Monday, September 1, 2008

A cloud of witnesses

I took a taxi from Roma Termini to the hotel. Have you heard all of those tired clichés about Roman taxi drivers? Every one of them is true. It’s best to just close your eyes until you get to your destination.

After checking in at my Rome hotel, I decided to head for Saint Peter’s Basilica. Although the hotel blurb said it was only “minutes” away, this turned out to mean about 30 minutes. It is hot in Rome, much hotter than northern Italy, so I was sweating when I approached Saint Peter’s Square. Here is my first glimpse.
I entered the Square. Of course, it isn’t square at all, and is surrounded by a circle of massive pillars, three deep, with Saint Peter’s Basilica at its head. The colonnade is surmounted by the statues of hundreds of saints, and the eye follows them to the church itself. The effect is of being embraced. You are literally surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.

After going through security, I entered the Basilica itself. The effect of the inside is hard to describe. At a first viewing, it is too much to take in. It seems that every surface and corner is a piece of art. The focus of the church is the High Altar underneath its Baroque canopy, and behind this is the stained glass window of the Holy Spirit, beneath which is the Chair of Peter.

After spending an hour exploring the Basilica, decided not to take any photos today. Not because there is nothing to photograph, but because everything seems worth photographing. I need to think about this. Time to go back to the hotel for a Spartan meal and an early night.

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