Friday, 18 December 2015

Passing through the Holy Door on a Warm Afternoon of December

So, a few days ago my father registered for a visit to the Holy Door, recently opened for the Jubilee of Mercy, announced by Pope Francis I Bergoglio.
A few minutes later we got our confirmation for today in the afternoon, so right after lunch we ventured on our "mini-pilgrimage" in the city of Rome. Here is my experience and a few hints on the event and places.

So, we arrived Rome and decided to head to the meeting point through Ponte Sant'Angelo, following the traditional route to Saint Peter's.

We spotted the meeting point by the gardens of Castel Sant'Angelo, showe our registration and follow the route to the basilica, walking on Via della Conciliazione.

This December happens to be quite warm and dry this year, so the fog created this peculiar dreamy look in the area, as if you're really accessing some supernatural spot... It's quite suggestive.

Once we reach the Bernini's colonnato we headed through the security checks.
The line grew quickly, but while waiting I took my time looking at the columns... When I saw them the first time when a kid I thought that they looked huge and-- It was kinda moving to realize that they STILL looked huge!

After the security checks we were led to the Holy Door through a specific path-- It's indeed practical, but looking at this square fragmented like this really pisses me off...
We finally reached the Holy Door!

The passage was frantic, awe-inspiring and kinda estranging at the same time-- It's difficult to properly report such feelings when you're a believer...

Anyway, here's a picture from the inside!
At the top of the door you can find a plaque reminder of the Jubilee of 1675 promoted by Pope Clement X Altieri.
The first Jubilee of Catholic tradition dated 1300 and was sponsored by Pope Boniface VIII Caetani, the one that Dante Alighieri made infamous in his Divine Comedy.

One of the first thing that you have to do once inside is paying homage to the bronze statue of Saint Peter by stroking (or kissing, if you're that extreme a devotee!) its right foot:

The feet of this statue are now shapeless and shiny because of this practice!
The statue is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio and dated around the XIII century.

Among the various awe-inspiring bits, a glance at the Baldachin of my favourite Bernini is a classic:
Since the basilica is pretty much gigantic, it's difficult to realize the actual "size" of these pieces.
This bronze baldachin is 20 meters high, which is pretty much the height of Palazzo Barberini, to give you a spatial reference.
Saint Peter's is in fact the biggest Church of the world (--but not the tallest!).
Sure it's a great place to feel insignificant. While staring at some columns decorating the place, my mom said "I'd like to bring one of these in front of our house..." and I replied "Mom, these columns are pretty much twice as tall as our house--!"

Once outside, I took the classic picture of the Swiss Guards,
bought my official souvenir,
and strenghtened my resolution to spit in the face of anyone suggesting that Rome is not the most beautiful city in the world.
Ok, that's not very merciful, though >_>;

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Saint Peter's Nativity Scene

Like every year, here's a special photo report from your "Rome-biter" on Saint Peter's square to show off the traditional Nativity Scene in there.
This year the Nativity scene was manifactured by the atonomous region of Trentino Alto-Adige by the skills of the Amici del Presepio di Tesero.
The guys decided to throw in a bit of the Northern mood in Rome, thus using a set and costumes straight from the sud-tyrolean tradition: the stable belongs to a a typical baita and the characters decorating the place wear historical clothes of the region.

The message is that of reception, charity and mercy, extremely adherent to the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy and its meaning, expecially considering the recent issues with immigration and the situation of refugees in Europe.

Following, a good deal of details for your visual enjoyment!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

A visit to the Palazzo della Rovere in Piazza Santi Apostoli

The Roman Reinassance sure was lively on every aspect, even if it's mostly famed for its corruption and fishy business (go figure!)-- One of the figures of the period that intrigues me the most os the good ol' Pope Julius II della Rovere, the "Warrior Pope" that at the time of this story was still a Cardinal and went by his given name, Giuliano.

November is over, but even this year I managed to take part to this year's edition of Palazzi di Roma a Porte Aperte, where people are granted the visit of places usually closed to the public.
My pick was the Palazzo della Rovere located in Piazza Santi Apostoli, by the minor basilica that gives the name to the square. Right know this clean, simple building is known also as Palazzo Colonna from the family that inherited it, but originally it was built by Giuliano on a project of his cousin Cardinal Pietro Riario.

The most peculiar parts of the building are the tower, exquisitely Reinassant, attributed to Giuliano da Sangallo, and the entrance in marble, hovered by an interesting terrace, dated 1589, probably a work of Domenico Fontana:
Once we entered the portal, we accessed the courtyards; unfortunately the place was under restoration, so I can offer only these pictures, where you can guess pretty much nothing of the clean, delicate lines of the arcs--

In the last picture you can see a specimen of the keystone, which was quite huge, on which is impressed the heraldry of the Della Rovere family.

