Saturday, October 24, 2009

Leaving the Country for a few Hours

I've been told that nothing will make you hate the Catholic Church more than seeing Vatican city.

At the central train station, you can catch one of the two metro lines in Rome (fantastic to see a big city with as terrible a metro system as Toronto. I wonder what their excuse is.) It's about six stops to Ottaviano station, and that's where you'll get off, in order to leave the country of Italy, and enter the country of “Vatican City.”

I, with new Australian travelling mate, headed off early in the morning, not wanting to get caught behind the lines I've been warned will form and form, and continue to form, never really ceasing, as the day progresses. Stop one, Sistine Chapel. It's probably best to see that, before it becomes over crowded with people. But we got lost on the way and ended up in the Basilica. After a quick check with the metal detector we just walked right in. One of about one hundred people inside. The second that you step through that door, the anger and rage towards the church begins to over take you.

The ceilings are magnificent. Each and every one of them painted, and seemingly held up by one or two larger than life pope statues, doing who knows what with their fingers. Then you turn a corner, and you notice that the walls are covered in paintings, and there behind bullet proof glass (because someone thought it would be a good idea to try to smash it with an ax in the seventies) is a sculpture by Michaelangelo. Because, why not have one of those too?

If you dare to leave the main hall, and take a peek behind the curtain (for prayer only) you are suddenly in a world surrounded by gold. Everything from pulpits, to chandeliers, to – I don't know – everything in there, gold. But you can only pretend to pray for so long, and so back out you go to more carvings built into the wall, and paintings and dragon statues and it just goes on and on and on.

And think, this is the regular church for some people. Imagine going to church – but doing so here. Not in one of those little town hall type things, but in a place as large scale as this. How different must religion seem when all around you is this.

As we left the basilica, we noticed the good fortune of our earlier error. While we had walked right in, a line stretching far past the obelisk had now formed. Good luck people, good luck.

Now it was time to head to the Sistine Chapel. But this is no simple task, first you must pay your fourteen euro entry fee – which seems steep for one little place, but oh no. This ticket is for the Vatican museum as well. Oh good, more Jesuses, you may think. But no. In order to get to the Sistine Chapel you must walk through hall after hall of some of the best and more precious artifacts collected from all over the world.

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you rape and pillage the known world, isn't it?

So what do you walk through? First is the hall of sculptures – so called due to the fact that it is an entire hall lined with sculptures on both sides. All of them old, all of them fantastic, any of them being a possible centre piece in any other gallery. And this is no small hall – from the staircase, to your front door. No, this hall stretched on for perhaps thirty meters. Of course at the end of the hall, is the sculpture pit. This is a roped off area where they just cram all of the sculptures that they didn't have room for anywhere else.

Then, of course, you get shoved into the hall of paintings. Now this isn't a hall with paintings in it. Oh no, it's a hall that it painted to look as if it has hundreds of paintings in it. Painted pictures in painted frames line the wall, the roof, everything but the floors - which are painstakingly created mosaics.

You will be craning your head around so much in this hall that a neck brace may be required afterwards. Everything is on such a grand scale, that it's nearly impossible to pick any one piece and focus in on it.

I wondered just how the roof was created – how many people it took – how many of them fell to their deaths in the process – and just how much they swore when they dropped their brush.

After this is the hall of tapestries. It is full of tapestries. As one of the tour guides said, look at this one. It's big. Because it's big – it's heavy.

Yes, this hall is full of lots of big and heavy carpets with pictures of Jesus, and god, and all that fun stuff that really brought art to a standstill.

Pushing on, you find yourself at the Etruscan museum – room after room filled with old swords, shields, pots – ever so many pots – and other such things. By this point you want to care, but you just can't bring yourself to. You've seen too much. But then you enter the court yard, where there are more statues. Because there are always more statues.

And then there's the big room with Nero's giant bathtub in it, which is worth its weight in gold. And that connects to the second hall of statues, which is roped off, and inaccessible – you can just look down it. Beside that is the second sculpture pit, this one dedicated to animals.

Then you'll find yourself outside, once more, with a big ol' sphere spinning round and round, and a giant head, bigger than you – pushing through you'll find yourself in the Egyptian Museum. Because, why not? And there you will find, quite possibly, the best collection of Egyptian artifacts to be found anywhere. The statue of Anubis is amongst one of my favourite pieces there. The Egyptian museum shouldn't be overlooked, or brushed by, but my goodness – you want to see the chapel! And so off you go.

So close, you can taste it – kinda like lead, I'd imagine – you find yourself at the Raphael rooms. Room after room with walls, and ceiling, painted by the master of the Sai. Some have been known to say that he was cool, but rude (gimme a break). And it is here that you can see the piece that Guns and Roses used for the cover of Use Your Illusion I and II. That alone should bring you there, yeah?

And then – then you follow the sign that says “Sistine Chapel.” But it's not. Not really – you have to walk through ten more rooms of paintings. These ones are mostly amateur hour stuff created by what looks like Mrs. Turnbody's grade seven art class. It's not that they're bad – but why put the tiny framed pieces after the majestic pieces larger than life? I mean even the gift shop was housed in one of the Raphael rooms!

So once you're done ignoring the new art, and turning right at the blue wall sized abstract piece, you find yourself – oh my lord, you do – in the Sistine Chapel!

And there you look up to see the spark of life and... and... and... what the hell? It's tiny. It's so small. It's just the littlest piece of the ceiling that looks exactly like every other ceiling that you've seen thus far. It's not that it's unimpressive – it's just, what makes this room better than the others, aside from the fact that you've been told all your life it's impressive?

And then you look to the front, with Michaelangelo's (paaaaaaarty!) painting of heaven and hell. I was told the guy in the bottom right was the pope's assistant. He had the nerve to tell the great artist that his work was pornographic. For this he got himself painted in hell, with a snake taking a big bite of his junk. Don't mess with the man with the brush. The women in this painting were also, apparently, modeled by men. Michaelangelo we were told, did not like the naked ladies that much, and as such just painted nude men and drew some breasts on afterwards, like a grade three child would do. He fails just as miserably.

Now some people complain that it's so packed. They are fools. The packed room lets you sneak forbidden pictures, and take forbidden video without being seen by the guards – who will yell at you – and then tell you to stop talking. They do this by screaming over everyone. There's some irony there, to be sure.

And then with an “is that all” shrug, you leave. And then it's back to Rome, after a quick four hour trip abroad.

And with all this, the church still passes the collection plate around at the end of sermons. Are you kidding me? With everything I'd just seen – to think that the catholic church has the gall to ask for donations or money from anyone (the entrance costs to this place alone could keep them running forever) is just disgusting. And one third of the galleries weren't even open! They have more, far more, hidden away.

But – it was pretty though, wasn't it?

1 comment:

  1. It's actually nice to hear someone else say what I feel! I refused to visit because of the reasons that you listed.

    And to think that there are thousands of homeless people in the world....disgusting :(


All original text and photographs Copyright © 2009 one.year.trip / previously.bitten | Theme Design by previously.bitten | Entries and Comments.Powered by Blogger