Friday, August 29, 2014

It's me again!

I'm standing at my makeshift computer desk here in Langley, the window open just enough for some fresh (autumn!) air, birdsong and the sounds of planes heading for or from Heathrow Airport.

After almost three weeks in Italy, I am still on Italian auto-pilot, about to respond to things in that language, stumbling though my efforts will be. (I am really good at translating from Italian into English, but the other way around leaves the Italians misty-eyed with compassion. Or maybe it's just confusion.)  On arriving back in the London area, I really had to hit the ground running: we Daughters of St Paul are having a weekend gathering of all the sisters in the UK, and I am providing the first morning's session, getting everyone on the same pages in terms of awareness of social media trends and how the Daughters of St Paul fit into this new media culture.
Sorry, but I can see your kind in
abundance in the British Museum!

Still, after all that time in Italy, there's a lot I want to share, but I think I'll start, for now, toward the end...on our second-to-last outing, which definitely had a more cultural flavor: a morning at the Vatican Museums. Because audio guides are available in the different languages I was officially off duty as a translator; in fact, the directors of the Pauline spirituality program left me free to visit the Museums at my own pace, while the group attempted more or less to stick together. I was grateful for the opportunity to spend extra time in the areas that most interested me, many of them having been restored since the last time I was able to visit (whether that was 30 or 15 years ago!). An added perk is that photography is allowed (no flash, but you knew that), so I can share some highlights with you for years to come.
Ceiling scene of heaven!

Pinturicchio Annunication from the Borgia Apartments.
Don't let the infamy of Pope Alexander VI blind you to
his artistic sensibilities. 
But first, a bit of advice: when you go to the Vatican Museums, start at the Pinacoteca (the art gallery). Many of the other museums in the complex have exhibits of the sort you can find in any well-maintained museums or art or history: Egyptian sarcophagi (and one unwrapped mummy whom I couldn't help but pity), Etruscan vases, cuneiform tablets--that sort of thing. The Pinacoteca has one of a kind stunners like Raphael's immense Transfiguration and Caravaggio's "Deposition of Christ." I regret that I left the Pinacoteca for last, when I was falling prey to sensory overload (not to mention hunger); I didn't have the energy to really enjoy those paintings and altarpieces that deserve to be seen in person and not just in reproduction.

Another hint: bring a mirror. There's an incredible amount of loveliness on the ceiling, and you don't want to get a crick in your neck from trying to take it all in.

Detail: Attila the Hun being run off (by the Apostles Peter and
Paul in the skies over Rome) at his meeting with Pope Leo. 

I made a remark about being "force fed"
through the Contemporary Art section, and
then came across this.

There was always someone pausing before
the Caravaggio Deposition.

You've seen the Raphael Madonna before,
but the attention always seems to go to
the little putti (boy angels) at her feet.
Here's a different detail, featuring one
of my favorite saints (on the feast day
of his martyrdom).

Raphael's depiction of Peter's release from Herod's prison is
right over a window. I kept a hand under the lens to keep some
of the glare out. 

Peter looks pretty tired from his perch between
a doorway and the ceiling. To see him, you
have to turn completely around when you
enter the hall.
Shepherd at the Crib; detail from a

The sarcophagus of St Helena, of all people. With the military
scenes carved in bas relief all over it, it was probably designed
for the Emperor.

Pinturicchio Visitation--from the Borgia Apartments. Again, you
do not want to miss them, even though you have to weave
your way through lots of contemporary art to get there. (Why,
no, I am not a big fan of contemporary art; how did you guess?)

This is one of those places where you really
need a mirror. I think they said the hall was
40 (or 400?) meters long.
Coming next (or eventually, anyway): Assisi! Nettuno (home of St Maria Goretti)! Orvieto! And the great Pauline centenary celebrations in our congregation's hometown, the home of Nutella and white truffles, Alba!

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