Thursday, January 24, 2013

Piazza della Repubblica & Santa Maria degli Angeli

Lord, make me see thy glory in every place.
~Michelangelo Buonarroti

After checking out the Vermeer exhibition, I realized that I had another hour or two before I could go back into the earlier churches (to find my lost hat), so I headed south to find a bancomat (Italian ATM machine) and thought, while I was at it, I'd check out Piazza Repubblica. 

I'd driven through the piazza four years prior, a cab driver pointing out the window and shouting "PIAZZA REPUBBLICA!!!" but I'd never explored it. Plus, I figured I'd might find a money machine around there, since it's by the main train station, Termini.

Fountain of the Naiads

The statues on the fountain, which was inaugurated in 1901, were once thought so scandalous, that the city built a fence around it ... to which the Romans responded by knocking it down. 

Gotta love the Romans. ;)

The Piazza (previously called Piazza dell'Esedra) is laid out in a semi-circle in the exedra of the Baths of Diocletian, at the summit of the Viminal Hill.

Looking across the Piazza to the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri and the Baths of Diocletian.

Seeing this, I had no idea what the deal was. Part Roman ruin ... part church ... So, I decided to head over and check it out. 

(Oh, and as we continue, you can listen to this gentleman I found on YouTube, playing Italian Renaissance Lute music. And, who doesn't love a lute? ;)

Nice doors, right? The bronze doors of Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj, are beautifully set off by the amazing brickwork, and were completed in 2005. 

This door, on the right, depicts the Annunciation
At the bottom of the door (not in the photo) it reads ...
Ecce Ancilla Domini Fiat Mihi Secundum Verbum Tuum - 
I am the handmaid of the lord, let what you have said be done to me.

The door on the left depicts the Resurrection, and Christ, his body etched with a cross.
To read more information about the doors, click here.

A bit of history, from the (great) website Sacred Destinations ...

"In 1541, a Sicilian priest, Fr. Antonio Lo Duca, had a vision of angels in the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian. As a result, Pope Pius IV (1559-1565) ordered that a church be built within the Baths. The church was designed by Michelangelo, who began work in 1563 but died a year later in 1564. His design was completed by Jacopo Lo Duca, nephew of Fr. Antonio and pupil of Michelangelo. The church was granted to the Carthusians, who built a monastery next to it, possibly to a design by Michelangelo."

Angel of Light  
Ernesto Lamagna 2000

I am not quite sure why it was so dang dark in there. It was rainy and all, but it was really dark. I tried to be very still while taking pictures but most of them were very blurry. I lightened these up, as much as I could, in iPhoto.

I love this modern stained glass window, in the dome of the Circular Vestibule, when you first enter the church. 

Light and Time 
Narcissus Quagliata 1999

I came upon a sculpture of John the Baptist, and found the light so incredibly beautiful, as it spilled over the stone ... It made it feel like a truly sacred space.

Saint John the Baptist
Igor Mitoraj

The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as Queen of the Angels, as well as the Christian slaves who died building the Baths of Diocletian, which were completed in 306 and obviously dedicated to the Emperor Diocletian. Unfortunately, Michelangelo died before the church was completed.

If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn't call it genius.

Below, the right transept, with Roman Columns 

This sculpture, below, is called The Meditation, and is in the Chapel of Saint Bruno. She was pretty enormous, which you see by the angle, and how I am looking up at her. She, along with the sculpture The Prayer, (lower left in the photo) date back to the 1870s and were finished by Frances Fabj-Altini.

I am not sure why, by I really was taken by her.

Saint Theresa's Chapel 

Here you can really see that the church was built in the Roman baths. I love how rustic they left this wall.

Through the Chapel of Saint Theresa, there is a door out into a peaceful courtyard, lovingly cared for, with greenery and sculptures, all in the midst of more ancient Roman remains of the Diocletian baths.

Galileo Galilei Divine Man
Designed by Professor Tsung Dao Lee

For more about Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri please visit their website here.

To learn more about this church and many other sacred places, from around the world, check out the website Sacred Destinations.

