I decided to connect a few liturgical art dots, walking from church to church. My first stop was St Agostino. I came for the famous Caravaggios, I stayed for Monica. St Augustine’s mamma didn’t kneel as she fervently prayed for her son’s conversion, she stretched flat out on the floor of the nave She was all in. Though his bones are interred elsewhere, she is buried here. Little do my children know how often I thought of Monica, stretched out on the cold stones of the church floor leaking tears. She seemed like a kindred spirit, one who would understand what it was like to be under fire deep in the trenches of motherhood, praying for courage, strength, and patience.
There was a sculpture of Madonna who has been elected to handle infertility issues. Witness those pinned offerings of it’s a boy/it’s a girl ribbons, testaments to answered prayers. Blatant tokens of maternal victory, or expressions of gratitude? My brain thinks they are cheesy but my heart approves.
I’ve learned on this visit to Rome that it’s not just the church, it’s the chapel that stops me in my tracks and that I’ll remember. I’d visited S Maria della Pace before and never noticed the masterful frescoes of Adam and Eve, before and after Eden, in the arch above.
Nor these figures, reclining on sarcophagi supported by sphinxes. I give you Mr and Mrs Eternal Rest.
I found the Sant’Agnese in Agone church but the marble sculpture I was seeking by Bernini was nowhere to be found. I wonder if they are not connected, the sculpture and the church. Piazza Navonna is much like I remember, bustling with hustlers and the ghost of weddings past, with passersby calling out ‘Auguri!’ to the perambulating newlyweds.
I’d chosen another RomeWalks, and found myself in the Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi. They went a little crazy with the marble, which makes perfect visual sense to me after my journey to Lisbon two years ago. Being in the pews you’re surrounded above and below and from every point of the compass with visual splendor. Sometimes every sense is engaged; the cool even temperature, traces of incense steeped in the wood and marble, recording of liturgical music, or, like the other day, organ practice. Is not only visually rich, there’s an emotional impact. The feeling I have in those moments is how Holly Golightly describes being in Tiffanys. “It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there…”
I’ll say again that I love Anya Shetterly’s wise, informed, and cultured commentary and her egoless decision to let a professional do the interstitial parts of the audio. Yes, it’s old and you’ll have to hunt it down on the internet, but it will be worth it.
This unprepossessing facade is the church that housed the order of clergy who took it upon themselves to pray for the souls of the condemned on their way to the scaffold. When an execution was scheduled, they’d put a sign up outside this very door that promised a plenary indulgence for everyone who prayed for the soon to be departed soul.
Here’s another tip for the visitor; never eat in a place where you think, huh – cute. Good food does not do cute in Rome. They do barely visible virtually anonymous, and blend in. Let that be a lesson to me. Lured in by that adorable artichoke tree outside, I had a memorably bad meal at this place. Greasy, mushy, flavorless. Do your homework, and don’t get distracted by cute. I haven’t had a bad meal at places recommended by bloggers Katie Parla and Elisabeth Minnchilli
I’ll save any hardcore shopping for my last few days. I was beat by the time I limped into the hotel. Any day I go over five miles, I feel it. I took it easy, and started drawing more postcards to send. That’s the good that came out of my stamp mishap. I was inspired to draw all evening long. Nothing wrong with that. I did four versions of La Fornarina because I adore her, and then I branched out. Those will be correctly stamped and mailed. I wish I had a record of which ones were trashed, but I really have not a clue. Maybe someone in the Italian postal service will notice them, have a heart and stuff them in the right boxes.