Friday, May 23, 2008

other prize winning basilica facades

Just had to include three more favorite basilicas--before blasting you with marvelous bell towers.

First is Pisa's facade which takes the prize for most columns. And the baptistry and tower are coordinated! Columns are the dominant feature and all three structures were designed as synchronized whole. Sounds vaguely Leonardo-esque, doesn't it?

Then St Mark's in Venice--as you see, it is under renovation. But for flair and presentation, it is phenomenal. The wild assortment of decorations, statues, mosaics, and gargoyles remind one of the on-going Carnival atmosphere that Venice evokes. Picture the cathedral at one end of a huge square in which hundreds of people are feeding doves, others are drinking cafe, and a small stringed ensemble is playing classical music.

Milan is the cathedral of spires. I suppose they have been counted, but I have no clue how many there are. Seems there isn't a spot available that doesn't have one reaching up. Again, you see scaffolding: most cathedrals we saw were being cleaned or renovated. That is encouraging to someone who lives in Africa where buildings are just supposed to fall down and then be replaced.

Next time, I'll show you some bell towers and you'll see that Pisa's is leaning as much as ever.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Basilica facades--our favorites

Basilicas were the spiritual centers of the medieval times which means they were the architectural zeniths of their cities. Here are some of the most inspiring, creative and mind-boggling of the many which we saw. In a later blog I hope to share with you some of the wide variety of campaniles we also saw. Normally each basilica consisted of a cathedral, a baptistry and a bell tower.

Florence had three marvelous basilica facades: Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce and Santa Maria del Fiore which was also the base for the Roman church there.

Santa Maria Novella

Santa Croce

Santa Maria del Fiore

Orvieto's facade is known as the jewel of Europe. We were fortunate to be there as the setting sun shone its rays on the gold mosaic of the ornamentation. Can you see the small statues symbolic of the four evangelists above/between the doors?

More next time.

Friday, May 9, 2008

pictures do it better

In front of St Peter's Basilica, which is the most lavish and incredible cathedral imaginable--with an entrance line stretching several hundred meters--are several impressive fountains. That is where we see Bell, Jess and Luke. Inside, the photos are dim, the atmosphere medieval, the saints in the chapel pictures are shadowy, sculpture is large and looming from the most unlikely places. Time and again Bell and I would stand before a statue trying to guess who the saint or angel was. It would be weeks before we felt familiar enough with their symbols to know Jerome had a lion and a red hat, Peter has keys, Mark a winged lion, Augustine a bishop's hat, Catherine a martyr's palm and the Magdalene was for the most part blonde.

By the time we arrived in Venice, we were feeling comfortable walking on ageless marble floors with stairs worn away by many pilgrim feet. Mosaics and frescoes had meanings and some of the simpler ones we actually knew. Venice appeals because its very infrastructure defies modern transport. (Except for jolly boats, of course.) Large paving stones all over the island are occasionally dug up by various plumbing/maintenance personnel who fix whatever has leaked underneath and then replace them as before. Most efficient and time-saving. My favorite item in Venice is the "bridge." A city of multiple islands and canals needs lots of bridges and each one in Venice is unique and artful.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Pleasant Inns

"Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home."

One of my favorite quotations by CSL in The Problem of Pain. It is so true that He delights in giving us respite from some of the frustrations of a temporal life on planet earth--but for the most part, this is where we live. We try (maybe I should say "I try") so hard to get comfortable in this life. By nature I am a nester. I like living in a homey place, with ambience. I hang things on the walls and rearrange furniture. (You can ask Phil about that.)

But it is all a yearning for "home"--that elusive thing for which we were created. The house with many mansions inside. What an image. Home is where we long to be at the end of a wearing day. There is no place like it. I thought it would be good to share some pictures of a few of the homes we enjoyed in Italy. The pink courtyard is inside the apartment building we lived in in Rome. A friendly, fat, black and white cat welcomed us back at the end of our forays each day. The tall, extremely narrow pink hotel (one room wide) is the unique hotel we stayed in in Genoa. We stayed in the Holiday Inn in Milan where a complimentary breakfast costs 15 euros. Luke and Bell stand before the front door of the sagging building in Venice where we climbed crooked stairs and slid across slanted floors. Each place had its appeal--the apartments moreso than the hotels.

Funny enough, as we trekked around each city, when we came to the end of the day, we said, "Let's go home," each resting place of our suitcases honored with the title "home." For pilgrims, I guess home is carried in your heart and where you rest at day's end.

Now we are home in Africa and contemplating the variety of homes we enjoyed in Europe. But looking forward to the home with our Father beside which all others pale.