In my next two posts I will cover the elimination of two more of my bucket list items, the Coliseum and of course Vatican City. Then I will treat you to the best thing I did in Rome, I’ll keep that for a surprise.
This post will ramble around in no particular order and try to tell you in my normal irreverent manner about some of the other cool stuff we saw in Rome.
Rome is a walking town. Nothing is far from anything, and walking is faster than any form of transportation available. When you have a destination to walk to in Rome, you will get sidetracked and hijacked by a myriad of other things you just have to stop and see. There are over three thousand sculptures by just Bernini in this city, many of them fantastic fountains. That 15 minute walk will take an hour and a half, so plan ahead.
Our hotel was right next to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was a Roman temple dedicated to all (pan) the gods (Theos). It was first erected in 27 BC, and after a couple of fires, completely redone by Hadrian in AD 120. It is regarded as the most influential building in art history. The dome was studied by Michelangelo before he designed the dome of the Basilica of St. Peters. It inspired the United States Capitol dome and Thomas Jefferson emulated it when he designed the dome at the University of Virginia.
The Pantheon has a Greek style portico, but behind this is the most amazing feat of ancient architecture in the world.
The dome of the Pantheon sits on a circular base, and until the renaissance was the highest dome in the world. It is mathematically perfect. It is exactly as high as it is wide, 142 feet. It is made with concrete, which was a Roman invention.
The dome supports itself because it is 23 feet thick at the bottom, and five feet thick at the top. The concrete at the bottom is mixed with travertine, and the top mixed with much lighter pumice. Also, the engineers at the time designed a coffered ceiling to lighten the load.
To top it off is the Oculus. This is an open ceiling, and the Pantheons sole source of light. Yes, it rains in Rome, so the floor of the Pantheon is slightly concave, and a couple dozen barely noticeable holes in the floor drain away whatever rainfall comes through the Oculus.
The building itself was covered with marble, back before the barbarians came and took it all away. Well, not all of it. What they did not take was taken by the Vatican to build St. Peters Basilica. This is a recurring theme in Rome. The saying is “What the Barbarians didn’t do, Barberini did” (The Barberinis being a Papal family).
The Pantheon has a few tombs, the most meaningful is the tomb of Raphael. If you are not familiar with Raphael’s bio, you should Google him. An amazing painter and playboy Raphael designed his own tomb for the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is located next to the Piazza della Rotunda. For two thousand years this has been a gathering place for Romans. For quite some time it was where people came to buy and sell birds, from chickens to parrots. Today, the only Romans around are waiters in the cafes or musicians. We sat in a café (dinner was two individual pizzas and a small bottle of wine, for $75) but we were entertained by a guy singing Frank Sinatra songs one night and another singing opera the next, somehow fitting. The piazza has a nice fountain which is topped by one of the dozens of obelisks stolen from Egypt found all over Rome.
A short walk from this piazza is the famous Trevi fountain. Made famous by Hollywood, is is truly a magnificent fountain which takes up a city block.
My rambling post will end where I had an almost rapturous experience. It is called the Gesu church. It is the center of the Jesuit order, which is a big deal, BIG deal. Including St. Peter’s, I found the Gesu, the most astounding church I saw in Rome. It is not only the epitome of Baroque, it is also the most outlandish example of “in-your-face” wealth I can imagine. I have always said to the Catholic church, sell a gargoyle and feed the poor. If they sold he statue of St. Ignatius, (unveiled if you click on the link later) they could feed the Sudan for a generation. The entire statue is gold and silver with many many jewels stuck all over it. And St. Ignatius was an advocate of poverty, go figure.
During the counter-reformation the Jesuits led the battle against those galling Protestants for the hearts and minds of Christians. Art was a powerful propaganda weapon. Enormous sculpted murals of religion overthrowing heresy (heresy being the pesky Protestants) told the story the Jesuits needed to teach in an age when only royalty and the priests could read.
But the rapture happens at 5:30 every evening. (Click HERE for the rapture. This unveiling of St. Ignatius is something that you must see when in Rome. The painting hiding it is of his demise in China when trying to spread the gospel. As it disappears, the music is quite loud. The faithful cross themselves cry and kneel, and yours truly snaps fotos, wondering if perhaps I am not on the right bus.
OK, faithful readers. My next three posts will be shorter, I promise. If you have not subscribed to my blog, look to the column on the right and do so. I promise you will get raptured by every post you read. Share this with a friend on Facebook, and if you are inspired, make a comment.