The guide presented us an interesting tour of the cenotaphs that could be spotted on the wall adjoining the basilica.
We started with the one dedicated to the glorious Michelangelo, originally resting here and then "stolen" by the Medici's ruffians to bring the corpse of the artist to Florence:
A curiousity: the face of the artist was re-sculpted in modern times, as to make it more resembling to the artist.

Another interesting cenotaph concerns Cardinal Bessarion, the famous Greek scholar and humanist:
Me and other people were then looking at this monument... The guide told us that he was a condottiero, and this was enough to put us in awe and making us take pictures, ahah!
But it must be said that it's quite scenographic!

So, as we said, Giuliano lived here from the death of Pietro, on 1474, to his election as Pope, on 1503.
After that, he presented the building to his niece, Lucrezia Gara, as a present for her marriage to Marcantonio I Colonna. His daughter, Felice della Rovere, married Gian Giordano Orsini instead. This way Julius II wanted to make peace between the two most important noble families of Rome, whose rivalry affected the whole city and its safety since centuries.
After a long pause we managed to access the rooms on the first floor of the building, where the family led its everyday life.
On 1589 the building was bought by Pope Sixtus V Peretti for 15000 scudi, who presented it to the Minorites-- This explains why now the walls are covered with the portraits of the "Generals" of the order: starting from Saint Francis of Assisi to the most modern heads, it's really interesting to look at the different styles of the portraits, suggesting the passing of time!
Once inside the first room, we're invited to look at the original floor, a magnificent example of marble floor inspired to Cosmatesque style--
This is quite rare, as during the Reinassance the forms of Medieval art were pretty much ignored or considered rough and vulgar.

We were then guided around the rooms, where we could enjoy the beautiful frescoes and the lovely ceilings, with their typical coffering:

As you can spot on the rich decorations, many little columns, heraldic symbol of the Colonna family, are the protagonists of the artworks, enriched by lovely and vivacious grotesques, following the spirit of the time.

All in all, an interesting visit, following the steps of some of the most intriguing personalities of the Roman Reinassance!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Rooms of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

For this post I'd like to introduce you to one of those less known spots in Rome where you can breath some intriguing historical and religious vibe.
Nicknamed "The Rooms of Saint Ignatius" it's the tiny appartment where the Saint lived and died during his stay in Rome in the casa professa ("mother house") of the Society of Jesus.

To access the rooms you have to enter the building next to the Church of the Gesù and follow the course there. The path is covered with interesting portraits, documents and prints that work as a sort of introduction to the place.
The order of the Society of Jesus was founded on 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola and approved by Pope Paul III Farnese.
The mother church of The Gesù was first conceived during 1551 by Ignatius himself, funded by Cardinal-Nephew Alessandro Farnese who imposed The Vignola and Giacomo della Porta as its architects, but consecrated only on 1584.
Meanwhile the Jesuits occupied the nearby mother house on 1544 as the first installment of their order. This is the same place where Saint Ignatius lived himself and died on 1556.
The building was then destroyed by a flood on 1598 and then rebuilt from the 1599 to 1623, the job funded by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, the nephew of the above mentioned Alessandro.
On this occasion the Rooms, that were left in their original state (and it was quite the achitectural feat!), where enriched by beautiful frescoes that decorated their entrance and corridor. The main author is the Jesuit painter Andrea Pozzo, who's the mastermind behind the beautiful trompe l'oeil effect, even if the job was started by The Borgognone, who was hand-picked by the Superior General of the time, Claudio Acquaviva.

The frescoes are definitely the main attraction of the site, making it worth a visit even if you're not Catholic or religious, just for their beautiful execution.

They obviously portray scenes, miracles and events connected to the life of Saint Ignatius. Finally the ceiling shows "Saint Ignatius ascends Heaven". To appreciate the whole perspective effect you have to look at the corridor from the spot signed by a rose on the floor.

The windows are decorated by beautiful stained glasses whose author I couldn't find, but in my opinion are still worth a good look.
--Once you're done with the corridor, on the left you can access the apartment of the Saint by some tiny stairs.

Besides the original furnitures and relics, I was very amused by the various documents and belonging of the Saint! Here you can see the formal request to the Pope to recognize the Society of Jesus, and a copy of his "Spiritual Exercises".

It's free, interesting and well-organized... Definitely worth a visit, isn't it?