Bernini’s Babies – St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican.

By Posted in - Featured Post on July 2nd, 2011

Somewhere In Time is a weekly travel photo from around the world. Enjoy!

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We had a whirlwind tour of Rome and by that I mean we went to one spot – The Vatican. We only had two days in Rome and we spent most of that time visiting my father’s cousin Bridgida and her mother Gina. Turns out that Bridgida lives about 15 minutes from the Vatican and so we took a walk over and got a personal tour of the place. We arrived on a Sunday in the middle of a downpour. It was perfect.

The downside was that because it was Sunday a few of the spots were closed, one of them being the Sistine Chapel. I was bummed. I had wanted to see the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo for years. I mean – who doesn’t? It’s just one of those amazing pieces of art, like the Mona Lisa, that you just have to see. There we were in Rome but we were missing it.

I love Art History and took classes on it for years in college. I spent the two days we had in Rome basically in awe of everything we saw and we didn’t even see that much. It was just unbelievable to be walking around a city that holds some of the most amazing art & historical pieces in the world – The Colesseum, The Pieta, The Vatican. It’s mind numbing just to think about it all.

I love the history of art because I always get very caught up in my head trying to imagine what the artist was thinking when they created the art. Who were they in love with? Did they have money problems? Did they get along with their parents? Were they thinking of hitting the pub up later that night? Who was their best friend? What did they think of right before they fell asleep?

I could go on and on imagining these things. In reality, I’m one of those people that has to fight the urge to touch every single piece of art in a museum. Sometimes I just can’t believe that I am standing in the vicinity of such an amazing part of history – something that a famous artist made hundreds & hundreds of years ago and created with their own hands. I want to touch it too! A trip to any museum is like a well orchestrated study of self control for me. It’s tough.

We walked into St. Peter’s and my mouth literally fell open. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. One of my favorite pieces of art and I had completely forgotten it was in the Vatican. I was so shocked and excited.

Bernini’s Gloria & Cathedra Petri.

The moment I saw it I actually gasped. I couldn’t believe it was right there and that it was so much more beautiful than the pictures I had seen in school. It radiated.

I remembered learning about this sculpture for years in college and now it was right in front of me. It was always one of my favorites. Of course I couldn’t come close to touching it. There was a Mass finishing up and we weren’t allowed to go any further than the spot where I took this photo. All the people you see milling about in the photo are people who were leaving the church service.

Bernini was one of the most influential sculptors of all time, pretty much leading the Baroque style. He was not only a sculptor but also an architect, painter & a funny man who wrote comedies. He did it all and he did it well. It seems he looked a bit like a rough-around-the-edges Johnny Depp. I imagine he was quite popular.

I think one of his most beautiful creations is Gloria.

Gloria is in the very back of this photo and it’s the dove in the window surrounded by the gold clouds and giant rays of sun. The clouds wind down to the bottom and into the next part of the sculpture – The Cathedra Petri (St. Peter’s Chair). One of the things I always really like about Bernini was the way that he really thought out his sculptures and created them as visual stories.

Your eye has so many things to look at and take in. Not only did he encase St. Peter’s Chair (Cathedra Petri) in bronze and make a killer sculpture out of it but he also thought about how it would look in the Vatican and where it should be placed. Gloria is kind of an extension of the chair sculpture and rises up behind it. You can’t really have one without the other – it wouldn’t look right. Each sculpture affects the other. In Gloria he actually incorporated light coming into the sculpture through the window. The section with the dove that looks like a window is actually not glass, it’s made out of a very thin piece of Alabaster. The light that comes in cascades down around the angels dancing around it and into the rays of sun. Then it rounds about the golden clouds that swoop down right to St. Peter’s chair. The four statues on each leg of the chair look more like they are holding the chair down rather than raising it up. He was using so many visual elements to create his art – architecture/sculpture/light – it’s amazing. I can’t imagine the tremendous amount of thought that went into planning a sculpture of this magnitude.

Bernini was also the appointed architect of St. Peter’s during the 1600’s and he created the baldachin that you see first in the photo. The baldachin, or canopy, marks the tomb of St. Peter and provides the perfect frame for Gloria & the Cathedra Petri. You see both of these the minute you step foot into St. Peter’s.

