The Vatican, Rome

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    08-Vatican-04-Atrium

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    Once you come up the escalator and show your ticket, you walk over to the Atrio dei Quattro Cancelli (Atrium of the Four Gates of the Vatican Palace). A little ahead is a junction; you turn right to visit the Museo Chaiaramonti founded by Pius VII and organised by the sculptor, Antonio Canova in 1807. There are over a thousand exhibits here of Roman busts, Roman gods, Roman Emperors. It houses Greek and Roman antiquities.

    First Written: Sept. 8, 2012

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    08-Vatican-05-Braccio Nuovo

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    A little further ahead is the Braccio Nuovo which also houses Greek and Roman antiquities. It was built by Pius VII and inaugurated in 1822. The statue of the Nile from around 1 AD is remarkable. In his left hand is the cornucopia and below this is a figure with an upturned bowl from which, perhaps, water flowed. The muscularity and the flowing beard adds grace to the statue.

    Next is the marble statue of Osiris-Antinous, excavated in 1739 AD and belonging to the period 131-138 AD. The statue is clad in typical Egyptian attire.

    A little further on, we come to the statue of the god Anubis belonging to the 1st -2nd century AD. He is the lord of mummification and is clad in a Roman toga. His duty is to guide the dead to the underworld. He holds a musical instrument (sistrum) which rattles when shaken in his right hand. In his left hand is the symbol of commerce (caduceus) associated with the Greek god, Hermes, a rod with two snakes. With this staff, he guides the souls to the underworld.

    First Written: Sept. 12, 2012

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    08-Vatican-06-Museo Pio Clementino

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    You retrace your steps and go further than the junction from which you turned right. You’ll come to Museo Pio Clementino (Pius-Clementine Museum). It was commissioned by Popes Clement XIV and Pius VI with the avowed objective of collecting invaluable Greek and Roman artefacts.

    Thus, we have the Apoxyomenos statue (1 AD) of an athlete scraping himself off after an event whilst gazing lazily into the distance, the Venera Felice statue and the statue of Narcissus, amongst many others.

    First Written: Sept. 12, 2012

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    08-Vatican-07-Spiral Staircase

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    Next to this is the Spiral Staircase built by Donato Bramante and commissioned by Julius II in 1512 to link the Palace of Innocent VIII with the city of Rome. It was wide enough and strong enough to be climbed on horseback.

    First Written: Sept. 12, 2012

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    08-Vatican-08-Octagonal Courtyard

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    Adjacent is Octagonal Courtyard which is home to the famous Apollo Belvedere statue. This statue is considered to be the supreme example of perfection and technical detail in the neo-classical era.

    Nearby is the equally perfect Laocoonte statue, the statue that was acquired by Pope Julius II in 1506 – an act that triggered the start of the Vatican Museums.

    A little beyond the Octagonal Courtyard and before the Round Room is the Room of the Muses. The walls are lined with beautiful 2nd. Century statues but the piece de resistance is the famous Belvedere Torso, a 1st century B.C. original by the Athenian sculptor Apollonius. The powerful muscles delineated in the sculpture is said to have deeply influenced Michelangelo, Renaissance and the neo-classical artists. It is believed to depict the Greek hero Ajax contemplating suicide.

    This statue without a head or legs or arms sits on the skin of a panther. It was discovered near Campo de Fiori in the early 1400’s. To Michelangelo, this statue was a perfect rendition of human form, proportions, bones, muscles, veins. To truly enjoy the torso walk around it like you would to ‘David’ in the Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence.

    Stories suggest that Pope Julius II asked Michelangelo several times to complete this statue through prosthetic limbs but each time the great man declined. It is reported that he said, “This is the work of a man who knew how to do it better than nature!” Also, Michelangelo used the pose of the torso extensively in the Sistine Chapel, in Adam, in St. Bartholomew, even in the angels on the ceiling.

