Saturday, 12 September 2015

"Saint Filippo Neri - The Biblioteca Vallicelliana Celebrates its Founder" Exhibition

This exhibition is dedicated to the popular personality of Saint Filippo Neri, the founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, an innovative form of secular clergy taking care of poor people, locals, children and assisting pilgrims.

On the 500th anniversary of his birth, the Biblioteca decided to celebrate him by showing and sharing documents, books and informations about this charismatic figure, all of them preserved in the library that he founded on 1565.
The Biblioteca Vallicelliana is part of the Oratorio dei Filippini, the oratory and residential quarters of the congregation created by "Pippo Buono".
I won't talk about the Oratorio or the adiacent, beautiful Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella ("Saint Mary of the Little Valley", also Chiesa Nuova), as a mere post won't be enough, but I leave you with a tiny anectode-- Do you see this fountain?
It's the "original" Fontana della Terrina, the one placed in Campo dè Fiori.

Without further ado, I reached for the Biblioteca, located at the second floor of the Oratorio.

Even if just from the stairs you savour the simple yet airy spaces designed by our good ol' Borromini. The priests themselves asked the architect to use simple, solid and cheap materials for the structure, so Borromini picked his favourite bricks and plaster: the contrast between the two materials, and the outside and inside of the building, is tangible and dreamy.

Once on the stairs, I was presented with the beautiful vision of the plaster bozzetto for the bas-relief of "The Encounter of Attila and Pope Leo" by Algardi. The finished piece is placed in Saint Peter's, but even the model is absolutely charming.

I've never seen Saint Peter and Saint Paul so pissed off!

I finally reached the Biblioteca where the exhibition was set.
Unfortunately it was forbidden to take pictures of the pieces, but I was allowed to take a few shots of the place.

The exhibition was extremely interesting! It followed the life of Pippo, from youth to his religious career through documents, the books he used to read and prints portraying him and his "brothers".
Besides the various items, there were some explainatory plaques dedicated to his most favourite places in Rome, the churches and catacombs that he used to visit for the sake of meditation and spiritual exercises.
The most intriguing were the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian, where he received the "Divine Grace", and the so-called Oak of Tasso in the cloister of Saint Onofrio, a place where he used to walk, meditate and pray, centuries later followed by guys like Leopardi and Goethe.

Lots of informations focused on the Seven Churches Walk , a pilgrimage to do in Rome in one day, from dawn to dusk (or from dusk to the morning of the day after), on Good Friday.
At the time of Filippo Neri it followed this route:
1) Saint Peter's
2) Saint Paul Outside the Walls
3) Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls
At this point it was called for a lunch in the park of Villa Celimontana, by the Coliseum, hosted by the Mattei, owners of the place. The simple meal involved bread, cheese, eggs, salami and apples.
4) Saint John Lateran
5) Holy Cross in Jerusalem
6) Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls
7) Saint Maria Maggiore
On 2000 Pope John Paul II changed the Church of Saint Sebastian with the Sanctuary of Divine Love.

Last but not least, the exhibition included a little section dedicated to the books that belonged to Pippo, with an in-depth analysis over his passion for Aristotle.

It was a little yet intruing exhibition, focusing on a figure who is a cornerstone of Roman popular culture and a foundation of modern Catholicism.

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