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  • Dr. Susan Skinner

"Angels Unawares"

We have the weekend off from our Lasallian program so I took advantage of the time and toured the Vatican Museums (yes, there's more than one),The Sistine Chapel (which apparently Justin Bieber thought was called the Sixteenth Chapel) and St Peter's Basilica (which contrary to my original belief is NOT about the size of the Cathedral in St. Paul).


Our group hired a guide, who is a local Catholic historian, to lead us through the day. He did a great job, his name is Giuseppe, what a great Italian name! He said we could call him Joe but I thought that would just ruin the ambiance. His picture is below - he's the guy in the red shirt and green lanyard. He grew up in southern Italy and from the time he was eight years old he said he wanted to be the Pope! Didn't work out quite so well since he's happily married, but he gets to see the Pope on a fairly regular basis.


We started out in the Vatican Museum that has all the sculptures. I have never seen so many sculptures in one place. We kept walking and at every turn you would see more sculptures. Apparently there are so many pieces of art in the Vatican Museums that if you stood in front of each one for just five minutes, it would take you over six years. We did the short version and spent maybe two hours in the museums. I'll post some of the pictures I took and you can see if you recognize anything - I have to be honest, I didn't! If I didn't have Giuseppe explaining things I would have been lost.


I need to get to sleep because we are going to Mass tomorrow - and Pope Francis is presiding (insert FREAKING OUT noise here!). Yes, I'm super excited. But as I was saying, I need to get to sleep and it would take me forever to write about everything I saw today so I'll just pick three things to write about.


First is "Raphael's Room", which is actually four rooms. This is where I saw a fresco painted by Raphael (no, not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle) called "The School of Athens" - you might recognize it from an old Art History class. It was painted between 1509-1511. The painting symbolizes the marriage of art, philosophy and science which was so much a part of the Renaissance period. Pope Julius II asked Raphael to create it and he was working on it at the same time that Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel. In the painting, the guy in the middle under the arched door, with a red robe, white hair and a beard is Plato. Apparently Raphael made Plato's face look just like the real Leonardo Da Vinci...and then the guy in the foreground, looking kinda pouty, writing on a block is Heraclitus and Raphael made his face look like the real Michelangelo. Who knew!


After we went through the museums, we entered the Sistine Chapel. There was quite a bit of prep work to be done before entering. First, no one is allowed to talk in the Sistine Chapel so Giuseppe explained a lot of different things about the artwork to us before we entered. He also told us that we could not take pictures in the Chapel and that we would get in trouble with the guards if we did, and they would throw us out. Then to get there we had to go down four flights of stairs and cross through one of the old, very old, papal apartments and then go back up four flights of stairs.


As you can guess, the Sistine Chapel was spectacular. It was smaller than I had imagined and it was a little overwhelming in the sense that there was just so much to take in. My favorite part of the fresco on the ceiling was the one where God and Adam are reaching out toward each other, almost touching but not actually touching. This particular part is called "The Creation of Adam".


There were a lot of people in the Chapel and they were kinda starting to whisper and such, and then it got louder. I of course, being a rule follower, was totally silent - not talking at all. It was pretty funny when all of a sudden one of the guards yelled out "Silenzio" - super loud and rather mean-like. Of course everybody stopped talking and the place fell totally quiet - that's when I started to get the giggles. It just struck me as really funny. I held it together so as not to get thrown out, but I have to admit I won't be able to think of the Sistine Chapel without thinking of "Silenzio"!


So Raphael's "School of Athens" fresco, Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" in the Sistine Chapel and now for my third piece of art that caught my attention today.


"Angels Unawares" is a sculpture that Pope Francis just had installed in St. Peter's Square about a month ago. It's the first time a sculpture has been installed in St. Peter's Square since Bernini, who did the huge colonnades that surround the square. This new sculpture, created by Timothy Schmalz from Canada, represents refugees and migrants from different times and places. It's 140 people crowded into a boat. The number was purposefully picked to match the number of saints on the colonnades that surround St. Peter's Square, and the different people in the boat show a variety of different human emotions. You can tell that they come from different places and times. The artist said that the title and theme is based on the passage from Hebrews that says, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: For thereby some have entertained angels unawares."


This new sculpture looked a little out of place after just having been through the museums, the Sistine Chapel and even just standing there in St. Peter's Square. I think that's probably what the Pope wanted - something to get our attention and remind us of our Catholic obligation to help those who are most vulnerable. I'm going to go back to see the sculpture tomorrow. It's like nothing I've ever seen before and I want to spend a little more time contemplating the meaning, especially since Pope Francis thought it important enough to put in such a noticeable place.


What a day, I'm exhausted! I'll post this along with the pictures, but the pictures won't be labeled yet. Thanks for hanging in there on this long post!





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About Me

"There are two ways to see the world, one is as if there are no miracles, the other is as if everything is a miracle." This is one of my favorite quotes, its attributed to Albert Einstein.   This is the kind of thing I care about, having the eyes of faith has enriched my life in so many ways! 

 

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