    First Written: Sept. 12, 2012

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    08-Vatican-09-Round Room

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    You will next come across the Round Room built in the 18th Century with a dome that closely resembles the Pantheon. You can’t miss this room as there is a huge round basin right in the middle – you have to go right round it to enter the next room. The basin has a radius of almost 5 metres and was brought from the Domus Aurea. Look at the floor and marvel at the designs. Near the wall stands a 2nd Century bronze statue of Hercules which was found near the Theatre of Pompey.

    In the adjoining room, there are two large sarcophagi in red porphyry - the same material as the basin in the earlier room. The left one belongs to the mother of Emperor Constantine, Saint Helen, while the one on the right belongs to his daughter, Costantina.

    First Written: Sept. 13, 2012

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    08-Vatican-10- Sala della Biga

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    Beyond lies the Sala della Biga, another collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. There are too many beautiful objects d’art to enumerate here. Foremost is the light and stable racing chariot, unlike the normal ornate chariot used in triumphal processions in ancient Rome. An extract from the web reads:

    "Who had the skill to fashion so many figures out of one block of marble? The chariot melts into the charioteer; the horses with one common accord obey the same reins. These are distinguishable by their various forms but made from one and the same material without distinction. The driver is of one piece with the car: to this are attached the steeds, each joined to, and proceeding out of, another. How admirable the artist's skill! A single block combines with itself all these bodies: one mass of marble by submitting to the chisel has grown into all these various shapes."

    Claudian, Carmina Minora VII (Statue of a Chariot)

    (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/circusmaximus/biga.html)

    First Written: Sept. 13, 2012

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    08-Vatican-11- Galleria dei Candelabri

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    Further down is the Galleria dei Candelabri, so named after the eight magnificent candelabra made of white marble in the gallery. Commissioned and opened by Pope Pius VI in 1761, the Gallery of the Candelabra, is a long and narrow passage with innumerable artistic delights in the form of antique Roman sculptures. These sculptures and the jostling of the crowd, prevents one from truly enjoying the lavish paintings on the walls and on the ceiling done by Ludwig Seitz and Domenico Torti. They were commissioned by Pope Leo XIII and completed the project during the period 1883-87.

    In one of the frescoes in the ceiling, St. Thomas Aquinas is kneeling while making an offering of his treatise to the Church. In the foreground, Aristotle, representing Reason, is depicted, thereby endorsing the gesture of St. Thomas Aquinas.

    First Written: Sept. 13, 2012

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    08-Vatican-12-Galleria degli Arazzi

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    The next stop would be the Galleria degli Arazzi (Gallery of Tapestries), a simple room with 27 tapestries which have been bought three times by a succession of Popes. Leo X commissioned the painter Raphael for the drawings in 1515. On completion of the cartoons, the Pope sent them to Pieter van Aelst, the famed tapestry weaver in Brussels. This was the first buy. During the sack of Rome in 1527, the tapestries were stolen, forcing Pope Julius III to negotiate their return. Again when Rome was overrun by France in 1798, the tapestries disappeared, yet again compelling Pope Pius VII to buy them back. It is a wonder these tapestries, woven in threads of gold, silk and wool, have survived at all.

    They were meant to hang in the Sistine Chapel. However, the ceiling of the Chapel was decorated by the fabled paintings of Michelangelo, the walls frescoes by such masters as Botticelli and Perugino. So the only place left for Pope Leo X to leave his mark for posterity was the walls. However, after the third buy, these tapestries have hung where you see them now.

    'The Resurrection of Our Lord', depicting the triumphant emerging of Christ after His crucifixion is one of the most arresting of the tapestries on display. Of special interest is the slab of stone at the feet of Jesus – as you walk past the tapestry the slab follows you. Equally intricate are the following: 'Adoration of the Shepherds', 'Adoration of the Magi' and 'The Massacre of the Innocents'. The last one in the photos above is a detail of one of the tapestries.

    First Written: Sept. 14, 2012

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    08-Vatican-13- Galleria delle Carte Geografiche

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    The Galleria delle Carte Geografiche (Gallery of Maps) owes its name to the 40-odd maps frescoed along the 390 ft (120 m) long corridor on the third floor of the Belvedere Courtyard. They represent the extent of the papal property at the time of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) and eerily foreshadow Garibaldi and his Red Shirts and the eventual re-unification of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II.

