Friday, October 8, 2010

Morning, Rome - First Trip to the Vatican

Today we go to the Vatican.  It's been the residence of the Pope since 1377.  Before that, Avignon and before that Lateran.  In Roman times the Vatican was the site of the great Circus of Nero.  Nero crucified St. Peter around 64-67 AD, his body buried nearby and Constantine built a basilica on the spot.  Pope Nicolas (1447-1455) decided to rebuild it but actual construction was done by Pope Julius II (1503-1513).  Bramante designed the basillica which took 176 years to complete.  Michelangelo's dome design using Bramante's original Greek cross was changed to a Latin cross under Pope V (1605-1621).  Bernini's colonade forms the entrance, creating the impression of outstretched arms welcoming people to St.Peter's Square and St. Peter's Basilica.  The Obelisk by Domenico Fontana sits in the middle of the plaza.  Two fountains by Moderno  (1613) and Fontana (1675) reside in the square. The Borghese Pope Paul V had Moderno construct the broad facade with his name and title. (Pope's weren't necessarily a self effacing lot but saw their new name and work as service to God and their people.)
The Loggia of the Benediction is used to proclaim the election of a new pope.  "Urbi et Orbi" ("to the city and the world").  Navicella, the little boat mosaic was designed for the old basilica in 1300 by Giotto. There are 5 doors of entrance. The first on the left is Death showing the Death of Jesus, death of the Madonna, the death of Pope John XXIII and death in space (1952-1964).  The Bronze Door in the centre came from the old basilica, an imitation of the doors by Ghiberti in Florence.  The Holy Door on the far right is opened every 25 years at the beginning of Holy Year.  Another two doors complete the portico, the Door of Good and Evil by Minguzzi and the Door of Sacraments by Crocetti.  All speak of the enormity of the basilica.  Near the transept is the celebrated 13th century bronze statue of St. Peter. The high altar, under the cupola rises above the Tomb of St. Peter, definitely identified after excavations in the 1950's.  In front of the tomb 93 lamps burn night and day, opposite the crypt designed by Moderno.Above the Altar is Bernini's balacchino supported by 4 spiral columns made from bronze taken from the Pantheon.  Above is the blue dome of Michelangelo.  In the Tribune the four Doctors of the church support the Throne of St. Petter.  Right of the nave is Michelangelo's Pieta, sculpted between 1498-1499.  The artist's name is engraved on the sash that crosses the bust of the Virgin (even Christian artists not being a particularly self effacing lot.)
The lower level of the present basilica roughly corresponds to the level of the old basilica Constantine had built. 1968 Pope Paul VI announced, "The relics of Peter have been identified in a way, which we may consider convincing." Here is the spiritual centre of the Vatican, called New Grottos by the time it was laid, it is indeed the oldest part of the basilica.
--excerpts from Rome the Eternal City, Rome and the Vatican in 9 Itineraries, Lozzi Roma

The Vatican Museums are a group of grand buildings of countless rooms housing great art treasures of every type. From the Renaissance on great artists have contributed.  The Viale del Vaticano is the entrance.  The Chiaramonti Museum was founded by Pope Pius VII (1800 to 1823). Here is the statue of Augustus who brought works from his Egyptian campaign.  The Museo Pio Clementino was founded by Popes Clement XIV and Pius VI between the 18 and 19 century.  The Hall of the Greek cross houses the bodies of St. Helena and St. Constance, daughters of the emperor Constantine.  The Vatican Library includes  the Codex of the Bible from the 4th Century, Virgil from 3rd to 5th, Gospel of Mathew from the 6th Century and a large part of Cicero's De Repubblica.  The Raphael Stanze were frescos  beginning with the legendary life of Constantine.  The Rapahael Stanzas include frescos named The Apparition of the Cross, The Chastisement of Heliodorus, the Miracle at Bolsena, The Liberation of St. Peter from prison, the Meeting of Atilla, The Dispute of the Holy Sacrament , the School of Athens, and the fire in the Borgo. The Sistine Chapel was commissioned between 1475 and 1483.  Painters included Perugino, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Roselli. There is the Life of Moses, Life of Christ.  Botticelli is seen in Moses with Jethro's daughters, the Temptation of Christ, and the Healing of the Leper. Roselli is the Moses, receiving the Tablets of the Law and The Sermon on the Mount.  Perugino, Raphael's Master, is The Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter. Roselli did the Last Supper. The Vatican Picture Gallery contains 500 more works.
-excerpts from Rome the Eternal City, Rome and the Vatican in 9 Itineraries Lozzi Roma

Laura's finally ready.  On this special day she took the same amount of time to get ready despite the fact that she is required to cover her shoulders and knees to enter the Vatican.  Theoretically this could have resulted in less preparation. Equally given the Christian nature of today's mission, I could be less impatient in my nature.  As I grow older I seem to change less on the inside than I do on the outside.  I refrain from giving the finger to people driving but my thoughts are a different matter.  I will speak to God about this matter of my thoughts today.  One is to pray unceasingly. I would act prayerfully, speak with prayer and most of all have thoughts worthy of prayer.  Help me this day to be closer to you, Lord.  Bring my unruly nature more in keeping with the "man I could be". Help me to be more loving and peaceful.  Help me trust in you, Lord.  Guide me in all my actions.  Make me ever mindful of you.  Thank you for this day.  What a joy and priviledge it is to visit a place dedicated to the disciple of Jesus, the birth of Christianity, the celebration of the unfolding world of men and women seeking to know Thee more truly. I well can imagine what others must be doing this day and know well it is by Thy Grace I am here. Thank you, Lord Jesus

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