Yesterday and Today in Rome (Sorry about the Nudity)

 

This was Scipio Cardinal Borghese’s little rural get-away. It’s now an art gallery, based essentially upon his private collection.

 

In the Villa’s park

 

In the Borghese Gardens

 

We spent much of yesterday afternoon at the Galleria Borghese (housed in the villa of Scipione Cardinal Borghese, [d. 1633], a a nephew of Pope Paul V) and then around the area of the Spanish Steps (“Spagna”).

 

The Borghese Gallery is marvelous, and we’ve come to it at least three or four times over the years.  Be warned, though: You must have reservations.  It’s marvelous, but it’s very small.

 

It’s chiefly famous, I suppose, for its Bernini statues, a few Raphaels, and several Caravaggios.  I’m going to share some photos of the Bernini sculptures:

 

Bernini’s David, showing him as he’s just about to sling his stone at Goliath. There’s a look of fierce concentration on his face, which is a Bernini self-portrait. (If you can’t see it, find a larger photo online somewhere.)

 

This is Bernini’s representation of Apollo at the very moment that he has overtaken the fleeing nymph Daphne. The other gods, watching this unseemly spectacle, change her into a laurel tree in order to keep her safe from Apolllo’s clutches — and, in this statue, the transformation has actually begun.

 

This is Bernini’s statue of “The Rape of Persephone” — “rape” here referring to a “carrying off” (by Hades or Pluto to the Underworld). Close up, you can see a tear running down her cheek, which contrasts sharply with the leer on the god’s face.

 

Here’s a detail from “The Rape of Persephone” — one that I find stunning. Notice how the god’s fingers press into Persephone’s flesh. Then remember: This is MARBLE. Unbelievable. Unfathomable, to me, that anybody could pull this off.

 

I get the distinct impression, incidentally, that Scipione Cardinal Borghese had not taken a vow of poverty.

 

More of the Borghese Gardens

 

One of the modest little rooms of Cardinal Borghese’s rustic retreat

 

His lavish expenditures would make even an LDS General Authority blush!  (That’s a joke, by the way.  It’s aimed at a certain school of anti-LDS critics, who continually lament the supposedly posh lifestyles of the leaders of my church.)

 

We wandered about the Borghesi Gardens, walked to the Pincian Hill for a view over the Piazza del Populo beneath us — Nero was apparently buried on this hill, and the area was thought for centuries to be haunted by his malevolent ghost — and then sauntered over to and down the Spanish Steps into (ugh) an upscale shopping .

 

In the evening, my friend and Interpreter Foundation colleague Ugo Perego picked us up.  We drove out to the site of the Rome Italy Temple, still under construction (along with a stake center, a visitors center, and apartments for temple workers and patrons), and then had dinner together outside in the old Jewish ghetto of Rome.

 

The Rome Italy Temple
(Click to enlarge. Click again to enlarge further.)

 

We spent the morning in Rome’s great cathedral, San Giovanni in Laterano (the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran), which is the actual seat of the Bishop of Rome (aka the Pope).  Many Mormons and Protestants imagine that cathedral simply means “really big church,” and are surprised to learn that St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in Christendom, isn’t actually a cathedral at all.  Cathedral comes from a word for “chair” or “throne,” and a cathedral is the seat (literally; there is a throne) of a bishop.

 

Lining the nave of St. John Lateran are the twelve apostles, six on each side, with Paul substituting for Judas Iscariot
(Click to enlarge.)

 

Note the bishop’s throne, the episcopal seat or “cathedra,” under the dome of the apse of St. John Lateran.
(Click to enlarge.)

 

The oldest baptistry in the Western world is directly adjacent to St. John Lateran.  Unfortunately, it’s closed for renovations at the moment, and we could only look from the outside.

 

Auguste Rodin, “The Kiss”
(If it bothers you, please don’t enlarge it.)

 

Well, I’m fading.  Badly.  Jet lag is upon me.  So, a quick summary of the rest of the day:  We spent considerable time at a special exhibit of sculptures by Auguste Rodin, and then visited two national museums — one in the magnificent Baths of Diocletian and the other very near to them.

 

And I’m done.  At least for now.  I hope this is coherent; my head is about to hit the computer.

 

Posted from Rome, Italy

 

 

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