amazing frescoes and paintings we’ve seen anywhere – we especially liked Raphael’s Transfiguration of Christ but actually liked it even better in mosaic form when we reached the Basilica. Backing up though, when we finally arrived in the Sistine Chapel after hall upon hall of beautiful frescoes, we were kind of like….ummm… okay. Not quite what we’d expected – there were a series of small panels telling Biblical allegories along with a huge painting done by Michelangelo The Last Judgment. I guess we expected it to be more round and also that the paintings themselves would be on an even larger scale. Still – it was pretty amazing and we had fun watching the guards try to keep people from taking pictures and to keep quiet in the chapel – it usually lasted for ten seconds before the cacophony of sound rose once more.
Again, the Basilica was just enormous – and beautiful on that kind of overdone scale. I was happy to finally see Michelangelo’s Pieta in person and the Popes lying in state were a trip. We felt very fortunate to be able to experience each of these sites in person.