Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Day 2 in Rome: The Vastness of the Vatican Museum

Rome is such an amazing city. I feel as if I could be there for weeks on end and still not see it all! Two days just doesn't begin to capture all of the sights. But we were determined to make day two as eventful as day one.
Our hotel was a block from Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle, a wonderful park filled with palm trees and the remains of a fourth century fountain. There was a large multicultural festival going on which was wonderful, except that it featured a very loud (and very long) African drumming concert. The heat made it impossible to close our windows so we just laid there hoping it would end soon. Nine PM passed, Ten PM passed and the drumming kept going. Finally, shortly before Eleven PM, it stopped... only to be replaced with some kind of chanting (and probably dancing). I'm sure it was wonderful and had I not been SO tired, I probably would have wandered down to check it out. But that night I just wanted to sleep. Finally, I drifted off.

We awoke around 6:30 and dressed quickly to head for the subway. Rome's subways are not like those in other major cities. There are only two major lines and they run around the center of the city instead of through it. That is because every time they start construction to expand the system, they run into valuable archeological remains and have to stop construction to excavate. On the plus side, it is very inexpensive and efficient. The nearest stop was just down on the corner from our hotel and six stops later we were at St. Peter's and the Vatican Museum. We were almost an hour early for our 8AM ticket time so we stopped in a little coffee shop and had our (now) usual breakfast of coffee and pastry. And then we set off for the Museum.

As we approached the museum I was once again grateful that I had pre-reserved tickets to the museum, despite the extra cost. With the museum not scheduled to open until 10 AM, over two hours later, the line was already snaking around the corner. Our tickets allowed us early entrance at 8AM, bypassing the lines completely. There is no way I could have stood in those lines in that heat and not been either a) dead from heat exhaustion or b) so cranky and miserable I would have ripped somebody's head off and ended up in jail! I just don't do heat well. I would love to have taken a picture of the long line but I thought that would just be adding insult to injury to waltz past the long line and then turn and take a picture of it.

When we got inside, we showed our vouchers and were escorted to a large courtyard in the middle of the complex. It is called the Cortile della Pigna (Courtyard of the Pinecone) named after the giant pinecone fountain, built in the first century AD and originally located near the Pantheon.

The courtyard was filled with beautiful sculptures:

and then in the middle of the courtyard was this:

It is a bronze sculpture 4 meters in diameter titled "Sfera con sfera" (Sphere Within a Sphere) by Arnoldo Pomodoro and is the first piece of modern sculpture in the Museum. It is currently undergoing some restoration.

We headed inside and our first stop was the hall of sculptures.

Every inch of the floor, ceiling and walls seemed to be a masterpiece in its own right.

Statue of the Nile. (More babies crawling all over adults...there HAS to be a symbolic reason for that!)

"Don't blame me...they're not MY babies!"

"Come to think of it they might be mine... I can't remember where I left them."

There was magnificent artwork everywhere we looked!

And images of greatness in every corner.

Surprisingly, the Vatican Museum has one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in the world.

Who says you can't take it with you?

I'm not really sure what rituals these objects are for and I'm not sure I want to.

These big dudes were guards for the afterlife...VERY heavy ones.

"Mummy, where are you?"

"Here I am!" (Sorry, couldn't resist that one.)

Statue of the God Anubis. Sort of the Egyptian version of the Poker Playing Dogs. I love a civilization that makes dogs look so distinguished.

Statue of the Two-faced Osiris/Apis supposedly born from a lotus flower from Hadrian's Villa

Funerary objects buried with nobility in Egyptian tombs

Next we moved into an area with some famous classical Greek and Roman sculpture. The centerpiece of the collection is a famous Greek statue called Laocoon.

It depicts sea serpents strangling Laocoon and his two sons as punishment for his efforts to warn the Trojans against accepting the large hollow horse offered by the Greeks. Neptune sided with the Greeks in the war and was angered by Laocoon's near foil of their brilliant plot. The statue is considered one of the most important classical statues ever produced by the Greeks. It had been buried in the rubble of Emperor Titus' Villa on the Esquiline Hill until a farmer unearthed it in 1506. He notified Pope Julius II who sent his young architect, Michelangelo to investigate. It was considered the find of the century at a time when Rome was anxious to restore the grandeur of earlier times. It was missing some arms which were never recovered so Pope Julius asked Michelangelo to fashion replacements. He declined, proclaiming that he was not worthy of the challenge. He clearly considered this piece to be a near perfect representation of the human form and, in fact, used it as inspiration for his later sculptures of the human body, including The David and his painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Other artists such as Raphael and El Greco were similarly influenced. The sculpture almost became a spoil of war in 1515 when France defeated the forces of Pope Leo X. The Pope cleverly had a copy made to substitute but didn't have to use it. Napoleon's forces did remove it to the Louvre in 1797 but it was returned to Rome after his defeat. The sculpture is considered so important that a festival was held in 2006 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of its discovery in the vineyard.

Statue of the Boxer Creugas (Antonio Canova, 1800)

Statue of the Boxer Damozenos (1800, Antonio Canova)

Perseus with the Head of Medusa (Canova, 1801)

This guy will give you nightmares!

Meredith found a little cubbyhole...

I don't think the security guards would take too kindly to finding Meredith in that bathtub!


This one belonged to Nero. Supposedly he held banquets in there while he bathed...

The museum is actually a collection of museums assembled by the popes over the last few centuries. It is literally impossible to see it all in one day but we tried our hardest!

Next post: Etruscan collection, amazing ceilings, tapestries, maps, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Square, the Swiss Guard, A Bridge over the Tiber, The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. (Whew, I'm exhausted already!)

1 comment:

sappmama said...

I am such a "relaxed" traveler. I would have been standing in that line just like everybody else. You've encouraged me to do more planning ahead.

I just realized you said NO ICE in a previous post. What? Perimenopause is calling. An American girl needs ice!