We fought the crowds this morning at San Pietro. Wednesday is usually when the Pope will receive petitioners for an audience. We submitted a petition request, but were denied (I don’t know why). The Piazza was packed as people from all walks of life (those whose petitions were accepted, that is) dutifully filed through Bernini’s colonnade, metal detectors and the hosts of Swiss guards and papal security. This was being covered by a motley crew of press and news outlets and agencies – many of whom have set up shop just beyond the Piazza and as far down as the Castel Sant’Angelo. Mussolini plowed a straight road from San Pietro towards the Castel (now the Via De Conciliazione) and as such, cameras have an uninterrupted line of sight – straight as an arrow – to the Basilica. The piazza is going to get even busier in the days ahead – it’s building already – as Conclave 2013 draws nearer. More screens have been set up to broadcast Mass and other events and the press are digging in; they’ve set up interview stages, news booths and have roving reporters canvassing the crowds. I saw a hapless British family being rigorously interviewed today by Canal+.
It was against this backdrop that we bullied (Minnesota nice-ishly) through the crowds, along the Vatican wall to the Museum entrances along the North wall. We picked up our tickets online but had to pay cash (The Vatican doesn’t accept my University Purchasing Card – or any credit card for that matter), and finally got in. For those of you who haven’t been to Rome and the Vatican, the Catholic Church has an unbelievable collection – there are rooms and museums within museums – devoted to animal sculpture, ancient sculpture, egyptology, etruscan art, ethnographic collections, stamps… you name it. These are in rooms and corridors designed by the usual suspects – Bramante, Da Cortona… set against some of the greatest works of classical antiquity, the medieval age, the Renaissance and the modern era- the Belvedere Apollo and Torso, Laocoön, The River Arno, Dalis, Chagals, Roualts, Matisses….
There’s also the Stanza of Raphael and a little chapel by a painter from Caprese, near Florence – where we’re heading tomorrow.
Raphael’s School of Athens
Restoration-in-progress in one of the Borgia Apartments
The Apollo Belvedere
The Belvedere Torso
A bust of Hadrian
The stairway to the Stanza of Raphael
A small part of the Vatican gardens
The ceiling in the Hall of Constantine
The River Arno