Thursday, 13 July 2017

Rome 365 - St Peter's Basilica

A trip to Rome would not be complete without a vist to St Peter's Basilica,  even though sometimes the queue to go through the security check is daunting. However don’t be put off as it moves quickly and once inside the crowds disperse in the huge space. The guards are strict on the dress code and will refuse entry if shoulders and knees aren’t covered.

The interior is awe inspiring as was intended by the architects but before you go inside look at the three massive entrances.

The doors on the far left are known as the Doors of Death as funeral processions pass through here. The gruesome depictions of martyrdoms on the panels were designed by Giacomo Manzu.

The panels on the centre door show episodes in the lives of St Peter and St Paul. The depiction of the crucifixion of St Peter also includes the Pyramid which you may have seen on your journey in from the airport. It is on the left hand side of the panel.

The doors came from the old St Peter's Basilica and were the work of a Florentine craftsman known as Filarete.
Once inside look at the rear of the same door. Right at the bottom you will see the 'signature' of Filarete - seven figures joyfully dancing. These are Filarete & his assistants with the tools of their trade in their hands.

On the right hand side is the Holy Door which is only opened in Jubilee years.

It was last opened in December 2015 by Pope Francis for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In the first chapel to your right as you enter you will see Michelangelo's Pieta, now protected by a glass screen after an attack in 1972.

It is the only signed work of the artist (arcoss Mary's sash). Created from flawless white Carrara marble, the sculpture shows the dead Christ lying across his mother's lap. I defy anyone not to be moved by this peerless work of art.

Michelangelo was just 25 and starting out on his career when he completed the Pieta. Towards  the end of his life  he became the supervising architect for St Peter's Basilica and was responsible for the impressive dome.

To the left of the Pieta is the tomb of Pope John Paul II - now a

Crossing into the nave look for the statue of St Peter.

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His right foot is worn from the many pilgrims who have touched it.

You can't miss the Baldacchino (canopy) over the altar. It was commissioned by the Barberini Pope, Urban VIII and designed 

by Bernini

Bronze taken from the Pantheon was used by Bernini in creating the baldacchino which led to the famous saying 'What the Barbarians did not do, the Barberini did'. Obviously Pope Urban VIII felt no shame in robbing a monument that had stood for over 1600 years.
If you look closely at the ornate columns you will see the heraldic bees among the foliage - the Barberini family symbol.

Legend says that Pope Urban VIII commissioned the baldacchino as a thanksgiving for his favourite niece surviving childbirth. On the last pedestal on the right a baby with a smiling face appears.

Looking through the baldacchino you see the Throne of St Peter, again designed by Bernini. Encased within is said to be the wooden chair used by the apostle himself.

In the niches above the statues at the base of each of the four huge piers are the only remains of the original basilica built by Emperor Constantine. These are the spiral marble columns that supported the canopy over the shrine of St Peter.

The four statues by Bernini and his pupils are of St.Veronica, St Andrew, Longinus and St Helena. They represent the relics that were displayed at Easter in the balconies above. The relics being Longinus's lance that was said to have pierced Christ's side on the cross, the head of St Andrew, a piece of the true cross discovered by St Helena and the veil that St Veronica used to wipe the blood and sweat off Christ on the way to Calvary and on which is said to be an imprint of his face.

The round mosaics above are huge in size, St Mark's pen being one and a half metres long.

To the left is the tomb of Pope Alexander VII, the last work of Bernini. Look for the skeleton brandishing an hourglass emerging from the drapery.

As you walk down the nave note the marks on the floor that indicate the comparative lengths of the largest churches in the world.

You will find this tomb dedicated to the Stuarts in the right hand aisle as you leave the Basilica. The beautiful angels were designed by Canova.

As you exit the basilica you will see members of  the Swiss Guard on duty.

The world's smallest army was formed in 1506 and is responsible for the Pope's safety. 

Head into the square and check out the optical illusion. Locate one of the two discs in line with the fountains.

If you stand on the disc facing the colonnade you will see that the three lines of columns appear to be one.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Rome From Home: Janiculum Passeggiata

Rome From Home: Janiculum Passeggiata: Although not classed as one of the seven hills of Rome, Janiculum Hill is one of the highest and wonderful views reward those who make th...

Janiculum Passeggiata

Although not classed as one of the seven hills of Rome, Janiculum Hill is one of the highest and wonderful views reward those who make the climb . It is named after the cult of the god Janus whose priests were believed to have used the hilltop location to look for auspices or signs from the gods.

The figure of freedom fighter Giussepe Garibaldi looms large as you make your way up through the trees from the streets of Trastevere.

