Sunday, August 12, 2007

He's Back!

I'm back from overseas, having stayed in Italy for a few days following the meeting cruise. We spent a couple of extra days in Venice, and then took the train to Rome for the rest of our stay, with a little side trip to Pompeii at the end. That was my favorite part of the whole trip.

One of the most macabre sights I have ever seen was to be found on the main street of Rome, Via Veneto. The Capuchin Friars have a church with an indoor cemetery sitting right next to hotels and restaurants. But this is no ordinary cemetary. Here is the description of just one of the rooms:

Crypt of the leg bones and thigh bones

The side walls each have four niches occupied by a Capuchin, standing and vested in the habit. Along the rear wall, the central block is a richly imaginative composition: up above, a cross enclosed in a circle; underneath, the Franciscan coat-of-arms: Christ's bare arm crossing the clothed arm of St Francis, surmounted by a crown of vertebrae. In the ground, 18 crosses mark the graves of various friars. The central oval frame in the vault contains an arrangement of jawbones decorated with vertebrae and, on either side, two large flowers made of shoulder-blades, with hangings of vertebrae. The corridor vault has three eight-pointed stars, a massive lantern hanging from the central one.

I have borrowed a photo from the Capuchin's website since they allowed no photography within the crypts. When they say "coat-of-arms", they really mean it.

More photos can be found on the website of someone who took some "forbidden pictures"....

At the Vatican we saw the usual stuff, including the cleaner, brighter paintings of the Sistine Chapel, and the innumerable works of art within the Vatican Museum. There is a relatively new tour of the excavations beneath St. Peters, which include a necropolis from before the time of Jesus, and possibly the tomb of St. Peter himself.

I had one particularly unusual experience. Upon first meeting our guide for the Vatican, he looked at me rather strangely. I thought perhaps that he had read my blog, but he didn't seem the radiological type. As we entered the museum, he apologized for starting, and said, "you are about to see yourself inside..." It seems that I bear a striking resemblance to the portrait of the Roman Emperor Hadrian:

Yup, maybe I'm the reincarnation of Hadrian, who wasn't a particularly nice guy. That would certainly go along with a lot of opinions, wouldn't it? Oh, well. Veni, vidi, vici, right?

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