Jan 7, 2009

City of Gold

St Peter's Basilica (taken from St. Peter's Square) at Vatican City. I arrived early enough to take the above photo without fighting with other tourists for the best spot. There weren't that many people yet in the vicinity. It did get busier by the minute. Apparently the Square gets super crowded on Sundays when the Pope himself appears on one of the windows to bless the crows. I'm not a Catholic and I wasn't keen to see the Pope from a mile away. No offence, the prospect of getting squashed in the crowd wasn't my idea of being blessed. Two ladies from my tour group went. They said the crowd was huge indeed.

Anyway. Vatican City is a walled city-state within Rome. Don't let the "humble" plain-ish looking facades deceive you. Considering it's the smallest city-state in the world, the richness within might surpass many countries in the world. Before my visit I didn't even know that there are that many museums inside Vatican... should have done my homework properly...

As I stepped inside the building one word came to mind: opulence. The intricate art works covered in or made of gold were plastered all over the place as if gold was cheaper than paint. I could smell, see, touch, and feel opulence. Pity I couldn't taste it, as there wasn't any Opera cake (a bit like tiramisu cake with real gold leaves on top) in there. Hehehehe...

I was surrounded by probably one of the most comprehensive art collections in the world. Being surrounded by amazing things created by gifted people should have delighted me. Nevertheless, that moment was one of those rare moments when I thought "too much of a good thing" was too much and too overwhelming for me. Everything was an assault to my senses. Beautiful statues, carvings and colourful frescoes (paintings) on the ceilings, magnificent sculptures, illuminated Bibles (hand-written, illuminated: the words are decorated intricately, some inlaid with real gold), tapestries, more arts, and more gold. The collections weren't something that could be digested in a few hours time, more like something to be savoured over the course of a week or more, depending on your level of interest. I wonder whether people who live there ever get "immune" to the sights...

One useful trick I read in a guide book: bring a compact mirror. I used it to view artworks on the ceilings without straining my neck. Handy!

My favourite amongst them all: the Sistine Chapel. The newest restoration of the paintings had just been completed not long before I went, so I was amongst the firsts to see the result. I didn't care about experts who said that the restoration wasn't historically accurate or something in that line. To my untrained eyes they looked amazing. Mar-vel-lous. I ran out of superlatives to describe it. Looking at it made me feel as if I was the most un-creative person in the whole world. More about Sistine Chapel later.

1 comment:

Gem said...

I love reading about peoples travels, and one day I hope to venture further a field. Yes compact mirrors do come in handy, and can get you out of the utmost tightest, neck wrenching spots!

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