Italy is brimming with religious iconry, churches, crosses and monuments to faith. I have no real Catholic background to draw from so much of it all is mysterious and novel for me.
I am deeply moved by Italians connection to Mary.
I have been to many churches from Palermo to Milan and places in between. I go for all sorts of reasons: the art, the beauty, the stillness, a chance to have a sit down and for a connection, a feeling, an emotion. There are a few places that stand out for me; they captured me at the time of my visit. I would feel my heart swell.
The veiled Christ sculpture in Cappella Sansevero in Naples was one of those.
Another was St Paul outside the walls, (san paolo fuori le mura), Santa Maria Maggiore and Saint John Lateran (san giovanni laterano) all in Rome. The domine quo vadis on the…
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Not surprisingly, one such illustrious resident was the Roman sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). Although I knew Bernini lived and worked in Rome, I didn’t know where until I saw the plaque. Turns out we were pretty much neighbors, albeit with a pesky four centuries separating us.
Bernini lived and had his studio on Via Liberiana, off of Via Merulana and on the edge of the Monti and Esquilino neighborhoods, and across the street from the Santa Maria Maggiore basilica. It was in this studio that Bernini carved his greatest masterpieces – Hades and Persephone and Apollo and Daphne.
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Traffic was still light on this Friday summer morning in Milan, and after just a few quick turns our taxi came to a stop on lively Corso Magenta.
“Questa è la chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie? Con Il Cenacolo?” (Is this the Santa Maria delle Grazie church? With The Last Supper?) I asked the driver slowly, trying hard to form a complete and error-free question. Perhaps my Italian wasn’t clear the first time I told him our destination. But here he was, stopped on the street, waiting to collect his Euro and wondering why we were still in the car.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. Perhaps a little more fanfare? A big sign and spotlights? At the very least, I thought there would be a crowd of humanity and jumble of street vendors hawking merchandise printed with reproductions…
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Barbagianna, at work. Photo by Giampiero Poggiali Berlinghieri