Monday, March 27, 2006

'Il Divino’ at his magnificent best.

A visit to the Sistine Chapel needs an early start – a bus from Piazza di Porta Maggiore takes a ‘scenic’ route directly through the ancient heart of Rome and crosses the Tiber at the Victor Emmanuell II Bridge to a stop a few minutes away from St. Peter’s Square. It was Wednesday and the Pope was due to conduct mass – the faithful pilgrims crowding into the Square were being welcomed in their native language to appreciative cheers. Fewer then in the queues for the Cappella Sistina perhaps!

Crowd management at the Vatican Museum entrance is slick and well organised involving airport style security. Once through the admission procedure it is important to remain focussed and not get sidetracked by papal artefacts acquired over the centuries. I kept my eyes raised appropriately heavenwards admiring the gloriously painted ceilings in the corridors. None compares with what Michelangelo achieved in the Sistine though.

Despite the distraction of the moving crowds it is a moving experience to look up at the ceiling then take in the scale of the ‘Last Judgment’ on the altar wall. I grabbed the first vacant space on the marble bench which runs the length of the chapel wall and sat for a long time and gazed. There is too much to take in of course all you can do is savour the atmosphere of the place then come home and study a text with good illustrations.