Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Day I'll Never Forget

August 26, 2008

When I say that today changed my life, I mean it. The artwork I saw; the emotions I experienced, the conversations I had, they are things I will never forget. They day began early, out of the apartment by 8, a quick café latte and off to the entrance of Vatican City by 8:45.
Our first tour was three hours in St. Peter’s Basilica. And although that is probably all the learning we could handle without our heads exploding, it felt like not enough time. The church has so much history of the Christian church and the Popes and the artists who were commissioned to design it and create art for it. For those who don’t know, St. Peter’s was built on the site where the Apostle Peter was said to have been martyred. Going to the church, I hadn’t known that Bramante was the architect, Bernini designed the piazza, and that Michelangelo designed the dome; and it was fun to realize that it was all dedicated that man who denied Jesus three times, but then became “the rock on which [Christ] would build [his] church.” Walking inside the basilica is stunning; the dedication that went into creating such a magnificent structure is mind blowing.
After a short break to process our thoughts, and a quick bite to eat of fine Italian cuisine, we headed out for the Vatican museums. Now this was the one I was waiting for. My favorite piece of art is in there and I had butterflies in my stomach.

Going through the Vatican collection was really great because when people go to the Vatican all you hear about is the Raphael and the Michelangelo pieces. But all through the museum are fabulous altarpieces and sculptures and paintings by great artists all throughout history. There was definitely a lot more to it than I had thought and it was took us a good two hours to learn about only a fraction of the collection. Finally we moved into the rooms of Raphael, my favorite painter. The Pope had commissioned him to paint his waiting room, his personal room, his library, etc.—and Raphael truly outdid himself. My absolute favorite piece is his School of Athens in which you see a variety of different scholars and great minds from history. I did a report last year in school on the piece, and after today I feel like I barely scraped the surface in my research. That’s what is so amazing about art history. There is not always one right interpretation of the meaning of a work of art. I had my own theories formed, but then I heard the theories of our docent, as well as those of another scholar from England, I realized that none of us are necessarily correct. We can only research and discuss the meaning, but it is so much fun to do so!

Next of course was the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo painted the ceiling at age 30 and the Last Judgment wall was painted by him at age 60. I’m thinking that the papacy liked his work. As I entered, whatever the docent leading our group said, I did not hear. I had to walk to the bench and sit down. As my eyes filled with tears, I opened my journal and wrote, because I knew this would be a moment I would never be able to experience again. Here’s what I wrote, “The Last Judgment in real life! My God! I can hardly write this now because my hand is shaking so much. I can hardly explain what I am feeling right now. Joy, awe, reverence, and disbelief in being here. I am here, in the same room where Michelangelo worked for so many years, and I am speechless.” The emotions I experienced were so new to me I could barely speak the whole way home. What a day!
Also, thanks to all of you who are writing comments to these blogs, they are really encouraging for me to read.

Katie Estabrook (Hagstrom)


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