An American In Italy

A semester spent in Europe... Rome, specifically.

Monday, August 30, 2004

When Italian is funny....

Since we connect through an Italian server, we get Italian advertisements and popup ads and whatnot. One of the funniest Italian translations of English I have seen thus far comes from one of those:

"Clicchi qui!" (pronounced clicky kwee! -- "click here")

That just cracks me up.


I am usually good about taking notes as I read, especially when I know I'm going to disagree with an author. When it came to the Poetics of Aristotle which I read last night, I took a bunch of notes which I had already refuted before in an oh-so-brilliant paper of mine from AP English in highschool.

But I had never read Herodotus before, at least, not actually paying any kind of attention to him. My only note on the subject was, quote:

"Just *how* ADD is Herodotus???"

I fully intend to write one entry here in the style of Herodotus.

And, Dr. Roper, comments are fully welcome and appreciated on any and all posts in this blog.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Another day in Rome

So today we had mass in the catacombs. We were not actually underground, and they said that the Christians didn't actually hide in there (I still rather like to think that they did), but I felt as though my name were Apollonia and here I was, near the tombs of my friends and family who had been martyred for the faith. They were somehow just as present as I, and that we were somehow mystically joined ... and we were.

The sheer mystery that surrounds this place is awesome. Aside from that, all I could hear in my head was "the catacombs of Rome" by Respighi.

Rome is so amazing. I have seen people weep openly at mass, especially at the mass near St. Peter's tomb.

And still beauty and truth are everywhere. Part of our travels today brought my friend Matt and I to the Villa Borghese. The Villa Borghese is another place I had visited before, and thought I might be bored but thought Matt should see it anyway.


The entrance to the place filled me with every ounce of girlish excitement I've ever had, but caused by an intellectual delight. I find this to be a very strange combination, but no matter.

Looking again at the beautiful, beautiful, beautiful statues of Bernini, I found new things about them to which I would stood in awe. The mutual commentary traded between Matt and myself enhanced our experience of the art as we stood in each others shoes and looked with the other's eyes to see the art as completely as possible. I still don't think I'll ever be able to it drink in enough.

The villa itself was awesome. There was one place, just a big dusty ring that rather resembled a track. "Look," Matt said, "you should be able to have a chariot race there." The sense of history being somehow present, that the past dwells alongside the living. It would have surprised neither of us, I think, should such a thing actually happened. The relics of our ancestors remain, and we look upon the same objects as they, and visited the same places, walk the same streets, sometimes speak the same language. What is a few thousand years if we have a physical connection to them? When one leaves something behind -- say, a note -- for another person, the note is filled with that-personness. Like receiving a letter or a postcard from a friend or loved one, there is that sense that the person is somehow present in the letter. After all, they took the time to write it out, the letter is filled with their personality. It belongs distinctly to that friend, and no one else could have written a letter that way. You know them so well you can picture them writing it, and it's as if they're right next to you.

And so we walk by the Colosseum, through the Foro Romano... and so did the Romans. The only thing that separates us from them is thousands of years, which seems like nothing when standing in the presence of the remains of the past. The place is here, exactly here. There's nothing else like it in the world, and only the Romans could have built it. It's so very Roman, it's like they're still here.

It was for that ideal that I at one time wished to be an archaeologist.

After Matt and I passed through the Villa, I was going to take him down the Via Veneto since it was nice and a bit upscale, and also in hope of showing him the basement of a particular Cappucin church, which is constructed of monks and other persons who died during the plagues. A room of skulls, a room of clavicals and the image of the Son and the Father's arms crossed ... made from real arms. It's morbid and disgusting but really cool at the same time. They certainly don't do that in the states.

And now for some stupid notes and pictures:
Slowly but surely, I am getting around to taking pictures of the campus. Right now, I have some images of the capp bar (which I will not post) and of the ampitheater (which I will post). I took these pictures as I sat on the top step and surfed the net. I have never experienced wireless before, REAL wireless, and the coolest place to do it was in the ampitheatre. [G]

But pictures:

* The chapel, built by Pope Sylvester (I believe), where we had Sunday Mass, directly on top of the catacombs of Sts. Felix and Philip, sons of St. Felicity.
* Outside the catacombs.
* Matt in the Villa Borghese; a park on a Sunday afternoon where families would come and ride bikes. Lovely! Oh, not Matt... that's Matt. ;) j/k Matt
* Another picture inside the Villa.
* Me posing by a random fountain in the Villa.
* The Villa Borghese itself.
* On the Via Veneto is the Hard Rock Cafe, which has a stained-glass window of Elvis in front of the Arch of Constantine, of Jimi Hendrix in front of the Collosseum (one day I'll learn how to spell that), and of the BEATLES in front of Bernini's Apllo and Daphne! Here is me with said stained-glass window. ;)
* Me and the same three years ago.
* The cuteness of Via Veneto
* Every time I pass by this place, I have an urge to take a picture of it (which I usually do). I've never actually been up there, however.
* Matt challenged me to make Art out of a leaf. So I did.
* The piazza on campus in front of the dormitory.
* The University motto above the Ampitheatre.
* The Ampitheatre in late afternoon. look!!! We get wireless up here!! ... but not in the dorms?!
* My perch from the top of the ampitheatre on my computer 100% wire-free, bay-bee. Look, there's my foot and there's my desktop!

