Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Some pretty crazy stuff

Well today was an extremely interesting day. The things we saw rank among some of hte most unusual we've seen during our time here in Italy so far. I'll start off with the first thing we came across this morning.

Near Piazza Barberini is a little Capuchin church called Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. In the crypt underneath the church are several chapels decorated entirely with the bones of over 1000 Capuchin monks. The bones were brought from the old friary when the monks moved, and arranged in many different macabre decorations. I apologize for the one photo, but you weren't allowed to take pictures in the crypt. I took this photo of a postcard we bought. The designs were really amazing, but this was definitely one of the craziest places we've been to in Rome.

Next we went to the church itself. In it is this beautiful painting of St. Paul being given back his sight from Ananias.

There is also this tomb of Alexander Sobieski, Prince of Poland.

After leaving the Capuchin church we headed to the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. This church has an amazing history. Its irregular floorplan and old exterior are the result of it being originally the Baths of Diocletian. It is dedicated to the Christian martyrs who slaved to build the baths. The reconstruction of the baths as a church was the work of Michelangelo, which was his last architectural project. Here is a picture of the interior church, completely transformed.

Inside the church is this magnificent organ. It was built in the 1990s and has 4 manuals, and 5,400 handmade tin pipes. The entire organ is constructed of cherry, walnut, and chestnut wood.

And now we arrive at the most striking feature of this church - its meridian line. To fully understand this a little history is needed. In 1700 Pope Clement XI commissioned the great astronomist Francesco Bianchini to build a Meridian Line within the basilica. The chief reason for this was so that an accurate means of predicting Easter could be developed. The church was chosen as the site for several reasons. First, the walls were high enough to permit a lengthly line. The walls were also old enough that they had stopped settling. And lastly, like most Roman buildings, the baths were situated facing South, to receive the full exposure of the sun. The sun enters through two pinholes high up on the walls. Here is one of them.

And this is the bronze line it forms a spot of light upon. Unfortunately this photo is kind of blurry and I don't have a better one. On the line are inscribed measurements telling the date, time of day, the lunar months, and the vernal equinox. The measurements are so precise that the time of day can be measured to within 1 second of the actual time.

Bianchini also added holes in the ceiling to view the passage of stars, and mapped out many of the stars in the sky on the floor, embedding brass stars in the marble. He also added the zodiacal constellations, also in marble. Here is the constellation Aries (Ram). Note that on the marble design are the brass stars that make up the constellation.

Here is another shot of the interior of the basilica.

In the sacristy is this huge painting on wood showing the martyrdom of the Maccabees.

In the basilica is also this painting of St. Peter and the miracle of Simon Magus the sorcerer. According to the Acts of Peter, Simon Magus tried to convince the people he was a god by levitating into the air. St. Peter prayed, and angels cast Magus down, where he died.

Here is the exterior of the basilica, looking very much like the baths that it used to be.

After leaving the basilica we stepped out into Piazza Republica, offering this slice of life in Rome.

Next was a stop at Castroni, a market of sorts that sells all kinds of specialty foods, coffes, liquors, and candies. We got coffee beans for dad and then moved on.

We stopped for lunch near the church of San Vitale. The church was built in 400, and has had interestingly enough, St. John Fisher as its Cardinal Priest.

One of the most striking features of this church was the magnificently carved wooden doors. The detail was incredible.

Inside the church are frescoes depicting the martyrdom of various Christians, including this image of St. Vitale being buried alive.
Next we wrapped around towards the Vittorio Emmanuele monument, coming out of this little alley to view Trajan's column.
An interesting shop we stopped at was this neon sign shop. We were really interested in how they were made, and actually knew a lot of what was going on, since we had seen a TV program on how they are made. The fellow was very nice and let us watch him work for a bit, then we moved on.
We stopped for some fruit in this piazza and....watched a genuine Italian waterfight. Someone splashed someone with water from the fountain, some others got into it and before you knew it they were all soaked.
Eventually several kids got tossed into the fountain including this girl.

Next we went to the church of St. Peter in Chains. Here is a shot of the interior. The church was built in the 5th century and has undergone several restorations.

Inside are the chains that bound St. Peter in the Mammertine Prison.

Here is a shot of the high altar. Nearby in the church is the tomb of Red Hugh O'Neill, first Earl of Tyrone.
The church also houses Michelangelo's Moses, the tomb of Julius II.

Lastly, there was this huge painting of the angel awakening St. Peter for his escape from prison.


DelGrosso said...

It is just amazing the sites you share with us Anthony. We cannot thank you enough for giving us a glimpse of all that lay before you.

Marcia Klingensmith said...

This is a fascinating blog. It's great to see so much history! Were those real skulls on the wall? I wonder why they did that.
Keep up wthe good work!

Aggie said...

the skull decorating was something else ... weird. St. Peter in Chains organ is huge, do you think they will let Theodore play it when he's there.