I can’t help but look at the sculptures and wonder what Bernini’s thoughts were. Although he was a famous artist early on in life he was only about 31 years old when he became the architect for the Vatican. No matter what century you live in that’s pretty big stuff. It must’ve been quite the honor. Did he go home to his family and say “OMG, I’m in charge of the Vatican Architecture!!” Did he just take it in stride? Did he even sleep that night or was the excitement too much? Was he overwhelmingly nervous? Did he go out for a beer after? So many questions….

After he created the baldachin, Gloria & Cathedra Petri how did Bernini feel? What was he thinking when he stood in the same spot that I stood in when I took this photo?  I’m sure he walked around taking in every possible angle to make sure everything was just right. From the front of the Basilica to the rear of the Basilica – from the left side, from the right side, from on top of a ladder, from lying on ground – I mean how many times did he walk in and out of the door to St. Peter’s just so he could see how it all looked when you first walked in?

It probably took years for him to be completely satisfied with it. So you can only imagine how magical the moment must have been when he stopped, looked at it and finally said “Yup, it’s done.” It must’ve been a really good day.

I wonder for how long after that did he just sit and stare?

In any case I have a great excuse to head back to Rome – it looks like all those people are dangerously close to touching some of Bernini’s babies and if I can, I really want to be one of them.

*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers & Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!

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(34) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] -

    July 2, 2011 at 4:31 am

    Wow! That photograph is amazing, and i love your story! I was there so long ago, but I don’t know how much I appreciated it…

  • Andrea -

    July 2, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Your passion for art really shines through here. I must admit, it did feel incredible to see famous artworks during my first trip to Europe. I only had one semester of art history at university but we covered the most important works and I’ve gotten to see many of them “live”

    • Bethany -

      July 2, 2011 at 7:23 am

      Seeing them live is unbelievable isn’t it? So much better than in a book. You can really see why these works of art are such a big deal. @Andrea,

  • Nico -

    July 2, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Fantastic Bethany. My first time in St Peter’s was a transcendent experience for me as well. Every feature, surface and statue seemed bigger than life. And I loved it all.

    It’s funny too because I also studied a little art history in college. For my final paper, instead of writing a dry old research paper I did something different. I wrote a first-person narrative story of an artist born in Florence during the Renaissance period. He was a commissioned painter for the Pope and worked alongside Michelangelo, Rafael, Titian and many other Italian masters. I still have the story. I’ll get it on my blog someday and pass it along. I think you’d like it.

    Wonderful photo by the way. One of your better ones, absolutely.

    • bethany -

      July 3, 2011 at 6:20 am

      Oh I would love to read that Nico. It sounds really cool! And you’re totally right it was transcendent! That was the exact word but I couldn’t think of it. Thank you for putting in here! @Nico,

  • Dean -

    July 2, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Beautiful photo. The Vatican was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I’m not religious by any means but just the art and history is amazing. I did a full tour through the Vatican Museums, Raphael’s rooms and the Sistine Chapel before heading into St Peter’s. The grand scale and beauty of the church is just incredible.I had a lot of wow moments like that while in Rome.

    • bethany -

      July 3, 2011 at 6:21 am

      Oh I’m jealous! I need to go do a tour! I’m not really religious either but I love learning about different religions and I was raised Catholic – I would love to tour the Vatican- great to have all those little bits of knowledge as you’re walking through! @Dean,

  • Bluegreen Kirk -

    July 5, 2011 at 5:13 am

    I’m a fan of art as well and sorry that you didn’t get a chance to see the Creation of Adam. From your story it still seems like you had a great time. As usual wonderful photo.

  • Fresh From Twitter -

    July 5, 2011 at 11:51 am

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  • Sarah Wu -

    July 5, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Aw Sistine Chapel was closed? I was at Rome for 4 days so I used one of my day on Vatician. It was really amazing especially I took all those art classes in college. To seem all the art work in life size or full canvas was so fascinating. So I can imagine the thrill and feeling you’re going through. 🙂

    • Bethany -

      July 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      I know it was crazy to see these art pieces in real life. We just don’t have anything this old in the U.S. @Sarah Wu,

  • Aisha -

    July 6, 2011 at 4:44 am

    The pic is just amazing, as everyone you post on your blog ?