    The maps were painted between 1580 and 1585 by the Italian priest, Ignazio Danti, a famous cartographer, who had already created the Sala delle Carte Geografiche, a hall of maps, at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Of particular interest are the frescoes depicting the Siege of Malta and the Battle of Lepanto and the Battle of Fornovo. On one side of the corridor, regions by the Adriatic sea is shown. Opposite to this are the regions by the Tyrrhenian and the Ligurian seas. Each map of a region is usually accompanied by a map of its important city. Also, one must not miss the brass mechanical model of the solar system (orrery) placed in the hall.

    Beyond the Gallery of Maps, is the Appartamento di San Pio V (Apartment of Pope Pious V) housing some more intricate Flemish tapestries and ancient artefacts. There is a chapel, a gallery and two dining rooms here. The paintings are by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari while the two small rooms contain medieval and Renaissance ceramics.

    First Written: Sept. 14, 2012

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    08-Vatican-14-Sala Sobieski

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    Next is the Sobieski Room. Here, you can’t miss the huge oil painting by Jan Matejko, the Polish painter. Completed in 1883, it represents the triumph of Christianity over paganism, the victory of the King John III Sobieski of Poland over the Ottomans at Vienna in 1683.

    If studied intently, this painting alone would relieve you of an hour, such is the intensity of the painted figures. Though the focus is on the central character on a horse handing over an official-looking document to someone on the ground, the figure next to the person on the ground is equally arresting. Hands folded in prayer and looking skywards, he seems to be thanking God for the triumph of Christianity. On the lower left panel is another riveting figure pointing a sword towards the centre of the painting and drawing our eyes yet again towards the official on the horse. On the lower right-hand panel sits another person with his horse behind him, looking insouciantly towards another character in a red uniform. Each character, each expression, each animal are painted in such detail that the overall impression on the viewer is of intense catharsis.

    First Written: Sept. 14, 2012

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    08-Vatican-15-Raphael-1-Sala di Costantino

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    The four rooms that follow are a feast for the eyes, each demanding a fair share of your time and aesthetic sensibility, such is the beauty and intensity of the Stanze di Raffaello (The Raphael Rooms). These were part of the apartment of Pope Julius II who commissioned Raphael and then gave him full freedom to express his brilliance through his paint brush. Though attributed to Raphael, the paintings are also of his pupils who worked in these rooms consistently from 1508 to 1524 as the great master died prematurely on April 6, 1520.

    The first one you enter is the Room of Constantine, designed for receptions and official ceremonies. The decorations deal with the subject of Emperor Constantine, hence the name of this room. He was the first Roman Emperor to officially accepted Christianity. Four highlights of his life are depicted here: the Vision of the Cross (Emperor Constantine's premonition of victory against Maxentius if he replaced his flagstaff of imperial eagles with the Holy Cross, thereby accepting Christianity), the Battle of Constantine against Maxentius (Battle of the Malvian Bridge in 312 AD and the victory of Christianity over paganism), the Baptism of Constantine (Emperor Constantine kneels before the Pope to receive the Sacrament) and the Donation of Rome (The kneeling of Emperor Constantine before the Pope symbolising justification for assumption of temporal powers by the Pope). The ceiling shows the ‘Triumph of Christianity’ over paganism, represented by the statue that has fallen with its head detached.

    Each painting is a masterpiece in composition and execution. If you are an art student or a lover of the arts, you’ll be captivated effortlessly.

    First Written: Sept. 15, 2012

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    08-Vatican-15-Raphael-2-Stanza di Eliodoro

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    The next is the Room of Heliodorus, the Syrian statesman and treasurer of Seleucus IV, who, according to the Book of Second Maccabees, murdered his king, attempted to usurp the throne and tried to steal the treasure from the Temple at Jerusalem but was prevented from doing so by the three angels. This room was the first to be painted by Raphael from 1511 to 1514. The room was once meant for the private audiences of the Pope with the paintings depicting different historical moments from the Old Testament.

