Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Vatican & Its Treasures

Hall of Maps, the maps are painted
on the walls, the ceiling is one long
series of beautiful framed paintings. 
Just around the corner from the Pantheon is another Basilica, the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, easily distinguished by the statue of an elephant with an obelisk emerging from its back. Inside are many works of famous artists including Michelangelo and Bernini. It is almost as impressive as St. Peter's but much smaller. Many of the wealthiest families in Rome's history have "owned" a chapel or two along the edges of the basilica that they decorated, furnished, and dedicated to a particular saint. Many of those chapels are exquisite and filled with treasures, guarded by a locked gate. A large number of priests and other members of the hierarchy are entombed in beautiful sarcophagi, stacked up the high walls with painted ceilings, and surrounded by carved marble angels.

Unusual stained glass Madonna and child,
both gaze directly out from the portrait,
in the Vatican Museum

The Vatican owns vast property in Rome, and contributed to  works of public art such as fountains, and the angel sculptures that line the bridges crossing the Tevere (Tiber) into the Vatican. Some buildings are literally priceless and irreplaceable like St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Pantheon. Not only do they contain irreplaceable artworks, the building interiors are covered with frescos, sculpted plaster and wood, and in some cases the walls are covered with handwoven tapestries or embroidered scenes on cloth. The Pantheon is a Roman building with a technically innovative roof design that has been in constant use as a temple or a church for over 2000 years.

The ceiling in one of the Vatican hallways

Brilliant painting of an angel showing heavenly
rewards to a virtuous and hard working man.

Ann (with the blue jacket) and I
in front of the Pantheon in Rome

Inside the Pantheon, now a Catholic Basilica,
but with many sculptures and crypts of famous
people like Rafael and the two kings of Italy.
My friend Derek with Egyptian ruler,
in the Vatican Museum

Enormous basin carved from a single block
of stone on a carved base, above mosaic floor
 with Roman mythical characters. Vatican Museum

Idyllic farm, one of many, owned by the church,
sits on top of the amazing catacombs where
thousands of Christians
were buried in miles of passages.
Photos inside the catacombs were not permitted. 

Recent art acquisitions by the church,
looks like it could be a Star Trek Borg Ship:
 Arnaldo Pomodoro's Sphere Within a Sphere.
The exit from the Vatican Museum, a work
of art staircase, built in the 1930s.

Photo of the inlaid floor of the Sistine Chapel, seconds
before a guard told me NO PHOTOS. 

Roman noblewoman's portrait in
a hall of several thousand busts and statues.

In the Uffizi Museum in Florence, there is a copy of this piece, complete with arms and hands. The original is in the Vatican. It's called Laocoön and His Sons  and is one of the most important works of art that was found during excavations of the old Roman city. (For a detailed account of the interesting Greek story behind it, see: Wiki_Laocoon)

It was known to have existed thanks to the writings of Pliny the Elder so it was instantly recognized and brought to the Vatican around 1500AD. Not only did it have historical value, but it also deeply influenced the path of sculptors and artists far into the future with it's perfection of human beauty and idealism. 

Laocoon Group, Vatican Museum