“o magnum mysterium”

7/1/10   –   20:49

Today was Vatican day! For those of you who may not know, the Vatican is the seat of the Roman Catholic faith and as such, it’s where the pope lives and has just about the largest church in the world. Now why was I excited to go there? Am I a Catholic? It’s sort of murky territory. Catholicism is my hidden-in-the-background, glad it’s there, but not really fervent faith. My religion as stated on facebook is: “non-practicing catholic”. This is because I do appreciate the structure, but I never go to church. My parents were raised Catholic and I was baptized in the faith but they sort of stopped before my first communion. [This will have repercussions later in the entry.] But yeah. I believe in God and praying to saints and the Virgin Mary and what-not. But I don’t participate much in organized worship through the church. And now that you have that background, we can start the day in the Vatican. Wait. We have to leave the hostel first.

I had hand-washed a pair of jeans and a shirt last night, but I got up so early that they hadn’t dried yet. Yeah. So I found another shirt and had to put wet pants on and wait for the noon-time sun to dry them off. It was pretty uncomfortable, but people have endured much more grueling trials in the name of the Lord.

Halfway to the bus stop, I checked my camera and realized I had forgoten my SD card. Today was not a day to forget your memory card. So I ended up being late for the 9 AM mass [due to horribly slow Roman rush hour traffic]. I got to hang around St. Peter’s square for a bit until my reservation time for the Vatican Museums. I went browsing in the souvenir shops and I feel like the Vatican shouldn’t be selling shot glasses or beer mugs. But there they are.

My reservation for the Vatican Museums was for 11:30, but I tried to get in earlier when I saw the line for people that didn’t have tickets. It stretched all the way from the entrance, along the Vatican wall for almost three quarters of a mile, I’d estimate. I hear sometimes people wait for two hours to get a ticket. Thank the lord for reservations. The Vatican, as a treasury of religious and classical art is among the most amazing ever. The power that the church wielded since Constantine made Christianity legal was hefty and as such, they’ve been hoarding and commissioning art for centuries. The museums are the culmination of that practice. I took a lot of pictures of the works I’d seen in my Art History book, including one with my favorite, the Laocoon group. The Sistine chapel by Michelangelo at the end of the museum is pretty ridic. You’re not allowed to take phots, but I ninja’d a couple of covert ones. Bottom line, the works were beautiful, but the crowds made it hot and unbearable. I’d have to say overall, I still liked Madrid’s Prado more.

The Sistine chapel exits straight into St. Peter’s Basilica. Upon entrance into the tallest building in Rome [?], it immediately elicited an “Oh my God.” from me, which is basically the response they were going for, I guess. It’s just a beautiful amalgam of marble, granite, gold, glass, and light. Bernini did a lot of the work here too and the baroque really shows. The baroque style was meant to strike awe into the viewer and this entire basilica does just that. It can house 60,000 standing worshippers.

After my first look at the basilica, I checked the times for mass and there was one at 5 PM so I went to Campo dei Fiori, which is a nearby open-air market, and then back to the Pantheon andPiazza Navona for some panini[?] Idk, it was a sandwich of some sort, and either way, it was delicious. At 4, I headed back to St. Peter’s and this time, had to wait in line to get in. It wasn’t too bad, I was in St. Peter’s square for around 25 minutes until I got in, about 10 minutes to 5.

During masses, they only let worshippers into the altar at the back of the church and I sat down in one of the pews. The mass was all in Latin and Italian so I could only understand bits and pieces of it, but the music. The power of music, especially liturgical music, is immense. If you listened to the song I posted at the top of the page, I think you’ll understand what I mean. Even if I didn’t understand what was being said [like the illiterate peasants of the Middle Ages/Renaissance], the music would convey the meaning. But yeah. As bad a rap as Catholicism gets these days, It really has done a lot in the way of art and aesthetics as far as music and sculpture go. I sat through mass and because I haven’t taken First Communion officially yet,  I sat that part out. I think I was the only person there that didn’t partake, but I think it would be wrong without the official ceremony.

After being spiritually refreshed, I needed to be physically refreshed so I went to the first place where I got gelato and tried something new. Gelato continues to be the most amazing thing invented but the Italians just keep finding new flavors. My second combination was not quite as spectacular as lemon-mango, but it was one scoop of lemon, and one scoop of. Get this. peach basil. Amazingly, it was quite delicious. I want to try recreating peach basil when I get home. Innovation! Who knew those two would go so well together?

I got back to the hostel pretty early because I was exhausted, so I spent a lot of time updating this blog, and lounging about. Finally, I got around to hand-washing my laundry. If Hurricane Wilma didn’t happen and my power didn’t go out for two weeks, I wouldn’t know how to handwash my clothing. Yurr. So I hung it up outside my little cottage thingamabob and got into bed. Ostia Antica on the morrow!

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