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Bucharest, Romania
Hello, I am a woman who is writing, living and travelling in Europe, trying to make the most from her life without destroying anything. Mother, wife, employer, lover of fine things, art and culture. Things have been modernized over the last 10 years throughout the world - I haven't.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rome - The Churches

I said I would get back on the Churches in Rome topic but I delayed it, since I had a busy time and had to travel a lot for some business threads that could no longer wait. I am back today on this subject, which is fascinating and compelling… I said that I saw an awful lot of churches in Rome and I don’t wanna  see another church for a long, long,  time. Well, I was lying. Err…hmmm… I wasn’t really lying, that is what I thought about in June …
the colonades in st peter's square, rome

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st peter's basilica - entrance front view
Meanwhile I have given a good thought about it and made up my mind : yes, I saw an awful lot of churches in Rome, and now I want to see more ! J It’s not been enough. It is never enough ! It can’t be ! They are too beautiful to have enough of it . Saint Peter is, of course, the most famous, the biggest, the most visited, the most spectacular  and I could go on like this for days. The truth is it is indeed wonderful. It is an object of art itself, it is projected to make an impression on you, poor mortal, it is full of art and after you see it you remain for a while in a state of complete stupidity, like an anaconda who has swollen a deer and just stays there, almost intoxicated, unable to have any reaction at all. You are puzzled, you are amazed, you are excited! Perfect beauty can be deadly and too much perfection can kill you at times, or it could kill your senses!  
Pope Alexander VII’s Tomb was the most fantastic thing I have ever seen and Bernini’s huge popes and saints leaning over like descending to the visitors , one of the most impressive ! I went there to see Michelangelo ‘s work and got out as a Bernini fan !  Pope Alexander’s monument in photos is very different to  what you actually see. The photo does not make it any justice, maybe because in a photo, no matter how carefully plotted , the real proportions are a great deal distorted.
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pope alexander's VII tomb
You can prepare yourself for the shock and immense beauty of Saint Peter looking for info on the internet, watching documetaries, reading books,  but being there is completely different and oh, so much better. I did not want to take photos in the basilica, I  enjoyed it, alone, by myself, in my own rhythm. If that had been the only great thing I saw in Rome it would still have been wonderful, but fortunately, it was so much more to see. I will quickly go through the ones are worth mentioning:
 Saint Andrew Church on Corso Vittorio Emmanuele.

We got there by accident, as we were heading to the Piazza Navona and couldn’t find our way.  It was 9 o clock in the morning, a sunny June day, the church was all empty and welcoming, all inviting and adorned with golden light, like in a dream. I enjoyed it tremendously  and I wish I would revisit soon. I think it is the best place to pray as Saint Peter is exquisite but I found that it is hard to concentrate there ! There are just so many people moving inside that it is hard to really live the religious moment. In Saint Andrew it was perfect and very intimate.

saint andrew-interior

I would like to be a citizen of Rome and go there weekly for the sermon and pray ! I know God can be found in each and every church, but I am snob enough to wish I could talk to him in Saint Andrew. I could wear my best clothes, put a dark lace on my head, Prada sunglasses and a Guci perfume and my prayings would be he most sophisticated and exquisite, not to mention that afterwards, I could stop for an espresso in Piazza Navona, I could market in Campo di Firori or visit boutiques on Corso! There, I said it , and I won’t take it back !

