Day 3 was packed; for the second half of the day we hit three of the biggest sites in the city – St. Peter’s Basilica, Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon.
St. Pete’s is connected to the Vatican Museum, so right when we exited the museum, we headed into the Basilica…which is enormous. When you walk through the doors, the opposite side of the church is two football fields away; everything here is designed to inspire awe through size.
Directly to the right is Michelangelo’s masterpiece, The Pieta, done when he was 25. There was originally some controversy over who actually sculpted it, and so Mike took out his chisle and retrofitted Mary’s sash with “Michelangelo Did This.”
The 7 story bronze Baldacchino over St. Peter’s grave is very impressive, as is the apse beyond, both done by Bernini (who also did the Square outside). The alter below the canopy was actually made using marble taken from the Pantheon. The dome above was designed and begun by Michelangelo, and after his death, it was finished based on his diagrams.
We didn’t make it down to the crypt or up to the top of the dome on Day 3, but we have plans to later in the week. We headed out and down the broad boulevard, across the Tiber River, and over to Piazza Navona for lunch. The Piazza is dominated in the center by Bernini’s greatest fountain, “The Four Rivers,” which depicts four river gods representing the four continents of the time: the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube, and the Rio de la Plata.
After a couple pizzas in the piazza, we walked a few short blocks to the Pantheon (latin for “all gods”). The open oculus in the center of the dome was meant to produce a column of light piercing the rotunda. When it rains, the water flows down the slightly slanted floor into drains on the outsides of the circular floor.
Originally, it was used for the greeks as a kind of worship supermarket – it had sculptures of all of the major gods, and you prayed to any or all that you wanted. Today, those statues are gone, and buried here are the first two kings of Italy and one of the original Renaissance men, Raphael (pictured below).
Tired, we walked back to the Metro, getting a large gellato on the way, got back to our beloved Urbis 2nd piano room and passed out until night time, went out to a couple bars, and caught the bus around 4:30am. Tomorrow: Florence.