And that's all for now. Yes it's late, we had a lot of stupid Herodotus reading to do. Fortunately I've read the Agamemnon already. It's a good thing we have afternoon classes tomorrow.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Reflections on the Parthenon

When I posted here the other day, I neglected to post a picture of the Pantheon itself for several reasons. The most practical is that a picture of the Pantheon is easy to find anywhere, and I do not have anything to make it personal, like a picture of me or of one of my friends next to it.

The other reason is that I have no interesting picture of it, no closeups. I think a closeup image of the Parthenon is more revealing than the generic postcard image of the entire structure, which can in no way express the enormity or the genius or the antiquity of the structure. A close-up would, however, be more revealing not only of the structure itself, but as a sample of Rome itself.

The thing was built in 27 B.C. by Agrippa (as the inscription states in its abbreviated Latin) as homage to the pagan gods, and modified by Hadrian between 118 and 128AD. The renovations later ion 609 included a Christianization of the interior, and this day it looks like a church. There is an altar and crucifices and other Chrisitan iconography... yet the thing is fundamentally a work of ancient pagan Romans, and not at all like the first churches, basilicas, catacombs, etc. The construction of the building is fascinating, absolute genius -- not only was the dome the largest in the world until 1436. It was constructed over a wooden frame in a single operation. The oculus, appx. 7.8 meters in diameter, is the only source of light in this surprisingly bright structure. Although it was never covered, a remarkably small amount of rain enters the structure: the small amount that does is immediately whisked away by Roman drains. The entire structure of the Pantheon, I have been told, was at one point covered in marble, but is now primarily brick. In fact, on the interior one can easily tell the different stages of the architecture; the more ancient areas are their original brick, while the newer additions or reconstructions or Hadrianic renovations are done in marble.

Rome, once the center of the pagan classical world, has become the ubi of ubi Petra, ibi Ecclesia. The Vatican itself was built upon a very ancient Etruscan burial site, and the "gates" of St. Peter's once stood where the Roman circus was, where St. Peter, the head of the church, was killed. And there he lives in contradiction found and reconciled so often within the church. Innumerable pagan sites have been reconciled to Christianity in this way ... as has the whole of Rome.

This mash of the past and the present is not in short supply, either. One of the first things that struck me when we visited the Vatican for the first time was our angle of approach. One of my first pictures of that day is this:

St. Peter's, as viewed from the gas station. Who would have thought? It seems that the very presence of St. Peter's bones ought to radiate such holiness and sacredness that nothing should be built around it for miles. Yet here, the unremarkableness of every day life juts up against the higly remarkable St. Peter's basilica. Such a symbol is in and among the mundanity of familiarity.

Simili modo, neither is our Christianity to be kept entirely separate from the vast, dirty city of our every day existence. I should stand out and be a universal monument for all to see and to imitate and to wonder. Indeed, our being a temple of the Holy Spirit is much more beautiful and impressive than St. Peter's, or of any basilica or church that could ever be constructed by mortal hands.

One of my friends once composed a poem which captures this, in two parts, extremely well. He's describing his love, whom he says is "like an old cathedral; / Crafted by men but breathed of God / Living stone of Christ made beautiful, /Ever sure." He further expounds in this sonnet:

Can mortal words, like mortals, near to death,
Place perfect predicate of beauty on this hall
That hears my every prayer, and every breath,
And rings with every song and beauteous call

This fashioned stone, this mortal-crafted stone –
Yet testament to Heaven’s immortal face -
Is tossed, and carved, and built, in purest grown:
A mortal craft endures by Heaven’s grace.

And is this not much like my mortal love?
Who mortal-like is yet of loveliest mind;
Whose beauty, grace, and kindness from above,
Lend grace immortal that from Love is shined.

Thus mortal words unjust may yet give praise,
When whom they laud herself does so them raise.

Everywhere I go, I see these old cathedrals, these mortal monuments to immortal Love, the greatest works of art in the world, but not even as great as we, living testaments of Love.

Rome was the city first of man, but now of God. What more appropriate reason is there for the title of "The Eternal City".

Saturday Class, *yay* :P

Well today is our first day of classes; I'm assuming they're a bunch of intro here's-your-syllabus classes. Overall, my schedule looks like this:

A Day:
0940-1110 Lit Trad III
1120-1250 Western Civilization
0200-0300 Survival Italian (audit)

B Day:
0800-0930 Western Theo Trad
0940-1110 Art and Architecture of Rome
1120-1240 Philosophy of Man

Friday, August 27, 2004

Cheap cheap European airfare

Ryan -- someone was saying something about a flight from Rome to London for $15? The cheapest I'm finding right now is E39.99 ($48). I shall have to investigate this. I suspect this may be much cheaper than Eurail, however I do want to take Eurail through places whose countryside I've been wanting to see (i.e. Switzerland).


