Thursday, 6 February 2014

St Peter's (Not St Paul's)

24 August 2012

I should probably explain: having lived in London for two years, I'd come to refer to the big sainty church in the city as St Paul's. After all, in London, that's what the big church was... until we got to Rome. Unfortunately by then habit had set in, and my brain obviously didn't think it a life or death situation that needed rectifying.

Truthfully, St Peter, St Paul: in my eyes they were pretty much one and the same; two early followers of Jesus who set about establishing Christianity and the Catholic church/Doctrine as we know it. And they both ended up with big swanky churches.

Dressed at our most modest (shoulders and knees covered), Mum and I made our way to that church for a leisurely wander with the occasional comment... or two.

For popular attractions where there is a known problem of lengthy queues, we make a point of getting there nice and early so that regardless we can walk straight through. On this particular day there appeared to be little need for our forethought as the square was empty and winding queue lines completely empty.

Passing the very welcoming St Peter. Surprising really given the Catholic church doesn't believe they'll let in any old riffraff, unless he's since become aware of the pagan tourists wandering through his holy house in idle curiosity. 

Michelangelo's Pieta

I was collecting religious folks, particularly the camera-wielding variety, but missed the ultimate Charles Addams shot as none of them wandered into the sunbeam. As I was getting slightly excited at the sight of the delightful dears, I think Mum felt it was for the best. 

Charles Addams, in The New Yorker, 10 August 1940

Though you can't see it (the tourist/pilgrim is standing in the way) St Peter has lost his toes (and soon his foot) due to the good luck that oozes out of it thereby encouraging people to rub it.

All in all, there seems to be a plethora of monuments to important Catholics scattered throughout. In addition to more than enough Popes, each one seemingly vying for a bigger and 'better' monument, there are also a number of monuments to a number of monarchs who either lost of abdicated their thrones as a result of their religious convictions. 

Monument to Maria Clementina Sobieska, wife of the 'Old Pretender' to the English throne.

Monument to Queen Christina of Sweden

Monument to the Royal Stuarts (the Old Pretender and his two sons)

Monument to Pope Innocent XII

His Holiness of the Teacups

His Holiness of the Bees (not related to Napoleon
and his bees).

Monument to Pope Alexander VIII...

... complete with an hourglass-wielding Death.

Monument to Pope John XXIII(?)

Monument to Pope Clement XI

Growing up, my sister and I had our favourite Greek goddesses.
Mine was Artemis, hers was Athena. So for her now, Athena
 (or her illegitimate half sister Roma). And a big pussy cat.

An Altar inlaid with mosaics

A red porphyry sarcophagus of Probus, the 4th century Prefect of Rome, surmounted by the lid
 of the sarcophagus of Hadrian to which an ornament of the Lamb of God has been added.

Tis an elephant! (though it does look to have been photoshopped
 in accordance with the current ideas of feminine beauty)

Me and my love of gargoyles/grotesques. Aren't they beautiful!

It took us a while to notice, but every fresco, every painting within St Peter's is no longer the original, but has been replaced by a perfectly matched and crafted mosaic. The reason for this is that for the purposes of preservation the paintings need a constant temperature and humidity. With so many people coming through the doors of St Peter's this is impossible to attain. However as these are each and every one an integral part of the atmosphere and decoration of the place they have been substituted with meticulously detailed glass mosaics that will survive the ravages of time and tourist.

The view of one of the transepts from the base of the dome

Having satisfied our thirst for the inside we continued to climb upwards, spiralling towards the top of the cupola where there were to be had unparalleled views across Rome and the Vatican gardens.

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