Tuesday, August 5, 2008

6/13/08 Friday ~ Travel Journal

Hmm...I'm not superstitious or anything but I just noticed that this journal entry was on "Friday the 13th".  Doesn't that only happen every once in a while?


We just bought a camera! It's an Olympus with video capabilities too. It has 8 mega pixels. We just paid $359 American dollars - 239EU. We're in Rome and about to go to all the touristy places. We just had lunch so we're good to go! The XD card that we bought can hold 1000 pictures.

This was the first picture Jere took with our new camera :)
We arrived at St. Peters Basilica at 2pm. We were standing in the courtyard when a guy named "Mike from Ohio" approached us. He was trying to fill a tour that was about to take place. At first we were skeptical, but after talking to him decided to check out the "free part" of the tour first. A lady named "Kathy from Arizona" was leading the tour and giving information about the piazza in front of St. Peter's. Mike was trying to fill places at the last minute and charged us 15EU per person instead of the normal rate of 25EU per person. There was also the entrance fee on top of the tour but Jere had his student ID (8EU instead of 14EU that I had to pay) I'm kicking myself for not bringing my student ID!

First Kathy talked about our tickets. They feature the famous scene from the Sistine chapel of the fingers touching. She talked about how there have been theories as to what the "shell" that "God" is sitting in represents. We know that Michelangelo studied the body and so a gynecologist said it looks like a uterus, representing God as father and mother. A neurologist said it could represent a brain with the sash being the brain stem If a uterus, the sash could be the umbilical cord. So many possibilities and hidden meanings.

We walked through many corridors and rooms with statues. We saw Ajax, Apollo, Nero's Bath (made of red stone that is impossible to work with. Only the Egyptians knew how)

Constantine's wife and daughter are buried in mausoleums within the museum made of the hard red stone too. Candelabra gallery with the fertility statue, tapestries, maps painted on the walls which were surprisingly correct. Kathy showed us each scene from the Sistine Chapel on a slide stand and explained the reasoning.

My favorite piece from the Sistine Chapel is the scene from people being thrown into hades. There is a man in the painting who was added with a snake biting his privates and donkey ears on his head. he is in the section of hell because he criticized Michelangelo for moving slowly and adding nude figures. Michelangelo's sense of humor comes through and the pope of the time said "If he had put you ascending to heaven, we'll take you out. if he put you in hell, not even I can help you". There was so much information that Kathy gave us and tour was very enjoyable.

After the Sistine Chapel, she gave us instructions on how to go to the catacombs and into the basilica. We saw the Pope John Paul II in the catacombs. People were standing or kneeling in reverence and it just seems silly to me. Even if I knew where the tomb Jesus was buried before he rose, I wouldn't bow to it. We went into St. Peter's Basilica and it was amazing. It's always so different from studying something in a book and actually experiencing the magnitude and magnificence. There are tombs of previous popes in side chapels off of the nave and it's disturbing to view them because most had glass and coffins and you could see the bones of the hands of them! They had masks on some and one was "beautified" meaning he just had something on his face to preserve it. The main dome in the basilica is modeled like the Pantheon dome except this one has a lantern on it. We saw the Baldaccino and an altar that I studied too. 

The Baldaccino is the largest bronze sculpture in the world. Bernini (the sculptor) ran out of bronze before he was finished so they took bronze from the Pantheon face and portico. He had so much left over that he sculpted the second largest sculpture in the world. (also located in the Vatican)

Before we went on the tour we had to go through security and Jere realized he had his pocket knife. He checked it with the police and we had to pick it up after the tour was finished. We got to go to the police station located on the Vatican grounds! I would assume most people don't go back there usually. The Vatican covers 108.5 acres.

Picture taken past security!  Jere was very excited about being where no one normally goes.

Side Note: Right before visiting the Sistine chapel we saw four rooms that Raphael was commissioned to do. One of those rooms has the painting of the school of Rome. It has figures like Leonardo, Da Vinci, Aristotle and others. After Raphael finished it he tore part of the fresco down and put Michelangelo right in front because he was so in awe of the Sistine chapel work. Raphael and Michelangelo were working there at the same time and had been rivals.

Another Side Note: Rome has a lot of graffiti. ALL of the trains are covered with it and there is graffiti on most buildings. I saw some of it like this in Marseilles around the train station but not this crazy! Someone was either commissioned to do it or spent a lot of their own money on spray paint!

Third Side Note: The Swiss guard uniforms look really silly. I'm sure they fit in better in the Renaissance period when they were designed. Only the Swiss or Swiss descent can be in the guard. You had to serve in the Swiss Army and be of certain height and respectable appearance. (good looking) The Swiss guard protected a pope a long time ago and were instated as guards after the German invasion.

We're hanging out with John Mitchell and Caitlin Page.