    The paintings have the twin objectives of showcasing the theology of the Church and furthering the political ambition of the Pope Julius II. The second objective was to be achieved by restoring the temporal powers of the Church through liberation of Italy from French yoke. The 'Expulsion of Heliodorus' represents the sacrosanct value of Church property. The 'Mass of Bolsena' depicts the miracle (1263 AD) which reinforces the theory of transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the blood and body of Christ. The ‘Liberation of Saint Peter’, may foreshadow the Resurrection of Christ and reinforce the belief that a true worker of God need have no fear from mortal men. Also, in this painting, Raphael skilfully interplays man-made light (torch), natural light (moonlight) and God’s light (angel) with one another with the last one outshining the other two.

    First Written: Sept. 15, 2012

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    08-Vatican-15-Raphael-3-Stanza della Segnatura

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    The Room of the Segnatura was the first to be painted by Raphael, from 1508 to 1511, and reflects the apotheosis of his art. As the name signifies, this room was used for signing official documents. The three virtues of Beauty, Truth and Goodness are depicted in the paintings. In the 'Parnassus', Beauty is represented by Apollo, surrounded by famous literary men and the muses. Homer has his face upturned while Dante is shown only in profile.

    Beauty is represented by ‘The Parnassus’. According to classical legend, Mount Parnassus is the dwelling place of the god Apollo and the Muses and the home of poetry. The painting depicts a seated Apollo playing on a lyre. He is surrounded by the nine Muses, four to his right and five to his left, together with ancient and modern poets. One can make out the blind Homer (a tall figure looking skywards to the right of Apollo) and the poet Sappho who holds a paper with his name written on it in his left hand. Virgil and Dante are to the bottom left of Homer.

    The 'Disputation of the Most Holy Sacrament', representing supernatural Truth, shows discussion between two groups standing on either side of an altar. The 'School of Athens', one of Raphael’s most famous paintings, representing natural 'truth', shows Plato and Aristotle, with Plato pointing towards the sky, probably alluding to the world of ideas, while Aristotle has the palm of his hand turned down, perhaps referring to his rational philosophy. The other figures all belong to some great philosopher, like Diogenes, Euclid, Heracleitus, Ptolemy and Zoroaster. Not to be missed is the black capped figure looking at you, second from the right, next to the arch. This is Raphael’s self-portrait.

    ‘Cardinal and Theological Virtues' representing Goodness, is another huge painting by Raphael. The three women allegorically embody the cardinal virtues of Temperance, Prudence and Fortitude while the Cupids display the theological virtues. Temperance holds the reins in her hands, Prudence looks into a mirror while Fortitude holds an oak branch. The cupids are Faith who is pointing towards the sky, Hope holds a torch while Charity is shown shaking a branch. This last photo has been lifted from the Web and is not mine.

    First Written: Spet. 15, 2012

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    08-Vatican-15-Raphael-4-Stanza dell'Incendio del B

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    The paintings in the Room of the 'Fire in the Borgo', were done between 1514 and 1517. The room derives its name from the main painting, ‘Fire in the Borgo’ which refers to a miracle performed by Leo IV in 847 AD who extinguished a fire in the Vatican by simply making a sign of the cross. The 'Battle of Ostia' depicts the Pope Leo X encouraging the papal army in their victory against the Saracens. In the 'Coronation of Charlemagne' (Christmas Eve 800 AD), the founding of the Holy Roman Empire is depicted. In the 'Justification of Leo III', the Pope responds to the charges levelled against him by the nephews of his predecessor, Adrian I.

    The paintings illustrate the political ambition of Leo X through stories from the lives of two previous Popes, both named Leo, Leo III (Coronation of Charlemagne and Oath of Leo III) and Leo IV (Fire in the Borgio and Battle of Ostia ). In every painting, the face of the Pope resembles that of the reigning Pope, Leo X, a form of flattery prevalent till today.

    First Written: Sept. 15, 2012

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