Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Vatican

We spent our third day in Italy in the smallest country in the world:  Vatican City.  Yes, it is small for a country but gigantic for a collection of art.  I never thought I could get sick of admiring beauty and grace in the form of paintings, sculpture, and architecture, but I can honestly say that the Vatican had more of all of those than I could take in.  We had a very patient ten-year-old Abbey tagging along with us, but my interest and energy ran out long before hers did.  I think she was truly made for this kind of experience.  We've talked to her lately about the scripture that says, "Where much is given, much is required." I don't think she truly knows the responsibility she has in this life because of all the experiences she is being given, but someday I hope she realizes how amazingly remarkable her young life is and comes to know what the Lord expects her to do with all of these worldwide adventures.
Sometimes I look at this girl and wonder how such a little person got to be in such BIG places.  I felt lucky to go to Lagoon every summer when I was her age!

Here's a question:  Why is she always pulling a frowny or serious face when she is posing with me?!  My theory is that when I am taking the picture I'm a lot more entertaining than Brett is when he takes our picture.
The Vatican Museum starts with Egypt and Mesopotamia - the beginning of civilization.  I've heard that the Vatican houses more Egyptian artifacts than any museum in Egypt.  Hmmmm . . .  This mummy was difficult to take a picture of because it is so REAL, but Abbey told me Ben would want to see this, so I obliged.

 No sculpture hall in Italy would be respectable without Caesar presiding over it.  There truly are miles of marble sculpture in this museum.

This is the sculpture that started the whole Vatican Museums thing.  Laocoön and His Sons was probably created in about 20 BC but was found in 1506 in Rome.  Pope Julius II bought it at an ancient Roman garage sale for pennies and then gloated about his "steal" by placing it in the Belvedere Gardens at the Vatican.  Laocoön was killed after attempting to expose the ruse of the Trojan Horse by striking it with a spear. The snakes were sent by Athena and were interpreted by the Trojans as proof that the horse was a sacred object.  He tried to tell those people of Troy, but they refused to listen.  To get the full story we would have to consult the Aeneid, but that is for another day's pursuits.  While in the museums I heard someone mention that if a person took two minutes to study each written description of each piece of artwork it would take years to get through all the treasures.  We just didn't have that kind of time!
The statues of women were my favorites.  How a sculptor can create something that looks so human, so graceful, and so powerful at the same time is moving.

This is the Belvedere Torso which is 2,000 years old and apparently had a great impact on the art of Michelangelo.
This interesting, over-sized cereal bowl was used in the large banquets of the Romans who, as you know, helped pioneer the wonderful pasttime of gorging and vomitting. YUCK! How would you like the job of cleaning that out?  It was much too heavy to lift or tip, so you can only imagine . . . .

I just love this picture!
For some reason this view from one of the museum windows made me think of Tom Hanks zipping around Rome with the Vatican Police.
Even though we weren't allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, this painting reminds me of my favorite part in the chapel.  I love how the artist paid so much attention to even the turn of this woman's foot.

After walking through miles of museum, right before we reached the Sistine Chapel, there were some very contemporary pieces of art displayed.  Most of them were pretty indulgent and screamed, "Look at me because I am placed right before the big finale, so I must be important." This piece was the exception though.  It reminded me of a baptism.

The Sistine Chapel was amazing.  We filed in through a very small door, so I wasn't even prepared when I crossed the threshold into the glories of Michelangelo.  Here are some images from the internet, because photography was not permitted.  The funniest part of the whole tour was the museum guard in the chapel who kept saying, "NO PHO-TO," in the most monotone deep voice I have ever heard.  He also kept sshhhhhing people.  It was very interesting that people continued to take photographs and talk even with this very intimidating voice repeating the rules.  I don't remember that same situation happening at the Bountiful Temple Open House that I helped host.

 This is my favorite detail from the chapel.  Again - what a beautiful foot!
This is Brett's favorite detail of Michelangelo's masterpiece.

Everything after the Sistine Chapel was kind of anti-climatic except for these last two items.  I don't know anything about this stained glass beauty, but I wish I could have brought it home.
The most photographed spiral staircase in the world was designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932 and is in the Vatican Museum.  Its broad steps are somewhere between a ramp and a staircase. The stairs are actually two separate helixes, one leading up and the other leading down, that twist together in a double helix formation.  I can tell you it is quite a tactile experience to just walk down these stairs and I got a little dizzy, but they are impressive.

After the museums we headed to St. Peter's Basilica and walked past the border patrol to Vatican City.
Here is the largest church in the world.  Along with most things in Rome it is impressive and massive.  I guess they don't know how to do anything on a small scale.
The line to get into the basilica was quite long but it moved quickly.  This is the only place in Italy where we had to go through security.  Even with all the signs in the line that showed pictures of the things that were prohibited like a picture of a Swiss army knife (yes it was that specific), the guy right in front of us had a Swiss army knife in his pocket.  The security guard grabbed the guy and pulled him out to the last set of signs and gave him a very demonstrative, loud lecture in Italian.  We translated it in our minds to . . . "Are you blind or just stupid?!!!"
Yes, it was beautiful, but not my idea of sacred beautiful.  I guess I go for a more austere atmosphere for my places of worship.  While we were there I kept thinking to myself how there are millions of Catholics all over the world who will never have the opportunity that these three Mormons from Utah are having.  It almost made me feel guilty!
This is a mummy of one of the popes - I guess it is fairly common to have a pope in a Snow White glass box in the Vatican.  Who knew? 
This is Michelangelo's Pietà and clearly the best thing in St. Peter's.  To me it out-shown the building and this is the kind of thing that brings tears to Brett's eyes.  This photo does not do it justice.  It is one of those pure pieces of art that are incomparable.

It was a long day of walking, being quiet, and not touching, so you can imagine how rowdy . . . Brett was.  Abbey gave him a good wrestle and earned herself another gelato. 

Ahhhhhhh!  The best end to another Italian day! Ciao!


terahreu said...

Oh, so many thoughts with this one too! It was so great to remember visiting Vatican City. Nothing compares to the Sistine Chapel. I LOVE the Laocoon and the Pieta also brings tears to my eyes. So touching.

I, too, LOVE that baptism-like photo. The use of color is so symbolic and beautiful.

Abbey is a lucky girl! Thanks for sharing!

Kristy said...

You guys are such lucky ducks! Thanks for sharing so I can live vicariously through your experience! :)