Bernini’s Babies – St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican.
Somewhere In Time is a weekly travel photo from around the world. Enjoy!
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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