Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Visible Image of the Universe

Now I have to warn you guys... this is the biggie.
This was the day that I had been waiting for. The day that I'd been anticipating since the moment I found out I was going to Rome. This was the day that I would finally get to see the Pantheon.

I honestly don't think that I have been so excited since I was a child. I was relieved really that excitement had taken over. I was wary that the experience would be overshadowed by my emotional state. This visit to the Pantheon was one person's very important gift to me, and although they did not care to see it themselves, it's all that they wanted for me and I had hoped to share it with them. This was definitely in my mind as I went about my business that day, but I ended up just being so grateful, so thankful to him that I got to be there at all.

I was so excited that I got up at 6am to make sure I could be there by 7am, until I checked and found out it doesn't open until 9 am, so I used the extra time to get a little lost.

And boy did it pay off.

I managed to stumble across Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza built by Francesco Borromini in 1642-1660. I hadn't put it on my list of things to see so I hadn't managed to think far enough ahead to book in. I know that I missed out on some of the most beautiful views, but finding it by accident and instantly recognising its twisted lantern was an intensely satisfying feeling.

But that was just the start of things.

Look at it.

In all its imperfect beauty.

And then there's the money shot.

I arrived spot on opening time. There were only about 10 other people in there with me. The weather was clement, the space was quiet and calm, and I had my camera.

I don't think I'll ever be able to explain why I love the Pantheon so much. I suppose now would be the right time to try but I'd get too caught up in the words instead of the photographs. Shelley's description of the Pantheon as the visible image of the universe is about the closest I've come to an expression that begins to capture what it means to me.

When talking about domed structures there's a lot to be said about platonic solids; about the symbolism of geometric shapes and what using them signifies. There's also a lot to be said for the never-ending-never-beginning shape of a sphere as a representation of the entire universe. Perhaps, as the name suggests, the sphere represents the realm of all of the Gods, and the squared drum stands for our earthly home. I think it probably does. But I like to think that this building is everything.

Beyond Olympus, beyond Inferno.

And this is our little window through.

The Pantheon also fascinates me for the ingenuity of its construction. True, I love all the philosophical, cosmological, general can't-think-about-it-too-much-before-my-head-explodes stuff, but I also love the fact that these dudes were just so clever.

One of my favourite facts about the Pantheon is the use of materials. They get lighter the higher the building climbs, which is then made even lighter still by the coffering of the dome.

Also, once I read an article where someone had done an artistic reconstruction of what the peg holes in the pediment might show, which I seem to remember was an eagle. I did a quick google and found this article on the subject written by my old lecturer (though I haven't read it yet so I can't comment on its contents at the moment!)

I spent about 2 hours before I finally decided to leave my beloved building and take a stroll.

As truly beautiful as Rome is, I don't think anything could have topped my morning. It's a bit unfair on the rest of Rome, really, I didn't even give it a chance!

Unfortunately the Trevi Fountain was undergoing some serious restoration works whilst I was there. Wouldn't you know that it's just been re-opened & water is flowing once again.

I took a wander back down to St Peter's to see how busy it was. Boy was it busy. The sun was pounding at the necks of tourists and burning people's feet through their shoes. I decided I would have another early start the day after in order to skip the queue... plus it would give me time to buy something... a-pope-riate to wear.

And I'm going to sign off with another shot of the dome of St Peter's, never being inconspicuous.

I wonder if it's a clue to my next update?
Only one way to find out!

p.s. For some shameless self-promotion, I signed up to socialcircletalent who gave me the chance to work with Audible. So if you fancy signing up for your free audiobook trial, you should probably click this link (please!)

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