What an interesting mix of the very old and very new, all in one place! And, this place wasn't even on my "to do" list. I am glad I was open to exploring and letting myself end up in unexpected places. A good lesson for life, I think! Hope you enjoyed exploring with me!

A beautiful thing never gives so much pain
as does failing to hear and see it.

blessings and light!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dutch Light in Rome ~ Vermeer at the Quirinale

After seeing two of the most famous Baroque churches in the world, I headed Southwest down the street to the Scuderie del Quirinale. Before leaving for my trip, I'd done my research on what art exhibitions would be in the places I would be visiting. On my last visit to Rome, I was lucky enough to catch one of the largest ever retrospectives of Caravaggio at the Quirinale, so I figured I'd better check what was going on. You don't want to get back from a trip and realize that you missed a once in a lifetime exhibition.

A couple of weeks before arriving in Rome, I found out there was a Vermeer (1632-1675) exhibition going on! It seemed funny to see Dutch masters in Rome but it was also too amazing to pass up. Some scholars figure Vermeer may have done around 50 paintings, 37 of which are known and documented. So, when you find out that 8 out of the 37 paintings will all be in one place, along with another 50 works by his contemporaries, you can't pass it up!

As you can see, (below) when I got to Piazza del Quirinale, it was still raining, so going inside a cozy museum was perfect. (And unlike the Vatican Museums they let me check my coat! Don't you hate carrying around a big ol' coat?)

Here, in the Piazza, are the statues of the Dioscuri, with the two Roman  "Horse Tamers," Castor and Pollux topped by an obelisk, moved from the Mausoleum of Augustus in the 18th Century.

The Scuderie del Quirinale, built from 1722-1732, had previously been the Papal Stables and the main winding "stairway" is stone with very, very deep steps, I am assuming for the horses. 

Oh, and here's a little something from the Holland Baroque society to go with the exhibition!

I realized when I was checking my coat, that I didn't have my favorite little angora hat that I had gotten in New York City in 2001! I'd lost it before, in a NY theatre in 2010, after seeing a show, but the stage manager was kind enough to retrieve it for me the next day. (My friend Larry, whom I was visiting, couldn't believe I got it back.) This time, I figured I must have dropped it in one of the Baroque churches or on my walk to the museum. I couldn't believe it. Again?

I decided to enjoy the exhibit then afterward I would retrace my steps. For now the churches were closed (unless it's a huge basilica most of the little churches all close for about 3 hours or more in the middle of the day.) If it was meant to be, my little hat would find it's way back to me.

Outside of the incredible use of light in Dutch paintings, (1600s) I also love how they created such beauty in depicting everyday life and activities. It seems almost a lesson in mindfulness, being in the moment and finding beauty in whatever task you are doing.

The first painting in the exhibition was The Little Street, by Vermeer, visiting from the Galleria deli Uffizi in Florence. It was a bit smaller than I'd imagined but it was an absolute jewel. It was ... Magnificent. It reminded me of fine enamel work, probably in part, because of the layers of varnish, but it had these tiny, absolutely beautiful, details, and in person, the painting seemed to glow.

Johannes Vermeer
The Little Street (circa 1658)
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Girl with the Red Hat wasn't one of my favorite Vermeer paintings, until seeing it in person. It's small but it's mighty. (8 x 10"? Or maybe smaller?) The light is obviously gorgeous but the background was surprisingly loose and sketchy, which made the figure pop even more. Another little Vermeer jewel!

Johannes Vermeer
Girl with the Red Hat (1665-67)
Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art


I took this photo below on a previous trip, looking out from the cafe. I ate in the cafe this time too. I knew I need a break for lunch and to get off my feet so I wouldn't rush through the rest of the exhibition. It's also a relatively inexpensive way to go. They also have a restaurant.

Outside of Vermeer, my two favorite artists in the Exhibition were Gabriel Metsu and Pieter de Hooch. Fortunately, there were a few of each but these are two of my favorites.

