We walked, we saw, we churched
These blog posts need to happen more frequently because too much happens in just one week. Since my last post I have spent almost no time in a classroom and have, instead, been bombarded with art history gold.
I’m officially designating the last week and a half of class “the church days” as our lessons have become heavily focused on the major transitions in Christianity. We’ve crossed about 12 centuries in our visits to Santa Costanza, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Pudenziana, Il Gesu, Chiesa Nuova, Santa Maria in Trastevere, and St. Cecilia. Even though early Christianity is not exactly my forte, I appreciated seeing the rocky evolution from paganism to a full-blown Christian church. I believe Santa Costanza is the oldest Christian site we will be visiting in the whole course as the 4th century mausoleum of Constantine’s daughter, Constantina, who still held onto some antiquity ideals in her own beliefs.
As a result of studying the continuous motif of the god of wine in the decoration, I have acquired a new favorite word: Bacchic.
Beyond the world of flat Christian mosaic apses with gold backgrounds of the Santa Marias lies the result of the counter-Reformation. Il Gesu and Chiesa Nuova, as results of this movement, demonstrated a shift to opening up for more people of all faiths and blah, blah, blah. But even better, they provided some incredible Baroque decoration later added to the originally plain designs. Even the Stefano Maderno statue of St. Cecilia was an artistic breath of fresh air in its awesome composition of having the saint lie face down to show off the wound on her neck where they tried to cut off her head (and failed to do so before she bled out for three days). Even though the timeline of the course is forced to jump around a little bit due to scheduling site trips around limited exhibitions and such, we are definitely moving more toward the really good stuff of late Renaissance and the Baroque.
Despite the fun that’s automatically included in the classes, the professors, who are obvious foodies, had a renowned chef give us a tour of the market next to the Rome Center and prepare a private dinner for us. My stomach is still speechless. The food was so simple, like most Italian recipes, and just pure deliciousness. I was introduced to the Italian version of broccoli, which is similar looking, except rounder, lime green, and with fur patches. But it was also nice to just sit around the professors’ apartment with the whole class and talk about experiences we’ve all had on our own.
Just for the art lovers: it was culture week in Rome so museums were supposedly free. Some of us decided to explore the modern art of the Macro museum for an antiquity break. I’m going to go ahead and skip the descriptions of some of the weirdest and lewdest contemporary art and tell you about the coolest building ever. Imagine a funhouse for adults filled with bad art. My favorite part was the bathroom from another universe, which changed colors when you washed your hands.
As art history majors, we stupidly thought we had the capability to do two massive museums in one day, which we did at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and the Capitoline Museum. I cherished the Impressionist exhibition at the former, as it is my favorite art period, and was introduced to my first Cezanne and several Monets and Reniors. But the best part was my first Van Gogh, who just so happens to be my favorite artist whose artwork I’ve never seen in person. This was completely worth the ten Euros (culture week is a crock) to get into the museum. However, somewhere in between the avant-garde Russian exhibition and the history of currency exhibition, our museum fatigue began to set in. We still trekked on to Capitoline Hill, a.k.a. the two buildings full of marble that also had an entrance fee (complete crock). A return is definitely on the to-do list because two museums in one day is just stupid.
I’m going to advance a plea of don’t judge before I admit the following: I went to the Hard Rock Café Roma. I couldn’t take it anymore; a cheeseburger was absolutely necessary and I have no regrets. Wait, I take that back – I’ve should’ve worn my stretchy Thanksgiving pants so that I could have eaten more. Good Italian beef is non-existent because cows are not raised here to be beef cows. It could have been my burger deprivation, but I’m almost positive this beef was imported because I zoned-out into my happy place with each bite.
But the beauty of Rome can only last so long before the dark cloud of a midterm must come. For my own sanity, I will not dwell on this unsightly detail except to say walking around an ancient city is the greatest study tactic ever. And what were even better were our unwinding activities of gelato, of course, and touring the most magical botanical gardens next to my apartment.
Up next: experiencing the holy week of Easter in the seat of Catholicism. Wish me luck!