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Vatican City

 

Vatican City - July 1999

Vicky Blitz

How very different it was to tour with an art teacher instead of a professional tour guide. Our wonderful tour guide in May of 1986 took us through the Vatican museum of all the art objects, given to them from countries, wealthy people and organizations all over the world. The art teacher who brought us there in 1999 took us through the basement to get us to the Sistine Chapel. Not that the basement, a bit of an art gallery in itself, wasn't interesting to me, having already seen the "good stuff", it's just that I would have loved for my husband, visiting Rome for the first time, to have seen it, the way I had.

The cleaning and restoration of the Sistine Chapel had been completed and the day we were there the crowd was enormous. We were packed in like sardines, everyone looking at the beautiful "new colors", now having emerged from the dirt and grime of four hundred years. With all that many people it was a bit stuffy, even with the fans blowing, but the people were very polite and respectful of each other.  My only  regret was that we did not get to the gift shop to purchase pictures to show the "new" colors.  However, I came across this recent but rather bad quality picture of Adam to contrast it with the one below in 1986.

 

Vatican City - April 1986

Vicky Blitz

The Vatican is a truly awesome place, and I'm not even Catholic. Just to be in the square and view the architecture is absolutely inspiring. The tour guide pointed out the window of the Pope's bedroom, the balcony he uses to speak to the audience, the Swiss Guards, etc. There are a double row of columns which arch around about half of the square and if you stand in the right spot (center-most) you can view the columns from one end to the other and see only those columns nearest to the square as they completely hide the second row of columns. They are lined up that perfectly.

Inside, we walked through one corridor after another, each displaying gifts from countries around the world. There were art objects in gold, silver, ivory, jade, etc. with diamonds and other precious jewels, each object displayed in a glass case and each item probably valued high enough to feed a small country for years. I have never imagined such wealth existed. And each object beautiful beyond imagination. Just when we thought we had seen it all, we would turn the corner and there was another hall that seemed to be a city block long with display cases on either side. Tapestries done in needle point covered walls from ceiling to floor. It all has to be seen to be believed.

And then there was the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo painted all the figures in the nude until he was told that was inappropriate and he had to go back and give them all clothes (well, drapes at least). He painted the ceiling, laying on his back on the scaffolding.

We are so used to seeing the dull colors in the Sistine Chapel, that it had never occurred to us that the dullness was the result of years of the smoke from candles and incense. In addition, the precious ceiling is beginning to crack and fall apart. According to our guide, the Japanese had contracted to repair and clean the chapel for the exclusive rights of all pictures and photographs. They had already started the process and under all that dirt, the colors are bright and beautiful, but some people, we were told, are so used to the dull colors that they are sad to see the murals cleaned up. The project, however, should be completed in about ten years and all of us vowed we would return at that time to see the final product.

The basilica is also an experience in itself. For instance, we saw the Pieta, the statue of Mother Mary  holding the dead body of Jesus her son.  This exquisite statue by Michelangelo is now protected behind a Plexiglas sheet which inevitably gives off reflections from all the lights and, therefore, does not give one a very good view. This was necessary after a deranged man attacked the statue with a knife and chipped it a few years ago.  However, one can still imagine the thoughts of Mary as she looks down at the body of her son and we wonder at the depths of this mother's sadness.



                    

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