Masterpieces of Light and Space: St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy – Part IV: The Art

So there’s probably close to a billion historically significant works of art in St. Peter’s Basilica, mostly by Italian renaissance artists who later lent their names to a ragtag group of martial arts knowing turtles. The former (unqualified) art history professor in me wants to show you some of the highlights, but I don’t really know in most cases who made what, nor do I feel like looking it all up on wikipedia and pretending I knew all along.

Unlike my previous posts, my comments about the art will appear above the photo. As if we’re on a tour and I’m speaking before you get a chance to look.

Here’s perhaps the most famous piece, Pieta by one Michaelangelo Buonarroti.

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The Baldachino by Bernini…

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One of the Apostles, who appears to have just hurled something at you.

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Followed by another Apostle, who perhaps caught what the first had hurled.

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Another Apostle (I’m crossing my fingers now hoping I photographed all four…)

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Myriad statues popping their heads out and looking around. It’s like a whole city of the biblically famous frozen in marble…

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Throne of St. Peter:

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I guess I didn’t get a photo of the fourth apostle at the dome, so we will have to travel back to Rome one day. However, upon exiting St. Peter’s you run headlong into Swiss Guard with their Halberds. Their uniforms are artful AF, aren’t they?

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So this will conclude my 4 part series on St. Peter’s Basilica. I think that anyone regardless of faith would enjoy a walk around in this church. There’s literally so much to see. If you attend a mainline Christian church, you will appreciate it from a heritage viewpoint. If not, there are all sorts of curiosities to indulge your brain. Plus the scale is just overwhelming altogether. I’d say St. Peter’s Basilica is not to be missed.

Masterpieces of Light and Space: Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy (aka omg so many famous dead Italians in one place!)

Florence, ItalyThe beautiful facade of the church that holds the remains of like, every important artist from the Italian Renaissance

Our Florence guidebook took us on walking tour after walking tour of the city, and each one was amazing in the sense of “I’m totally walking in the steps of some of my favorite renaissance artists and scientists.” When the guidebook took us to Santa Croce, I didn’t expect for all of those Renaissance masters to be freakin’ entombed in one place.

Florence, ItalyInterior of of Santa Croce with *womp womp* renovations at the chancel

The interior of the church was of course beautiful, although we could not clearly see the chancel for the scaffolding of ongoing renovations. When we got inside we paid particular attention to the Medici chapel as our guidebook suggested, took in some art, wandered around the expanse of the nave, and generally saw the sites…as you do when you’re church-hopping in perhaps the most church-rich country on earth. Then we started running into the “residents.”
Florence, ItalyBlast! It’s Galileo’s grave!

For example…Galileo. He’s been resting here for quite some time. For a few minutes it seemed that every important character you have read about from the Italian Renaissance, from art to science to literature was buried here.
Florence, ItalyMichelangelo Buonorotti

Michelangelo? Are you for real?!

Florence, ItalyDANTE!?

Dante is entombed here too! But not really. There’s a tomb for him here, but he never came back to Florence after he was exiled. He’s actually buried in Ravenna. The Florentines just wanted to take credit for his great work, which occurred mostly after his exile.

Florence, ItalyFREAKING MACHIAVELLI?!?!?!

So it just goes on and on. Even the great Italian opera composer Rossini is buried here, though of course a couple hundred years after these guys.

Florence, ItalyThe pulpit with a beautiful starry sky

I really love the art style of the Italian Renaissance, with the deep colors and overcalled stars evidenced in the photo of the pulpit above.

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The entire nave is lined with famous people.

So round and round we walked, even snapping selfies in front of Galileo’s grave since our first “date” was kinda cosmic (mommyPrimate used my new telescope to show me Jupiter’s moons that night.)

Florence, ItalyReliquary in Santa Croce

I really don’t remember the story of Santa Croce (I’m guessing whose relics are in this reliquary), but I remember something about her head being separated from her body and I think it might be inside the case shaped like her head. Totally scraping the bottom of my memory pile for details remembered from our honeymoon, because searching the internet doesn’t seem to be helping at all. At any rate, super cool presentation of the reliquary.

Florence, ItalyOMG HONEY WE SOMEHOW ENDED UP IN 15th CENTURY FLORENCE!

Upon leaving the basilica we were immediately swept up by what appeared to be a 15th century marching band of sorts, with cool costumes, loud trumpet fanfares, and dudes throwing flags. I’m not sure what it was all about, but we followed them for a little while (some people followed them all the way across the Arno river) and got a coffee.

Florence, ItalyItalian Beer Drinkers

We were also treated to these dudes in felt costumes who were trolling the members of the marching band. Not sure what it was all about, but they said “Medici” quite a lot. Santa Croce and the Piazza della Republica in front of it sure had a lot to offer for one afternoon. Of course, if you ever need to sit down and talk to Machiavelli’s bones, you know where to do it now.

Masterpieces of Light and Space: Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, Italy

Rome, ItalyThe Nave of San Luigi dei Francesi

I remember our first day in Rome fairly clearly. We arrived by train, found our hotel, and since it was just an hour ride from Florence and not a horrific overnight bus journey, we were ready to go. We pulled out the guide book and got to it, walking from Piazza Cinquecento (Termini Station) by the Colosseum, Forum, Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and one landmark after another all the way to St. Peter’s Basilica and back. I’m pretty sure we visited San Luigi dei Francesi on the same day.

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Caravaggios lining the walls of San Luigi dei Francesi

Though easily more impressive than probably any church in my home town, San Luigi dei Francesi might be overlooked on one’s trip to Rome, if not for it’s super impressive collection of paintings and frescoes by Caravaggio. I think I saw maybe one or two Caravaggio’s while we were in Florence, and there might have been one at the Prado in Madrid, but I REALLY wanted to see a few examples of his super high-contrast work. It turns out that basically all of them are in this one church in Rome (yes, complete overstatement.) My one semester as an art history teacher (not sure how I ever got that job) left me with an appreciation for Caravaggio that I would have never had without that experience. And I was standing. In a 500 year old church in Rome. Looking at Caravaggio’s handiwork.

Rome, ItalySee why I say Masterpieces of Light and Space?

If the decor makes you think “looks kinda French” it’s because this is the church of St. Louis of the French (San Luigi dei Francesi, see?) St. Louis was King Louis IX of France. So you can kinda see what happened here. I imagine this was basically the French embassy during the days of the Holy Roman Empire, but that is purely conjecture on my part not at all based in fact.

I don’t have any exterior photos of the building – it turns out I was mostly focused on Caravaggio for this stop, but when I googled “San Luigi dei Francesi” the pic came up, and it kinda looks like the facade of every 16th century building in Rome. Pretty, but not super remarkable. Like an oyster shell with high contrast pearls inside.