Categories
Italy Uncategorized

Time to spare in Bologna, Italy is a good thing

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The Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita is the copper dome in the foreground. This photo was taken by the photographer from the imposing Basilica di San Petronio a few blocks away. | Ввласенко [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Missing a Renaissance masterpiece isn’t

One Saturday last June my daughter and I wandered into the Church of Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna, Italy.  We were killing time as we waited to meet friends (my daughter’s Italian language tutor, actually) for lunch and a quick tour of the public library before heading back to Venice.

That morning, after arriving by train from Venice, we had savored cappuccini and croissants  and then toured the main attraction in Bologna, the Basilica de San Petronio. We spent about an hour there marvelling at the centuries-old church with the unusual brick and stone facade. Plan to read a future post on that experience soon, but here’s a taste.

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Basilica de San Petronio | Photo: M. Yung

We had also explored the Piazza Maggiore with its beautiful Fountain of Neptune and saw the city “square” rigged and ready with row upon row of temporary seating for hundreds plus a huge movie screen. Among other movies, Gone with the Wind was on the menu at some time during the summer season. How fun would that be?!

In our hour or two of free time, we also strolled down beautiful loggia-lined avenues. Eventually, we happened upon a church, the Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita.

It’s the copper-domed church in the large photo at the top of this post. While it’s quite a standout in a Bologna skyline photo, at street level it’s easy to miss. Tall buildings and narrow streets together conceal your vision of things in the upper reaches.

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Bologna, Italy | Photo: M. Yung

It was a warm and achingly brilliant sunny day. Taking a short break in a quiet place of worship enticed us to escape the Italian noonday rays.

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Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita | The architect Giovanni Battista Bergonzoni designed the church. It was built between 1687-1690.

Inside, sounds of the street faded to a cavernous quiet. The majesty and somber tone of the interior both cooled and stunned me.

The soothing soft green interior wall colors caught our attentions first. The ornate Baroque stylings caught our attentions second. The dome, completed in 1787 and designed by architect  Giuseppe Tubertini, was beautiful as well.

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But if only I had Googled to see what more this structure had to reveal.

Because here’s what we didn’t see: Lamentation Over the Dead Christ by Niccolò dell’Arca (1435-1494). Italy Magazine describes the work as “A life-size group of six separate terracotta  figures lamenting in a semicircle around the dead Christ.”

I stumbled upon this sculpture as I was researching the church and I still can’t believe that I was in this very building and missed this very powerful example of Renaissance art.

I can’t get over the expressions on the faces.

Terror. Despair. Uncontrollable grief. 

Truth be told, I often feel detached from historical art. The expressions are often glum and sullen, especially in depictions of Jesus Christ and the suffering he endured on the cross. That goes, too, for the the emotional suffering of those nearby who loved him. Sometimes it’s just hard to identify.

With Arca’s work, however, the emotions of the figures are real and painfully so. I understand that kind of hurt and sorrow and panic. We see humans in painful grief daily on the news and in our modern media. To think that an Italian Renaissance artist was able to capture it accurately — in terra cotta — six hundred years ago — baffles my small mind.

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Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, by Joyofmuseums [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Words are not needed in the picture below. The emotion is palpable and horrible.

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And on that note, I’ll close this post with this final thought: When travelling, it’s a good thing to have time to spare. However, once you arrive home, it’s heart-breaking to discover something wonderful that you missed.

Lesson learned: Next time, slow down, google it, and learn what more there is right in front of you.


Thanks for reading! Follow my blog for more posts about the details in travel far and wide.

Categories
Greece (Athens, Delphi)

Need a new perspective on Ancient Greece?

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This plaque has Acts 17:22-31 inscribed in Greek. The scripture appears later in this post.

The Areopagus in Athens puts Ancient Greece in its proper perspective

This morning, we walked through Athens to the Areopagus, the location of a judicial

court, where Paul made his “To an Unknown God” sermon to the Athenians with—wait for it— the Acropolis in the background with its temples to Athena, Poseidon, Erechtheus and  other mythological deities of Ancient Greece.
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The Acropolis is right there! Paul was pretty daring in his speech to those gathered. Notice the procession of tourists creeping up the steps of the Propylaea, the entry staircase to the Acropolis and its monuments. And yes, that is graffiti on the rock in the picture. There is graffiti everywhere. Some of it is artful, but much of it is mere vandalism.
How fitting that we saw this on our last day in Greece. Walking on the rocky (and extremely slippery) outcropping where Paul would have stood is a highlight of our trip. This spot puts all the pagan monuments and temples that we’ve seen in their proper perspective. Yes, they are beautiful works made by man, but they are worthless in the eyes of God.
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The rocky outcropping is expansive with incredible views of Athens below. I would tell you to wear good shoes, but even good shoes will slip on the time-worn marble. Everyone was sliding around, grabbing onto each other, scooting down on their rear ends. There are metal stairs, but even those are slick. 

Acts 17:22-31 

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a]As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.

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Our last day in Greece! Our plane leaves at 6 a.m. tomorrow!

Thanks for reading and for joining me on our trip to Greece! I have only missed a handful of daily postings during the time we’ve been here. Writing and posting daily was one of my goals, and I feel positive about my progress. Follow my blog for more stories and travel memoirs that I will be writing in the coming weeks. I have so much more to share! 

Are you traveling anywhere over the summer months? Leave a comment with your plans or a link to your blog!