  • Charu -

    July 6, 2011 at 6:51 am

    I was studying Latin in Rome with the Papal Secretary right after the Sistine Chapel was restored. It was truly a jaw-dropping experience but honestly the Vatican is a close second. Bernini yes, ah the fountains in the PIazza Navona!!

    • Bethany -

      July 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm

      No way! Charu that is quite the experience. We are definitely going to have to talk about it sometime – sounds really, really unique. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 a href=”#comment-7254″>@Charu,

  • Angela -

    July 6, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Beautiful picture, I’ve lived in Rome for seven years, you never get tired of its beauty.

    • Bethany -

      July 7, 2011 at 10:53 pm

      Oh lucky you! I would love to live in Rome. 🙂 @Angela,

  • Erica -

    July 6, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    I’m jealous, I’m not going to lie. Not only of being able to see your favorite work of art (I’m still dying to see Starry Night), but the fact that your Art History teacher appeared to have passion. I probably had the numbest guy known to man that just required us to memorize things. I so very much love how you go into detail about the piece with so much love for it.

    I cried when I saw Cyprus Trees at the French Renaissance Master’s show at the Met in Houston and I didn’t even care for the painting at all when I had seen it in pictures. I am scared about how I will react when I see the one piece I’m most looking forward to.

    • Bethany -

      July 7, 2011 at 10:56 pm

      Oh I had some bad ones. For a while I didn’t like Art History at all but then I had a great teacher. Her name was Memory and she had amazing passion for art history. After that I was hooked. It is definitely all about the teacher and how they teach it. She brought the art alive and that was what made it so exciting. If only I had her for the other classes too!

      I hear ya. It started in the Louvre for me and I just couldn’t believe i was seeing these great works of art. Then seeing this piece in Rome totally blew me away. In person you can really understand why these artists are so famous.
      @Erica,

  • Nomadic Samuel -

    July 7, 2011 at 2:34 am

    This is a stunning photo. I’m quickly becoming a big fan of your work after discovering your site just a few days ago. Isolating the color was a brilliant idea but what I find most interesting is the most blur on both of the bottom corners. It really adds some intrigue to the photo!

  • Mike -

    July 7, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Loved our visit to the Vatican. That is an amazing pic!

  • Cam @ Traveling Canucks -

    July 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    WOWZERS! That photo is incredible – nice work!

  • Sophie -

    July 8, 2011 at 12:03 am

    The photo is absolutely beautiful (but then your photos always are 🙂 )

    I loved reading this article; both because your passion for this Bernini masterpiece so shines through and for the thoughts on what his life must have been, the little details. I do that all the time, too… try to imagine those that walked the streets of an ancient city hundreds of years ago, what they thought about, what their lives were like… (Sometimes it’s easy, but other times, sadly, the visual noise of the present makes it more difficult.).

    And I do agree, at least according to his self-portraits, Bernini does look a little like Johnny Depp; dark, pale, interesting, rough around the edges.

    • Bethany -

      July 11, 2011 at 9:19 am

      haha… Glad you agree and see the Johnny possibilities. 🙂 @Sophie,

  • Dave and Deb -

    July 11, 2011 at 5:13 am

    Isn’t it always amazing when you visit a place that you have studied and learned about? To witness it is real life is almost surreal. Beautiful photo. We’ve never been to Rome, but I so want to explore more of Europe in the near future.

    • Bethany -

      July 11, 2011 at 9:20 am

      I agree – it really is surreal to see famous works of art in real life. Mind blowing. I need to go back to Rome too – so much I didn’t see. Although Petra is one of those places that I can’t wait to see for myself too. 🙂 @Dave and Deb,

  • Brooke vs. the World -

    July 13, 2011 at 2:17 am

    Beth, your photos are just amazing. I’ve seen this exact thing in real life a couple of times, and yet, your image here just tells another story. Random fact: did you know those Roman words up at the ceiling are 6 feet tall?

    • Bethany -

      July 13, 2011 at 7:41 am

      Thanks Brooke! Wow 6 feet tall?! That’s crazy! Thanks for telling me that – it really helps to put it in perspective. that place is huge!! @Brooke vs. the World,

  • Erin -

    July 27, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I love your photo, you gave it the perfect mood.
    You have to go back! The Sistine Chapel is so amazing and there is so much more eye candy and wonderful things to explore in Rome.