San Clemente

My husband wanted very much to visit it because of the underground part with the archeological excavations from ancient times. The church was built on the foundations of a roman villa, that was also put on a Mithra temple . It sounds great but the truth is you just pay 5 euros to get in a dark, moist, moulded labyrinth  where you see nothing … From place to place there are pointers to show you the way to the exit ( this is the best part because otherwise you’d be completely lost and could NEVER find the exit by yourself ) but I swear there were moments I just wanted to cry  “ get me out of here , I’ve had enough ”…  I have no phobia whatsoever but in that dark basement I felt sorry for people who regularly experience such extreme feelings.  I feel supportive to all of them because I can tell it is indeed horrible to feel trapped and hopeless like this. Next time I’m invited to see underground explorations I’ll pass. Album photos are much better . I have to say that all in all, San Clemente WAS  a fabulous experience and I am not sorry we went there.  We had lunch nearby, in Naumachia, a traditional Italian trattoria we wouldn’t have tried otherwise . The waiter had one nice table in the open window, and we sat there, in the light wind that came by the window, with a great view( there was an ambulant flower seller across and the houses in the area were all old and so Italian-like with their green wooden shades and tiny balconies , and pelargoniums baskets were hanging on the walls that we felt just like in a movie).

I’ll cherish that but as far as San Clemente’s excavations are concerned I’ll say they should be paying you, and more than 5 euros ,to get down there! The real beauty lies in the altar area , the mosaiques and the fresco!

Santa Maria Maggiore

I completely disliked this one. It is too big and looks like a train station . Period.  Sure , it has a nice Pieta inside,  spectacular colored glass windows  but I did not like it at all. I took lots of photos here because I was very tired , so I just sat down and photographed.  In my opinion, the photos look better than the real church, which I know  is famous but told me nothing. What is indeed beautiful in Santa Maria Maggiore: the additional altars and chapels used for sermons.    
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pieta - santa maria maggiore


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floor mosaique

They are not open to the public and are extremely adorned, with wonderful paintings and statues.  Each of them would do for a petite church of its own, and an exquisite one but all of them opening like wings from the main building were not that attractive looking at all .  Some stairs go down, to the tomb of a pope ( sorry, I forgot his name ) , where, in a precious golden box there is a  nail from the cross Jesus was crucified on. Do not ask me how much I believe or if I believe it. The box holding it is beautiful as you can see. 

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the nail is supposed to be kept inside this

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secondary altar/ chapel in santa maria maggiore; not open to tourists
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santa maria maggiore
outside main view

I don’t know how important is if all these are true or not ; my guess is that  for some people it is important to place their trust  and faith in reliques  like these, and they don’t harm anyone through this, even if might seem a bit naive . To others it is important to say:  “It’s not true, it’s a lie!”. I , for one,  have no idea if it’s true or not. I have no evidence and I am a skeptic . Well, after seeing so many “ reliques” exposed  in Rome and after watching 2 or 3 saints exposed in glass coffins, I have mixed feelings about it and no longer a firm opinion.  I used to moque the exhibiting of the dead, intact people labeled as  “saints” but after seeing a few you start to question your own judgement and try to find explanations …  They look so perfect and real that all kind of thoughts start to mix in your head. I did not want to photograph them because it seemed to me an impiety to do it. True or not, scam or real thing,  it is hard to know the truth and stays a matter of personal choice.

San Pietro in Vincoli – Saint Peter in Chains

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Michelangelo's Moses
It is here that you can see  Michelangelo’s Moses. The church is always crowded, with lots and lots of tourists from everywhere . I doubt they care much for the religious and/or  esthetics of the church itself but since tourism is the new worldwide religion, people have to come and have to see.
Is it good?  Is it bad ? Who am I to judge it ? If, among all those travelers , here and there,  some people manage to find real joy for what they see, or at least a second of faith or enlightenment, then it is just logic and worthy to accept the whole  “flock” !

The Augustinian Monastery near San Clemente

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monastery patio

They were renovating it …  The whole place  was deserted and wonderful and full of light and peace and beauty … I prayed here.  I plan to come back one day … This is not a spectacular place to be, but a true one.   Nothing extra-ordinary but full of an intense, quiet energy. I trust the photos show it. This was the most different possible thing to San Pietro. Same faith, different means. Here everything was human-like and humble. Where San Pietro boasts and shouts, this monastery serves and whispers .  As many other wonderful things I accidentally  stumbled upon, it made me completely happy

 I think it is enough and the post is already too long! I also hope you’ll enjoy it. I know I did - writing it made me re-living it. Ciao !
quiet, full of light and positive energy