Of all the art I saw in Italy, Michelangelo’s David was my favorite. I never realized before how it tells a story: It’s David right before he throws the stone at the giant Goliath. David’s face, looking up at the giant, is vulnerable and contemplative, but his hand holding the stone is large and powerful, indicating the power of God that would guide the stone to Goliath’s forehead. It’s touching and powerful and absolutely beautiful.

Michelangelo was 24 when he made the David. When I was 24, I could barely handle writing an article about health care insurance.

We also saw Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museum. The line to get in was insane, but it went pretty fast.

Inside, you go through seemingly endless rooms with painted ceilings and walls, each more fabulous than the last. At last, you see the Sistine Chapel. The walls and ceiling tell the entire story of the Bible from Creation to Judgment Day, all done in exquisite detail. We spent so much time in there staring at the ceiling, my neck hurt when we left.

Me in the Vatican Museum

Then there was Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, which holds Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Primavera. While we both liked Botticelli, we got tired of looking at painting of Madonnas after awhile. In some ways, it’s too bad they don’t leave the religious art in the churches where they have more context.

Statue outside the Uffizi, shot through the rain

But even though much of the art has been removed from the churches, they still act as museums. In one Florence church, we looked at the graves of Galileo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli, among other famous Italians. Both Florence and Siena have gorgeous churches with green, black, white, and pink marble on the outside. I was obsessed with the church in Florence — I took 30 pictures of it. Here’s the side of it.

Kyle and I looked at a lot of statues. Many of them were over 2000 years old. The National Museum of Rome was particularly good. The statues were organized into each era so that you can walk through the rise and fall of the empire. There were statues salvaged from a sunken ship, statues of gods, and countless busts of emperors.

Me looking at a bronze statue in the National Museum.

We also saw the Modern Art Museum in Rome, which has what passes for Italian Impressionist art, but also some anti-Nazi propaganda, a Van Gogh, and a Klimt. Outside, they were filming a movie, and I watched them repeatedly shoot a scene with an old lady crossing the street with a dog.

One the highlights of the trip for me was seeing the Keats museum. The 25-year-old poet, who was dying of tuberculosis, came to Italy in the hopes that the dryer weather would prolong his life. He wrote Ode to a Grecian Urn and other poems in the house, and then died a painful death in a small room overlooking the Spanish Steps.

The museum is run by a 20-something American woman who gives one mean lecture. It has Keats’s death mask, original letters, and parts of his body–hair, ashes, etc.

View from Keats’s window.

And of course, there was St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest Christian church in the world. It’s so big you could put Notre Dame inside of it. It’s built where St. Peter was crucified and the Pope gives all his important speeches (sermons?) there. Inside, Michelangelo’s Pieta sits behind bulletproof glass.

But for all that, we weren’t impressed. The church was cold, like a big mausoleum. No one was worshipping or praying–they were all taking pictures. And the Pope wasn’t even there to say howdy!

Graffiti near the Vatican

Part I: Ancient Rome

Part II: Italian Culture

Part III: Art and God

Part IV: Florence and Siena

2 thoughts on “Italy Part III — Art and God

  1. leona

    I like that orange shirt you’re wearing in the picture with the bronze statue. 🙂

  2. […] Part III: Art and God […]

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