Monday, March 13, 2006

A little bit of Rome...

The following from one of Amy Welborn's posts about her recent visit to Rome inspired me to visit the Basilica of Santa Croce yesterday:
The church is run by Cistercians, one of whom was staffing the table on the way to the relic chapel, as well to a special art exhibit briefly described here and guarded by two police officers who rather indifferently paced the single small hall and, as we'd come to expect, made faces at the baby. The brother or father was lovely - a German who spoke English with a British accent, and who delighted Joseph by saying that his name, too, was Joseph, and then later, that his baptismal name was Michael. The exhibit was, as I said, small and sort of odd - Perhaps 15-so pieces, including some paintings, some vestments and a reliquary or two. I could not quite see the connections between the pieces, and the explanatory placard was in Italian. What did interest me was the van Dyck crucifixion painting in which Jesus bled slightly from his nose and even, it seemed, from his eyes, as well as the Caravaggio martyrdom of St. Agapito which focused on the moment of decapitation, close up and personal.
It turns out that the exhibition is essentially a collection of pieces from the sacristies of various Roman Churches. (Never turn down the opportunity to visit a Roman sacristy... it's often as impressive as most churches elsewhere.) The van Dyck crucifixion (does anyone have an on-line im age?) is from the sacristy of San Marcello al Corso is indeed fascinating. Not only does it depict Christ bleeding from his nose, but it appears to be a Jansenist-style Crucifixion. Instead of Christ's arms being stretched out broadly on the arms of the cross, they are shown much closer together so that Christ hangs almost vertically from them. This is said to convey the very restriced nature of Christ's salvific act according to the severe Jansenist theology.
Also there from the sacristy of S. Martino ai Monti was a reliquary containing what is said to be the Mitre of Pope St Sylvester. It's a old, small, mitre-shaped cap made of an embroidered green fabric.
The exhibition is worth a visit and remains open until March 19th.

I then strolled to the Lateran, and snapped the above shot (click to enlarge) of the statue of St Francis also mentioned in Amy's post. Note how he appears to be supporting the facade of the basilica. This is in reference to the following incident from the life of St Francis:
Francis was a man of action. His simplicity of life extended to ideas and deeds. If there was a simple way, no matter how impossible it seemed, Francis would take it. So when Francis wanted approval for his brotherhood, he went straight to Rome to see Pope Innocent III. You can imagine what the pope thought when this beggar approached him! As a matter of fact he threw Francis out. But when he had a dream that this tiny man in rags held up the tilting Lateran basilica, he quickly called Francis back and gave him permission to preach.

Only in Rome
I snapped this picture this morning...
The graffiti says, 'Marian Devotion, A-okay!'

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