Date: Sunday, June 29, 2014 (for Friday, June 27, 2014)
Friday morning we took the train back to Rome to spend the day. We got off the train at Roma Centrali (the central train station in Rome) and then went to two or three art museums, all of which frown upon taking pictures, so they all sort of run together.
At the first museum we went to, they had the very famous Roman copy of the Greek Discus Thrower, which does an amazing job of showing all of the musculature. It actually looks as if it could be moving and throwing the discus (which is basically a Frisbee). Standing next to it is another copy of the original (which has been lost for centuries). It looks like it would have been as grand, but is missing its head, and at least one arm.
Between the first and second museums Lisa lectured for a while about the relationship between the Roman Empire and the Christians. The Empire was made up of two different classes of people: the Patricians (wealthy, nobility) and the Plebeians (the working class). Suddenly the Plebes found themselves getting some say in how government worked.
The Christians had problems because they were seen as unpatriotic. The Romans would allow the people they conquered and ruled to continue to worship their local gods, but they demanded that they also worship the Emperor as a god. The Christians refused to do so, and were actually seen as atheistic by the Romans.
The Early Christians didn’t want to just have a religion that would grant them citizenship, but nothing more. They wanted to have a personal relationship with God, and with a community. The Romans worshipped out in the open, but Christians were much more reserved and worshiped in private. For all the Romans knew, they Christians were sacrificing babies or having orgies.
In the 300s or 400s Christianity became one of the official religions of Rome, but in doing that, they had to define themselves. What were their beliefs? What were their practices? Who were the heretics among them? Part of the rule was that worship had to be done in public (church) so that people could come in and see what was going on. This is a good parallel to how Adventists officially became a denomination. We needed to be on a list with the government so that our young men wouldn’t be drafted into the Civil War, or at least so they wouldn’t have to fight.
Between 300 and 1000 Christians had two major tasks: 1) they were missionaries, and 2) they had to learn to deal with authorities. During this time, however, there were those who felt that they should spend extensive time alone in prayer and meditation. They began to move out into the desert, but then began to move into groups. These were the beginnings of monasteries and convents.
Around 1000 the lay people, those who didn’t feel a call to be a nun, monk, priest, or hermit, wanted a way to be more holy themselves, so the Church gave them sacraments. Performing these sacraments (marriage, communion, and several others) literally made them holy (so they thought).
In the late 1400s and early 1500s the Church—run by popes and cardinals who were members of the Medici and other rich families—tried to become a stronger political entity, but by the mid-to-late 1500s it was a lost cause. The State won. St. Peter’s Basilica was a last ditch effort to be important.
Rome itself really wasn’t important at all between 500 and 1000, but it was still an example of a great empire. Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Hitler all tried to recreate the strength of the Roman Empire.
In Florence, where we stayed, there was a man named Sabonarola who called for reformation in the church. He is famous for his Bonfires of Reform, wherein artists—convicted of his message—threw their worldly pieces into the flames and never worked in that genre again.
There are two great legacies of Rome: 1) the arch with the rounded top. It is used heavily in Romanesque art. The second (2) is Roman Law. It was very complex, but was codified and became the basis of Church canon law, finally becoming the basis of most of the law in the Western world.
The second museum we went to was connected (in some way that I never did figure out) to the Roman baths. In it they had a lot of wonderful examples of early Christian iconography. This included the Chai-Ro (X-P) symbol for Christ, and a way to spell Christos in a design which doesn’t require you to lift your pen. Greg King knows how to do it, and I want to learn how.
The group went to St. Peter’s Basilica next, and I was very proud of how the Catholics have done at keeping a reverent feeling in the church. I still felt more like a tourist than a worshipper, but they did better than most (especially San Marco in Venice) at keeping a religious focus.
I have a picture of me standing on the spot where (according to tradition) Charlemagne was crowned by the Pope. Charlemagne wasn’t too happy about it, either. He had become the most powerful man in all Europe, then the Pope crowns him, which showed that he (the pope) was more important the Charlemagne.
Down the center aisle of St. Peter’s they have markers in the floor saying what size other important churches are. St. Peter’s is easily the largest Western Christian church, with St. Paul’s Cathedral in London coming second by probably 50 feet.
In St. Peter’s there is an anteroom chapel on the right side in the back. In it is a gorgeous statue by Michelangelo called the Pieta. It is a statue of Mary holding Jesus after they took him off the cross. It is absolutely elegant and beautiful, though not especially realistic to me. She looks calm and collected, though sad. I think she would show much more sadness and fear at that time.
The story goes that a very young Michelangelo carved this statue, and it was delivered one night. The next day Michelangelo was in the church, and he heard someone say that it couldn’t have been by Michelangelo. Hurt, he broke into the church that night, and carved his name into the statue, signing it. As soon as he knew what he had done, he was filled with remorse. That was the only piece of art (or at least religious art) that Michelangelo signed.
He lived at a crossroads. Someone a generation before would never have dreamed of signing their religious art because it was a gift for God. A generation after him wouldn’t have thought twice about signing the work. That is the quandary I’m in when I sing a sacred song. I love to sing them, and try to do it for God’s glory. Unfortunately, though, when I do, it’s easy for me to start singing for my own glory. I understand how Michelangelo would have felt. He wanted recognition, but wanted to give the honor all to God.
From St. Peter’s Basilica we walked through quite a bit of Rome, passing the Trevie (sp?) Fountain, which was under constructing. We finally made our way to the Pantheon, which was built in about 30 BC by Agrippa to commemorate a great victory he had won. Around 100 AD it was rebuilt and repurposed into a Christian church, easily the oldest Christian church in history.
I went inside and was hoping to sing a little bit, but that wasn’t to be—there was a play going on. It was a 20th century take on a medieval morality play, loudly amplified, and done in Italian. It was a shame, too, because I would have liked a little bit more time to go through and enjoy the solitude I was hoping to find.
We walked past another church on the way to the fountain of the Four Rivers. That particular church was dedicated to St. Louis of the French. Beyond that, I didn’t pay enough attention, I guess, but there was a beautiful painting on the wall and a beautiful organ in the back.
We finally made it to the Piazza Navonna, Dr. Wohler’s favorite place in Rome. We stopped for a few minutes there at the Fountain of the Four Rivers, none of which I could accurately name. There were street musicians in the square, and just as we were leaving they began to play my theme song on the violin and accordion. So pretty.
We all walked a ways further until we came to a bus stop. We waited for the right bus for about half an hour, and when it came it was full. But Dr. Wohlers told us to get on, so another 26 people and backpacks squeezed onto the bus. We had been warned to hide our valuables because this was the pickpocket bus (but also the bus we had to take). We all did, with the exception of Kaiti Laughlin, whose phone was stolen. On the bright side, though, she is getting an upgrade when we get back.
It’s been a lot of fun, but also a lot of art museums. ☺. I’m tired right now, and I think I’ll lay down for a while. I’ll write about our Sabbath misadventures tomorrow. I don’t know when I’ll get to post this, but when I do, I will.
Love to all!
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.