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Italy – Rome’s Churches

More than anything else, Rome is about churches.  They are inescapable.  Every piazza has its church; some have two or more.  There were at least five in the six blocks of Via Giulia between our apartment and the main road (Vittorio Emanuel).

They range from the staggering, over the top opulence of St. Peter’s and the Vatican complex, to tiny, dark Romanesque structures tucked in back alleys.  I didn’t count them, but I am confident you could visit a different one every day for a year and still have more to see.

In the aggregate, they probably contain the greatest single collection of works of art in one place in the world.  There are Byzantine mosaics that shine with their own inner light, intricate tile floors, richly colored Renaissance frescos, countless stained glass windows, exquisite oil paintings, and, above all, sculpture.  This is not in a single building, nor even in a few buildings, this is in every one of hundreds of buildings packed into a very small area.

There are many works by famous artists, Michelangelo, Donatello, Bernini, names we all learned in school; some of their greatest creations on display; not as museum pieces, but as practical elements of neighborhood churches; a regular part of the local people’s everyday life.

What amazed me even more than the recognized “masterpieces” were the tens of thousands of beautiful works crafted by artisans and artists who are nameless.  Even the most humble church is filled with the results of their labor. 

You can follow the guidebooks to  a church to see the single Bernini statue for which it is famous.  Outside, in the bright sunlit piazza there is likely to be some monumental piece of ancient Roman sculpture.   When you step through the door into the cool interior, you walk on floors that are art, look at windows that are art, pass niches filled with art, pillars, tombs, chapels, every surface adorned with objects and decorations that would seem perfectly suited to the richest palace, the most refined museum.

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2 Responses

  1. I’ve never seen these beautiful images you have shared here, but I can feel the energy that is attached to them. Thank you for sharing.

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