Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Italy Day 5 {St. Peter's Above and Below}

Daily Mass in St. Peter's crucifixion chapel at St. Peter's Basilica, as seen from up in the dome

Joseph ascends (for the second time in 3 hours) 551 steps to the top of the dome at St. Peter's in Rome.

St. Peter's crucifixion as depicted on one of the panels of a door at St. Peter's Basilica

Tim and Joseph at the top of St. Peter's in the misty morning (photo by Peter).

Touring the tomb of St. Peter is reserved only for those over 15 years, so we split up Monday morning after walking to the Vatican together from our flat.  Zac and I took an early tour to the very bottom of St. Peter's, the underground tour of the tombs and catacombs (scavi) while Tim, Joseph and Peter climbed the 500+ steps to the top of St. Peter's Dome. The underground tour brought us to the excavated sites of ancient burial grounds. The highlight, of course, was catching a glimpse of the tomb of St. Peter. This very site has been revered by Christians from the time of his crucifixion and burial to now; it's a holy site upon which the Mass has been celebrated on various altars (built, re-built, re-built, etc.) from then to today.   We were directly below the main altar at St. Peter's.   Amazing.

Climbing the dome of St. Peter's is reserved for the not faint of heart nor afraid of heights.  One long line of climbers, each at his or own fitness level, ascend the steps to the top of the dome.  First stop inside the dome gives a view (through a grate) of the Church's interior.  I watched as Holy Communion was being distributed in St. Peter's crucifixion chapel many stories below.   Watching the tiny figures moving about, I felt like an eye in the sky; I found myself keenly aware of God's omnipotence and our littleness.  He sees everything - from Him nothing is hidden!
Ordering dinner in a non-English speaking restaurant can be slightly comical.  In this case, our waiter (with no other tables on which to wait) stayed at our table for almost the entire meal, visiting and trying to improve his English.  By various forms of trial and error in communicating we learned that he's a 24 year old working in Rome from Romania; cutting hair by day and waiting tables by night.  He only sleeps 4-6 hours a night, and has lived and worked in several Italian cities.  About mid-way through our meal, his co-worker wanted in on the English lesson, and joined the conversation.  We learned that he is 45 years old and has 2 children.  His mom is from (or lives now) in the US.  It would have been nice to have a quiet dinner, but the friendly Italians and their desire to speak English with us made it more like dinner and a show.  The food was delicious.  Peter ordered lamb, with a side of roasted potatoes and enjoyed every bite.  The rest of us ordered pasta and each dish was delicious.  
  • The Pieta is the only work Michelangelo signed.
  • He did it in the middle of the night, right across Mary's garment.
  • He confessed it as the greatest act of pride on the greatest act of humility.
  • He never signed another work.


Kathleen said...

Beautiful pictures!Amazing facts about Michelangelo!

Renee said...

Bridget, love the stories. Sean and I have been reading them together. The Pieta is my favorite piece of art. I have a picture of my grandmother and myself standing next to it - me with tears in my eyes. Breath-taking!

toadlaketeacher said...

I love hearing about your adventures and look forward to some day finally making it to Italy, too. It's nice to know you aren't likely to go wrong ordering anything from an Italian menu, even it you're not completely sure what everything is.

Renee said...

Our children, gawking with amazement at the beauty your photos envoke, suddenly began the "M-ahh-m, how come we never get to go to Rome??" Then daughter number 2 began counting off the trips I promised to take her on, added them up, and voila, it equalls one trip to Rome. Keep up updates, I love the guilt it produces in me! Love to all,
Renee B.