Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rome Day Four: The Vatican Museum

Our last day in Rome was full. We toured both the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica. We took the same tour that we took in 2006. It really was worth it, both to avoid the lines and to have someone who could give us the scoop on the highlights. According to Wikipedia, the Vatican Museums inside Vatican City (which is the smallest independent state in the world) "are among the greatest musems in the world since the display works form the immense collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries, including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century... The Vatican Museums broke attendance records in 2011 with just over 5 million people." I didn't get any photos of the museums' exteriors, as we were ushered in pretty quickly and I forgot to go take some after the tour. But I did get a few from within one of the courtyards. This is the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the distance.
These are few of the buildings surrounding the courtyard.
Inside the museums, flashes were forbidden and it was quite crowded so good photos were difficult to take. I did get some, but since I lost my little travel notebook, I don't remember many of the details (boo for an aging memory), but I'll do my best. This piece, the Stefaneschi Triptych painted by Giotto, originally served as an altarpiece in Old St. Peter's Basilica. The current Basilica of St. Peter stands where Old St. Peter's Basilica once stood. (I'll explain more about that in my next post.)
This masterpiece, The Transfiguration, was the last painting by the Italian Renaissance master Raphael. He painted it in the early 1500s.
 Also painted by Raphael, this is the Madonna of Foligno.
 Giulio Romano painted this scene of Jesus crowning the Virgin Mary.
I think this is entitled God in the Garden of Eden, but don't quote me on that. I can't remember who painted this. Emma loved it because of the animals.
Guido Reni painted this portrayal of St. Peter's crucifixion.
 Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio painted The Entombment of Christ in the first few years of the 1600s.
As we were walking through the oil galleries, I snapped this photo of St. Peter's Basilica through some open doors.
The Fontana della Pigna (the Pinecone Fountain) is made of bronze and marks the courtyard that connected the Palace of Pope Innocent VII with the Sistine Chapel. It originally stood near the Pantheon, with water coming out of the top of the pinecone. Placed here in 1608, this monument is currently being refurbished.
I have no idea what this statue is called or what it represents, but it lies beneath the Fontana della Pigna and Miss Emma liked it because, of course, it's an animal. So she asked me to take this photo.
Then we saw a ton of statues. I tried to capture the highlights. I don't remember most of the details though. What I do remember is that our guide said that not too long ago the Vatican ordered fig leaves to be added to the genital areas of all of the statues. I wonder if we would have noticed that if he hadn't pointed it out to us. Since he did our eyes, of course, were drawn to the fig leaves to see if it was true. It was. Brittany was thankful for the fig leaves, as they kept Emma from asking all kinds of anatomical questions. We just chuckled, mostly because we knew that we weren't the ones who would have to explain it to her, ha ha! Ah, the joys of being a grandparent!  Even though I don't remember the details on these, I still found them fascinating to behold. So here you go~lots of marble and fig leaves.
 The eyes on this one kind of freaked me out. They're onyx and seemed to follow me as I moved. So Twilight Zone-esque, don't you think?
 I'm pretty sure this one is of Emperor Hadrian.
The next two I do know. This one is called Poxyomenos (the Scraper) and depicts an athlete using a "strigil" to scrape dust from himself.
This statue is one of the most famous pieces of art in the Vatican Museums. Called Laocoon and His Sons (Gruppo del Laocoonte), it was sculpted in the first century AD.  This is Wikipedia's description of it: "Laocoon is a Trojan priest of Poseidon (or Neptune), whose rules he had defied, either by marrying and having sons, or by having committed an impiety by making love with his wife in the presence of a cult image in his sanctuary. His minor role on the Epic Cycle narrating the Trojan War was of warning the Trojans in vain against accepting the Trojan Horse from the Greeks--'A deadly fraud is this,' he said, 'devised by the Achaean chiefs!'--and his subsequent divine execution by two serpents sent to Troy across the sea from the island of Tenedos, where the Greeks had temporarily camped." It is interesting to note that the Vatican Museums actually began with the purchase of this statue in the early 1500s. A Roman vineyard owner unearthed this statute on his property. Pope Julius II bought it from him and immediately displayed it at the Vatican.
There was a whole room full of statues which we weren't allowed to enter, but it was beautiful 
Okay, enough statues for now. Let's go back inside, shall we? One of the things I loved the most were the ceilings. They were soooooooo beautiful. These are all from different rooms.
This is a mosaic floor tile.