Lauren's adventure in Rome today continued...

Right before we went to the Parthenon, I passed a church that had "O Crux Ave" written on it. It was a beautiful church, and immediately the strains of the Palestrina polyphony came to mind ... I had to take a picture. I'm conjecturing that that is the Chiesa de Santa Cruce, but I thought that was bigger than this church.

Having arrived at the Parthenon, Shane and I walked 300 meters to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, unaware that our orientation leader would freak out. I did get some nice pictures (which I won't upload to save space)... I know that a relic of St. Catherine of Siena is there ... I believe it is her head (while the rest of her is in Siena?); I don't suppose it is, er, on display, but I found her little shrine and said a prayer. Furthermore, I found a picture depicting both St. Lucy and St. Agatha. I wonder if, like St. Cecilia, the Dominicans "claim" them...? If so, this is cool, as I was born on St. Agatha's feast day.

When we sallied forth from there, we stopped at a coffee shop wildly devoted to St. Eustace (San Eustachio?). It was amusing -- there was a flyer advertising music in the church of St. Eustace on St. Eustace's feast day in September. It was a very professional shop, and there were images and prayers to him everywhere. I found this amusing, and I wonder why St. Eustace in particular. Patron saint of coffee-brewers?

Our next stop was the Colosseum (sp), and on the way we passed the Roman forum. I tried to take a picture of me with some of the stuff in the background, but I mostly just got me. [G] Then we went to the Colosseum, turned around and got gelato. Not much to say there, so here's a picture.

It was a short day. We took the metro and then the bus back, and I tried to get some pictures of the castelli Romani on the way home. And here are some pictures from the actual Rome campus. (Pictures of the campus coming later...)

Our vineyard and the view.
In between those two trees sticking up is the dome of St Peter's. I wonder if the Pope can see this from up the hill at Castolo Gandolfo... never out of view of the office, eh, Papa?

And that was my day in Rome today. Strictly a narrative account for now. Perhaps more later.


Ciao, Roma!

Well.... wow! Here I am, in Rome!

I had a bit of a post started but I accidentally lost it... let's see if I can remember what I wrote.

Well, we rose early this morning and went into Rome. We all started at the Vatican, and it was good to see old, familiar St. Peter's. :) You know, looking back on the pictures I took, it's difficult to tell just how huge everything in St. Peter's Square place is. For example, there is this picture of me in front of St. Peter's. I ran a good distance away from the camera and I'm very small, but the state of St. Peter behind me doesn't look all that big if I were to just run a little farther back. But here I am with St. Paul ... and I'm still right up next to the statue and he's huge.

Here's a picture looking out from St. Peter's, just behind the statue of St. Paul.
Morning at St. Peter's ... I accidently shrunk this picture -- and then deleted it off my camera! Aaaahhh!
Climbing the stairs to St. Peter's ... it's a beautiful day.

I had originally complained about coming back to St. Peter's because I had been so many times the first time I visited Rome that I could practically recite the tour guide spiel, but ... wow. Once I got there, I shutup.

One of the things I think is really cooll about St. Peter's is the fact that they take all the huge churches of the world and have a mark on the marble floor where, if that church were to be placed inside St. Peter's, it would end. They had marks for Westminster Abbey and something close to home, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.. It ended way far away from the main altar.

The obligitory picture of me rubbing the famed St. Peter statue's foot. If I look ticked off, it's because Claire dropped my camera on accident and it wasn't functioning for a few minutes.
Me doing the same thing 3 years ago.
The main altar of St. Peter's. St. Francis' statue is to the left of the altar, and St. Dominic's is to the right. This is as close as I could get to them, and the pictures I took of the individual statues came out blurry.

Now ... here's the kicker of the whole day, that's practically made my life (though had I known I was going to do this, I still would have been loath to come, mom) -- we had mass this morning *on* St. Peter's tomb. I kid you not. Here is an image of the mass setup; behind it is the tomb itself. That was *absolutely amazing*...!

I'd like to write so much more (and so much better), but I have a very limited amount of time right now. Continuing a little faster ...

Then we crossed the Ponti Santi Angeli> (which has angels holding the instruments of the passion) and saw the very famed Tiber river. It was just an orientation tour, so we kind of saw Piazza Navona very briefly... I'll post some pictures later. We went to the Pantheon, and were told "go explore for about 10 minutes" ... okay ... so me an this guy Shane decided we'd see the Pantheon another time, and poked our heads into Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the Dominican church adjacent to that pagan Roman place. We got yelled at, but geeze ... she said go explore.

More pictures to come later, have to go to some kind of meeting now.