MY ROMAN ADVENTURE
What does one do during the weekend of the largest Christian holiday? Go to Rome, and embrace the chaos – of course.
Reading was never a real passion of mine, I found it to be a hindrance, and I simply couldn’t concentrate.
This changed as soon as I read Dan Brown. Particularly, ‘Angels and Demons’ – based in Rome. It’s filled with historic information, fascinating symbology and a seriously intense story line.
And then my growing obsession of the immense history began…
8 months, and 4 Dan Brown books later… I was on a plane to Rome. To re-live my favourite book, and to follow ‘The Path of Illumination’.
I did originally write a few paragraphs on everything, and as you can imagine, this post was longer than my life expectancy. I decided to chop a few bits out, but still included a few shots at the end… enjoy!
On the first day, we had a 3 hour tour around the Vatican. Despite my near-unhealthy obsession with the history of the Vatican City, I was convinced that a 3 hour tour would be pushing it.
Oh my, I was wrong! If anything, there wasn’t enough time!
We began our tour by climbing towards a balcony, where the dome of St Peter’s Basilica, designed by Michelangelo, is seen in all it’s glory.
Our tour guide was eager on us grabbing a picturesque shot of the view… obviously as soon as it began pouring with rain. Typical.
One thing that I found particularly amusing was a 13 foot tall bronze pine-cone, surrounded by peacocks. Just what you expect in a Catholic courtyard, right?
We learned that this courtyard, ‘Belvedere,’ was designed in 1506 by Donata Bramante, for Pope Julius II, and yet I was still confused why there was a giant, well, pine-cone in the middle of the Vatican. But after a lil research, I discovered that it represents the Pineal gland (produces melatonin).
“Our ‘Pine’al Gland, is at the geometric center of our brain and is intimately linked to our body’s perception of light. The Pineal modulates our wake-sleep patterns and circadian rhythms, remains uniquely isolated from the blood-brain barrier system, and receives a higher percentage of blood flow than any other area of the body save the kidneys. It is considered by many to be our biological Third Eye, the “Seat of the Soul,” the “Epicenter of Enlightenment” — and its sacred symbol throughout history, in cultures around the world, has been the pine-cone”
We also had the opportunity to visit a few of the museums, within the Vatican itself. The history is just incredible!
Personally, I found ‘Laocoon and His Sons’ to be the most breathtaking sculpture, based in the ‘Cortile delle Statue.’
Laocoon was a Trojan Priest who warned the Trojans not to accept a Greek gift, which was wooden horse, filled with soldiers. He inserted his spear into one side of the horse to see if it was empty. To prevent Laocoon from discovering Greek soldiers, a goddess send two serpents to punish him and his sons.
The intense emotion printed on their faces, is what truly captivated me. I find it extraordinary how such fear, desperation and struggle can be captured in a single pose.
Moving on… we continued walking through the museums, and then we reached the highly anticipated Sistine Chapel. I’ve actually had to wrote a separate post, I got a little too excited… and wrote a lot. So, that’ll be up in the next day or two!
St Peter’s Basilica
Next we headed towards St Peter’s Basilica. It’s massive, absolutely incredible, and crowned with 13 large statues – Jesus with the Twelve Apostles. The reasoning behind the sheer size of the Basilica, is due to Pope Nicolas 5th’s orders to enlarge the building in the 15th century.
As soon as you enter the Basilica, your eyes are immediately drawn to the 100 foot baroque style Baldachin, by Bernini, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII. The interior includes 43 altars, tombs of several Popes, and displays the wealth of the Catholic Church during the 16th century.
The Baldachin marks the centre of the crossing in the Church – the literal centre of Catholicism, and is set directly below Michelangelo’s 42 meter diameter dome. Angels stand at the top of the bronze sculpture, as well as an orb and the cross – a symbol of the triumph of the Church throughout the world.
To the right is Michelangelo’s Pieta – the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ, after his crucifixion. His head is dropped back, resting against the shoulder of his mother – depicted as a young woman.
The detail of the piece is so incredible, that it’s difficult to believe that it was carved from a block of stone!
St Peter’s Square
After a long stroll around the Basilica, we headed towards St Peter’s Square. The area is outlined by a colonnade, with 140 statues sculptured by a number of artists over a period of 41 years (1662 – 1703).
The centerpiece in an Egyptian obelisk, dating back to the 13th century BC, measuring 82 feet tall, and weighing 320 tons. This Egyptian oblique was transported to Rome in the year 37 AD by the Emperor Caligula.
In the 16th century, Pope Sixtus V ordered it to be moved in front of the Basilica, requiring 900 men and 150 horses. Originally, a bronze sphere sat at the top of the obelisk, which according to medieval legend contained the remains of Julius Caesar. However, it was replaced by a cross and a star by Pope Alexander VII.
We also saw Pope Francis!
I was probably most excited to visit the Pantheon, a monument of the ancient world.
The Pantheon is a vast circular space, full of perfect geometrical shapes, decorative columns and rich surfaces of coloured marble. The centre of the dome, is an oculus (Latin for eye). It’s the perfect circle and a reflection of the movement of the heavens.
The sun projects a circle on the dome and moves across the floor of the building as the run moves across the sky.
The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built – the home of battling gladiators, staged sea battles and reenactments of ancient myths. Originally called the Flavion Amphitheatle, it has endured almost 2,000 years and could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators.
Construction began in 72 AD under the direction of the Emperor Vespasian and was completed by his son, Titus, after 8 years of construction. However southern side of the Colosseum collapsed in a massive earthquake in 847.
This photo hardly justifies the enormous queue… hence the reason why we decided to appreciate the Roman monument from the outside.
Sunday’s objective was to stay as far as physically possible away from the Vatican, and the thousands upon thousands of people.
We walked towards the Roman Forum. The Forum lies in the valley surrounded by the Palatine, Capitoline and Esquiline hills. In the Republican period (5th – 1st century BC) this was the political, economic, religious and commercial heart of ancient Rome. In the 9th-8th centuries BC when the city was made up of independent villages, the area was occupied by the cemeteries of the various settlements. Later, the villages began to merge and the Forum valley naturally became a place where their inhabitants met for economic transactions and social activities – becoming the centre of the ancient city’s social life.
A few other of our destinations…
Keep smiling, Lara x