This was Nero's bathtub. Unbelievable, huh?
As you can see, this room is also home to several statues. One statue in particular has a story. An interesting story. Antinous was a young man who held Emperor Hadrian's favor. Regarding Antinous, Wikipedia states, "...he was born to a Greek family in Bithynion-Claudiopolis, in the Roman province of Bithynia in what is now north-west Turkey, and joined the entourage of the emperor Hadrian at a young age, although nothing certain is known of how, when, or where he and Hadrian met. He is constantly described and depicted as a beautiful boy and youth. The relationship is believed to have been sexual. Antinous drowned in the Nile in Octiober 130. The death was presented as an accident, 'but it was believed at the time that Antinous has been sacrificed or had sacrificed himself,' and Hadrian 'wept for him like a woman.' Hadrian went through the process of deifying him soon afterwards, a process previously exclusively reserved for imperial family members rather than friends or lovers of non-Roman origin." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antinous) Despsite the story, I still don't know why this statue is in the room with Nero's bathtub. If anyone knows, let me know, k?
This is part of the mosaic floor beneath Nero's bathtub.
I don't know any of the details about this, but I think it's striking.
Check out these intricate tapestries.
When we visited the Vatican Museums in 2006, three specific "areas" became my favorite things in the museums. The first is the Gallery of Maps or The Map Room. This gallery is unbelievable. I won't post photos of every map, but I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't post a few. Commissioned in 1580 by Pope Gregory XIII for the sole purpose of decorating the Vatican, this gallery consists of 40 panels depicting the Italian peninsula. Each panel is a frescoe (a painting done on plastered walls or ceilings), showcasing a particular region and its most important city. In addition, the ceiling is spectacular.
The second of my favorite "areas" are the four Raphael Rooms (Raphael and Michelangelo were both High Renaissance painters) also known as Stanze di Raffaello. Not only do I love Raphael's compositions, but I realized that I really enjoy frescoes in general. In addition, I like Raphael's sense of humor: he included himself in several of his masterpieces, though subtly. He was hired by Pope Julius II to redecorate the pope's suite. Raphael was working on these rooms while Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the early 1500s. Each of the four rooms has a distinct theme. I could give you all the deets on each photo, but that would require many, many blog posts. Click here to see   some detailed photos of and information regarding these rooms.
Next we headed to the Sistine Chapel, the third of my favorite "areas." I simply cannot find the words to describe this to you. Photos are strictly forbidden (the guards actually escorted those who took photos out of the building), but here are a few links to photos on the internet.

Several years ago, I wrote the following as an introduction to my Bible study course on 1 John.

1 John
God Is Life
When I was a young girl, my parents studied art history. I remember paging through their
textbooks, full of wide-eyed wonder as my eyes danced across the photographs of masterpieces. Even then—as a young girl without any real knowledge of God—I was poetically moved by the photographs of the Sistine Chapel. I was simultaneously amazed and perplexed that one man could know God well enough to depict such scenes.

For the next thirty-five years, I dreamt of seeing the Sistine Chapel. My husband recently fulfilled my dream with a trip to Italy. We patiently stood in line for several hours to gain entrance. Inspired by Michelangelo’s talent and intrigued by the depiction of Bible stories I knew I would see, I entered the chapel with high expectations. The books I have read and the photographs I have viewed did little to prepare me for what I saw. The ceiling portrays the story of creation and continues through the time of Noah. The back wall portrays the Last Judgment. The side walls (not painted by Michelangelo) portray the life of Moses and the life of Jesus. As my heart embraced the beauty of this place, tears ran down my cheeks and I could scarcely breathe. There is no doubt in my mind that God’s hand was upon the artists’ brushes.

The image that most captured my soul is painted in the center of the ceiling: God (on the right) gives life to Adam (on the left) through His touch. God’s hand is clearly in motion, while Adam’s hand waits to receive what God is offering. It is a personal touch, a touch from the Creator to His beloved creation. It is a sovereign touch, a touch full of purpose and promise. It is a loving touch, a touch that set into motion His plan for salvation.

I continue to linger over photographs of the Sistine Chapel. I dream of standing there again, letting my soul breathe in the sweet fragrance of God which surrounded me in that chapel. In the meantime, I will look at this image of God’s hand reaching out to Adam, and I will remember an eternal truth: all life comes from God.
Copyright © 2007 by BibleShareware.org, Inc.                                                     

My experience this time was no less profound.

That's it for today. Hope you enjoyed this little tour through the Vatican Museums.

1 comment:

Christy Lynn said...

The Vatican Museums got an F from me when it comes to organization. It took us forever to find the bathroom!! And we never did find a map of the place. Too, maybe part of the problem is we went on the last Sunday of the month when it's free, so more crowded. The Sistine Chapel was totally amazing, though it was really distracting to have the guards constantly yelling "NO PHOTO! SHHHHHHH!!" What must it be like in there when it's *actually* quiet and not so crowded...