The Mausoleum of the Garibaldini is one of the first sights you will see as you near the summit.

This monument was ordered to be built by Mussolini in 1941. It contains the bones of valiant fighters who fought alongside Garibaldi, the popular hero from the era of Italian Unification. Constructed of white travertine marble it is engraved with the words 'Roma O Morte' (Rome or Death) and is guarded by bronze She-Wolves.

Continue along to the glorious Fontana dell'Acqua Paola, a 'mostra' or showcase fountain that signifies the entrance of an aqueduct into the city. In this case it is the Aqua Paola, originally built by Emperor Trajan and restored by Pope Paul V of the Borghese family, whose symbols of an eagle and a griffin can be seen on the fountain.

The fountain is a great example of Roman recycling. The materials used came from the Temple of Minerva in the Forum of Nerva and four of the six columns came from the facade of the original St Peter's Basilica.
Unfortunately the water from the aqueduct is not fit for consumption, leading to the phrase 'acqua paola' which means worthless.

Needless to say there is a stunning view of the city from here.

The cistern for the Acqua Paola fountain is hidden behind an unusual facade which can be seen as you head towards Piazzale Garibaldi. This is the facade of the house which was once  home to Michelangelo and originally stood on the slopes of the Capitoline Hill. It was pulled down to make way for the Vittorio Emanuele Monument. 

Piazzale Garibaldi is dominated by an equestrian statue of the man himself. It recalls the heroic events on the Janiculum when the French army attacked the city in 1849. Garibaldi and his men fought off the superior French army for weeks before being overwhelmed and forced to withdraw.

Again there are wonderful views from here and you might just spot the parakeets that have made their home in the city. They were first spotted in Villa Pamphilj in the 1970's and since then have set up breeding colonies in other parks and tree lined neighbourhoods. It is thought that originally they either escaped from aviaries or were released by their owners and have adapted to living in an urban environment. Not sure that the locals appreciate this touch of the tropics in their city - they view them as an out of control invasive nuisance!

If you happen to be on the hill around midday you will see the daily ritual of the noon firing of the cannon.

This side of the piazza is a wonderful place to watch the sunrise....

....while across the road is perfect for sunset.

Continuing on you will see the statue of Guiseppe Garibaldi's wife,Anita , who fought alongside him. She is portrayed holding a baby in one hand and brandishing a gun in the other. The statue is the work of Mario Rutelli who was also responsible for the Fountain of the Naiads in Piazza della Repubblica.
Anita Garibaldi lies buried beneath the statue.

This particular monument also play a pivotal role in the novel Early One Morning by Virginia Baily.

The area between the two statues contains busts honouring Italian patriots.

Continuing downhill you will come across the strange sight of a lighthouse. Known as the Manfredi lighthouse after its creator, it was a gift from Italian immigrants in Argentina to the city of Rome.

Again there are amazing views from here.
The Janiculum is a lovely place to bring children, especially at the weekend. There is a carousel, a puppet show and, of course, balloons.

Whatever time you take your Janiculum passegiata you can be sure that Garibaldi will be there watching over the city that he and his compatriots fought so hard for.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Rome 365 - Villa Medici

Villa Medici, a prominent feature of the Roman cityscape, was bought by Cardinal Ferdinando de'Medici in the 16th century.

It now houses the French Academy and has been home to artists and composers such as Poussin, Ingres, Fragonard, Berlioz and Debussy.

The facade facing the street is austere but step into the interior courtyard you are faced with beautiful decorations, including antiquities such as these panels from a monument similar to the  Ara Pacis.

The statue of Mercury that forms part of the fountain is a copy of Giambologna's original which is now in Florence.

The gardens are a mixture of formal Renaissance style and shaded walkways.

The iconic Umbrella pine, originally from Africa, became a popular planting at the time these gardens were created.

Wandering along the shaded pathways brings you to unexpected treats such as a copy of the Niobe sculptures......

.......and the Goddess, Roma, signified by the She-wolf figure on her helmet.

There is a delightful pavilion in the garden whose interior is covered in frescoes depicting many birds and animals.

A smaller room in the same pavilion contains a painting of the Villa and gardens when first constructed.

This room also has a beautifully decorated ceiling.

The icing on the cake is a wonderful view over the city from the belvedere.

There are three restored rooms on view, one of which includes works created by acclaimed contemporary Italian artist  Claudio Parmiggiani. The artist uses the technique known as delocazione in which shadows and imprints  are realized through the use of powder, fire and smoke. His butterfly clouds in the ceiling panels are very striking.

The Villa offers tours in English at 11.00am and 3.00pm Tuesday - Sunday. Details here