Gabriel Metsu 
A Woman Reading a Letter (1664-1667)
National Gallery of Ireland

Pieter de Hooch
Portrait of a Family in a Courtyard in Delft (circa 1658)
Wien, Gemaldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Kunste

The detail on this is unbelievable and so lovely.

Unfortunately, I couldn't take pictures in the gallery. If you want to see more of what was there, please visit the website HERE. 

The exhibit goes through January 20, so if you are in Rome, don't miss it, you have two more days!

After my wonderful visit with the Dutch Masters, I retraced my steps to San Andrea Quirinale to find my hat. I asked the caretaker but no luck. San Carlo was still closed so I made my way to Piazza Repubblica, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Santa Maria della Vittoria and Santa Susanna (more on them later) and then, finally San Carlo was open.

I found the sweet little caretaker who was slight man, with only a bits of grey hair at his temples, and in my broken Italian "questa mattina, ho perso il mio cappello ..." I gestured to my head like I was playing charades, and tried to communicate my situation. 

"Ahhh!!!! Questo?" He smiled, lifting my hat up off a wooden mantle. 

"Si!!! Grazie! Grazie mille!" (Yay!) 
I was happy and relieved as I headed back out through Borromini's masterpiece, taking the opportunity to, once again, take in his marvelous dome.

Anyway, got my hat back. :)
It's the fuzzy one I'm wearing here.

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bernini's Baroque ~ Sant'Andrea al Quirinale 1658-70

After my visit to Francesco Borromini's San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, I headed down the block to check out his rival, Gian Lorenzo Bernini's church, Sant'Andrea Quirinale. Really, It's unbelievable that they are on the same block, same side of the street, two guys who, word is, hated each other. And, bonus for me, the churches were so close together, because it was pouring down rain.

On my last post Kerry O'Gorman (Farmlass) mentioned she was listening to Puccini while reading my post and that made me think I should find some Italian Baroque for you to listen to, while enjoying some quintessential Baroque architecture! Thanks for the idea Kerry!

I have to say, that what little I know about Bernini and Borromini, their personalities seem to fit the period. They both, in different ways, were very dramatic in the way they lived, and in the case of Borromini, the way he died. (Sadly he took his life, which is why I am guessing they didn't end up burying him in his intended place ... his beautiful San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. Sad, right?)

Apparently, they started out as friends and one got a commission the other thought they were going to get, or something. Of course, they were both geniuses, but Bernini was handsome, and had the charm and personality to schmooze at court. Poor Borromini was depressed, anti-social and might have actually been bi-polar but with no treatment at that time ... he ended his life at 67 before the facade of San Carlo was complete.

Anyway, back to Bernini. While admittedly, Borromini is my favorite architect, Bernini's sculptures are maybe my all time favorites.  Along with Michelangelo, no one made marble come alive like Bernini. More on his sculptures, in future posts.

Apparently, as he got older Bernini would often come to visit and sit in this lovely creation of his. A sweet thing to imagine.

Sant'Andrea al Quirinale

The Martyrdom of Saint Andrew ...

Beautiful mosaic and inlay floors ...

Everything you can imagine is real.
~ Pablo Picasso


Chapel of Saint Stanislaus Kostka ...

The Death of St. Francis Xavier ~ Baciccio

Cappella della Passione ~ Giancinto Brandi 
La Deposizione

Tomb of King Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia and Piemonte, who abdicated in 1815 to join the Jesuits.

Here you can see the source of light coming from above the altar

Inlay marble floor...

The windows in the lantern, light the dove, the symbol of the holy spirit ...

And the ribs of the dome are like rays of light emanating from the that symbol ... and you see Saint Andrew there, on the pediment, ready to ascend to heaven.

Here is a very interesting talk by Chuck Benson about Bernini's major influence on Rome and how we experience it today, as well as mentioning the rivalry between Bernini and Borromini. He also talks about this church, Sant'Andrea Quirinale as well as the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, His work at Saint Peter's, his fountains, and so on.

 A man should hear a little music, 
read a little poetry and see a fine picture every day of his life, 
in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful 
which God has implanted in the human soul.
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe