07.21.2016 - 07.30.2016
It was day six in Rome. I had read my guide book the previous evening and found something that fascinated me. So my big plan for the day was to find Santa Maria della Vittoria and see Bernini’s sculpture Ecstasy of St. Teresa. If you have been following my blogs on my trip to Rome you have probably found humor in all of my problems with the maps I had been using. I finally gave up on the ones I had been using and decided to grab one of the tourist maps in my hotels lobby. I needed to find Largo Santa Susanna where Santa Maria della Vittoria was located. The hotels tourist map had the church marked clearly so it should be easy to find.
Domienicoo Fontana's "Fountain of Moses"
Fountain of Moses
When I arrived to Largo Santa Susanna the first thing I noticed was a very large fountain and sculpture. It had not been mentioned in my guide book so it was a pleasant surprise to see it. From the signs I could read I found this was Domenico Fontana’s “Fountain of Moses” on Via Orlando just across the street from the church I was wanting to visit. The Fountain of Moses was built in 1587-1588 by Domenico Fontana and it has quite an interesting history and mythology surrounding it.
Although the story is probably exaggerated it is however certain that the statue was ridiculed; the locals even called it 'Il Mosè ridicolo' - the ridiculous Moses. But historians now know that Antichi did not create the statue on his own, most of the work was likely done by Leonardo Sormani, who also finished the statue. But I hate to dispute a good story. So I am sticking with the mockery and suicide story. The statue is a bit overwhelming and domineering of the intersection. And Moses does look threatening.
Santa Maria della Vittoria
I then walked across the street to see Santa Maria della Vittoria and the Bernini masterpiece The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. The church is not over ornate on the outside. I could have walked right past it with little interest never knowing the master piece that was located inside if I had not read about it in the guide book
Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa
The sculpture amazed me. I was honestly left motionless staring at it for the longest time. Bernini's works are all amazing. And as I mentioned in some of my early blogs I was on a mission to take in as much Bernini as possible on this vacation. But I was not prepared for the effect this masterpiece had on me. Like all Bernini's work there is great fluid and motion to the sculpture. His works are never static. They flow and move. The statues in this piece depict a moment described by Saint Teresa of Avila in her autobiography, where she had the vivid vision of a seraph piercing her heart with a golden shaft, causing her both immense joy and pain. The flowing robes and contorted posture leave classical restraint and repose behind to depict a more passionate, almost voluptuous trance. You can see and almost feel her ecstasy looking at the sculpture.
I had a terrible time taking good photos of the sculpture. It was placed over head with bright lights surrounding it. Most of my photos turned out blurry and a bit out of focus. I had to work some major photoshopping to make a few them worthy of the exhibit.
Another beautiful sculpture in the church was Our Lady of Mount Carmel Giving the Scapular to St. Simon. Although it pales in comparison to the Bernini it still is quite interesting to see. Not being Roman Catholic I had to do some research about the meaning of this sculpture and also to find out what a scapular is Pious tradition maintains that both the rosary and the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel were given by the Virgin Mary to saints Dominic and Simon. This particular statue represents the ones given to St. Simon. I was excited to text home to Mark later in the day to let him know all of the Roman Catholic history I was learning on this day.
Piazza della Repubblica
I left Santa Maria della Vittoria and walked to Piazza della Repubblica. I was on my way to Santa Maria Maggiore. I stopped in a small cafe in the piazza to take a break and have something cool to drink as the day was very warm. It was a very beautiful location to take a break. There were fountains, churches and to my surprise all of the chairs at the café had Budweiser written on the back.
Really Rome? Really? Budweiser chairs? How disappointing.
The Fountain of the Niaids
In the piazza is a very unusual fountain that I found very interesting. There is a bit of eroticism to the fountain .In the center is a group of sculptures called the group of the Glauco, sculpted by Rutelli in 1912, depicting the fisherman Glauco fighting a fish, symbolizing the dominion of mankind over natural forces. A tall central spray is shot upward from this sculpture. But the real highlight of this fountain are the four Naiads (nymphs) evenly spaced at the edge of the fountain, each with a jet of water spraying from the center toward them.
The four figures of the Naiad's were to represent the four water nymphs. The Naiad of the the Oceans, the Naiad of the Rivers, the Naiad of the Lakes, and the Naiad of the Underground Waters, each with an allergorical animal that represented their environment. But nobody imaged quite what the artist had conceived and the population was shocked when the statues were finally unveiled in 1901: four completely naked young female figures whose bodies, soaked by water that gushed from a large nozzle at the back, glittered in the sun in a very erotic manner. It is said the young men in turn of the century Rome like the statues a lot. I did also. But conservative factions of the city rose up and battled to have removed in the name of morality and decency. It didn't work. The statues still remain thank goodness.
The Four Naiads
Rutelli's Glauco fighting a fish at the center of the fountain
Although the fountain was not mentioned in my guide, and criticized and almost censored at the turn of century, it was what a delightful to find while resting before heading to my the next church of my day.
Santa Maria della Maggiore
I followed the convenient map my hotel provided to find my way from Piazza della Repubblica to Santa Maria della Maggiore. There were several small side streets I had to follow and I could only have found it with my map.
