Rome is growing on me. I have to admit. It’s a big city which definitely puts me on edge, more or less into a intentional and cautious mindset. Besides that what I’ve seen today after the small introduction yesterday is showing me how rich this culture is. Seriously the history of this place is unbelievable. I saw pottery, and armor, and utensils from 300 B.C. I hope that hits you with how old this place is. I know it took a while for the battle I was waging succeeded to pound it into my head. Secondly, this city is so integrated in its history and culture. You walk down streets, with next to no skyscrapers but common big city subways, busy streets and crowded corners, and then around the bend you run into Corinthian columns, or temple ruins just inside parks or tourist sites.
The people seem so used to it, well the Romans, the other Italians seem to share to some degree the shock and awe the rest of us experience. It’s interesting, (see I told you I’d try and integrate the people into this post). The people seem warmer here, maybe it’s a higher level of respect. It’s interesting to watch the subways. You may think that there is no way for people to be civil in the subways, and you are right…there really isn’t. Yet, here I think the level of respect for family, and the just air of, “hey no big deal” is at least enough ingrained in the people that they push and shove, get a bit upset, but its not explosions, its not push people out of the way. It’s simply a moving body, everyone tries to get there own place and other seems to just naturally even in small ways shift to compromise a bit.
I was thinking a bit today too back to Assisi especially. The people there are definitely all about the family. So before I go too far I will explain what we learned here. There are a few very important things that define the Italian people. Family is the most important thing to an Italian. They are culturally Catholic, and they are care free about their government while still having a much higher voting rate than the US. They re resilient, and they are care free enough , to say what happens, happens. SO.. back to Assisi. The business were family and generationally owned. The people treat friends like family it seems, and our guide, just by association to her, we were treated like familiars.
It’s interesting comparing these two different places, and just noting that size of the city changes the evidence of that trait. Yet still there is a level of friendly, respect, a more honorable approach of average citizen to average citizen.
Now I don’t want to leave out what I experienced today. Two words... one starts with a C and the other starts with a V…. Any guesses?
Well. Lets just say both are polar opposite for Christianity.
The first, the grand, and massive stadium known as the Coloseum was incredible. This time compared to yesterday, I went down into the Coloseum’s plaza… it was remarkable. I can say today I started to feel that awe.. I’m as always still processing why, but I think maybe I let it finally click to just let it be there, and just take in the moments. Seeing things like the Arch of Constantine, the Christian legalizing Emperor, to entering the arches of the Coloseum to the place where men fought, animals slaughtered, and Christians…martyred. It became much more real then. Me and some of the other guys, talked about it as we stood on the base level, looking out into the underground tunnels. I think we all were in some moment visualizing and hearing the roar of the crowds, the smells of the earth, sweat, and blood, and the prayerful cries of our forerunning brothers and sisters that died at the mouths of beasts, and the hands of men. The place was incredibly, and it was intense to get so close to so much of the action.
If that wasn’t enough, getting to go to thee place of Christian authority, as far as the Roman Catholic’s are concerned, the Vatican was incredible. They have a huge museum which w as incredible.. I got to stand a foot away from St. Jerome by da Vinci! I don’t think you realize how awesome that is, but for me an artist, and a drawing concentration… It was incredible. I caught my breath staring at the unfinished piece. Its something I think so much more meaningful to see all levels of work. It’s just different. You see their mistakes, the hopes and goals, not just what the end presentation is. Its like seeing into their mind and heart a bit more, and the unfinished St. Jerome has a level of rawness that is so very fitting for the subject matter. It is by far one of my favorite pieces.
It can’t be toped though by what was after that….
The Sistine Chapel…. Let that sink in….the Sistine Chapel.
I walked in under the commissioner of the piece, getting eaten by a serpent, due to Michelangelo’s disdain for him. As I moved more into the room I just had to chill. The walls, the ceiling, all of it was covered. My advice…go on the Vatican’s website, and find the virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. It’s a complete 3D image you can move around and zoom in and out of. I got to see so much. I just stared at the final judgment for so long… moving slowly through the resurrecting souls to the saints being taken to heaven, to those who were damned to hell being dragged down by demons into torment while Christ presides judging the living and the dead by the book of life. It was so incredible. I can only describe its scenes briefly, because it would otherwise take way to much space. It was awe inspiring, and I sat, inside watching creation happen. I watched and felt the sin of our first parents, to the events of Christ’s works on earth. It’s an incredible experience to say the least.
Beyond that St. Peter’s Basilica is incredible as well. Everything in there is huge. I have no other good way to describe it, besides huge. The marble was everywhere it was so incredibly huge. I could have spent hours in here, just sitting and soaking it in, much like I could have in the Sistine Chapel.
Today was overwhelming, but I think God is thankfully helping me just take it moment by moment. I know I won’t be able to comprehend it all, but it’s so awesome to have it all in my head. I can’t wait to look back at the pictures and feel those moments. That “ Oh my God, I thought as I walked into the Basilica, it wasn’t purposeless but a shout to God at its grandeur. It was functional, it definitely had me in awe. That was all before 5:30 even…Thankfully now I get to relax the rest of the day. I need it. Rome has shared some amazing history, and I can’t wait to share more in spoken words.