When I arrived to the church there was a lot of security. There is security all over Rome particularly at the famous tourist sites, but this was more security than I had seen any where other than the Vatican.
I had to walk through a scanner and run my bags through a security scanner also. I placed my map on the belt with my bags but when I retrieved my bags I did not pick up my map. I went inside to view the church and sat down on a pew for moment to look at my map to find my way back. That’s when I realized I had lost the map in security. I was not sure what to do. I knew I would have a very difficult time finding my way back without the map. But I also knew the very serious security guards would be in no mood to hear my story about the lost map. So I went to a gift shop in the church and they did have maps for sale and I bought one. It was not expensive. When I opened it up back in the street outside of the church it was a full map of Rome and not just a convenient map of the tourist locations. It was difficult to read and follow the map and I was a little aggravated with myself for losing the smaller easier map. I walked across the street from the church and found another souvenir stand. They did have small tourist friendly maps for sale here. So I ended up losing my free map and then buying two other maps. The map was really excellent and I used it for the rest of my time in Rome. At the time of my visit I did not realize the church had been the target of a possible terrorist attack in Dec. 2015. That explained the tight security outside of the church. So for all practical reasons I can say my losing my map was due to an act of terrorism.
When I returned home the map was an excellent aid in helping me identify my photos and to map out in writing my daily journeys. I kept the map and used it again when Mark and I returned to Rome together two years later. Guess what? We lost it our second day there!
Marion Column in front of Santa Maria Maggiore standing in Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore.
This church had many unusual things about that caught my attention and interested me both inside and outside of the church.
There were several stern and serious looking sculptures on the outside wall of the church. I tried to find some information on them but did not any specific information about them.
Inside the church is the Crypt of the Nativity. It is one of the more unusual things that I saw in the churches in Rome. There is a very large statue of Pope Pius in front of a golden statue of the infant Jesus that looked very unusual to me. As I have said before I am not Roman Catholic so I did not want to make jokes about the image. But Mark is a devout Catholic and he did find some humor in the image. When I sent a photo home to Mark later that evening he said it looked like disco Jesus. But my research told me later it had a greater significance than I had realized.
The statue of St. Pius is one of the first things to be noticed inside the church and it was very large immediately capturing my attention.
This is the image of the Christ child that I found so unusual. This area is part of what is called the Bethlehem crypt.
Although Mark and I made a bit of irreverent joke about this particular statu,e to our embarrassment, I read later it has a very important significance. Under the high altar of the basilica is the Crypt of the Nativity or Bethlehem Crypt, with a crystal reliquary designed by Giuseppe Valadier said to contain wood from the Holy Crib of the nativity of the infant Jesus. This is known as the Bethlehem crypt or The Crypt of the Nativity.
The Basilica was very beautiful inside and I took many photos.
Leaving the church and headed back towards my hotel I was very glad to have bought a new map. There were many side streets, intersections, and small paths to follow getting back. I would have been completely lost with a map.
The end of my day and making a new friend.
When I finished my walking tour for the day I took a taxi once again from Piazza Vittorio to Piazza del Popolo. It had been a long day walking in the heat of summer in Rome.
Arriving back to Piazza del Popolo I started the walk back to my hotel. I took a photo of two men sitting on a wall near Piazza della Liberta. I have taken similar photos in other cities. It seems to be a theme I enjoy. It's usually a person or a couple with their backs to be sitting on a bridge or riverside. For some reason seeing thsee two men sitting on the wall made me realize how grateful I was to Mark for this trip to Rome and how much he should have been on this vacation also. It's one of my favorite photos from the trip. It's not a church or cathedral. It just captured a moment and an emotion.
I had a late lunch at a small place with a beautiful wall of wine near my hotel.
I went back to the hotel to rest a little, take a shower and recoup before going out for dinner. Afterwards I walked down towards the Vatican and saw an interesting little pizzeria. There was outside seating and some steps leading downstairs to the actual restaurant which was in the basement of the building. The owner of the place was named Aldo and he was very friendly. I ordered a Peroni and it came in a very large mug with complimentary bread sticks.
Then came the pizza. It was delicious.
I ordered a second Peroni and decided that would be enough as it was late and dark and I was walking alone. I talked with Aldo, the owner a little more. We talked about Rome and where I was from. I brought up the topic of grappa in our conversation. We talked about good grappa and bad grappa. Good grappa is smooth and never burns your throat. Bad grappa on the other hand can burn all the way down. He asked me if I wanted a grappa before leaving. I love grappa but I said "No thank you. I think I have already had enough for tonight." He said but you must have a grappa and laughed. I asked him what kind of grappa. Was it the kind that burned all the way down? He laughed and said "No I have good grappa." So I took his advice and had the grappa.
It was delicious and had no burn at all. I said to him that it was very good and it did not burn. He said" I told you it was good grappa" and then filled my glass again. Oh boy! I would have to be very careful walking back.
Aldo's was a wonderful find for me. The evening could not have been better. Great food, free grappa and a new friend..
On my way back to the room it was still early. I knew I would be awake for a while so I stopped at the little grocery store by my hotel and bought some snacks and a bottle of Poretti. Then it was time to relax, check out my guide for tomorrows adventures, and text Mark to tell him all about my day.