Though St. Peter’s Square and the majestic Basilica were often crowded, but never moreso than during the Pope’s weekly audiences, I loved spending relaxing and inspiring times there. I was not Catholic, and my sojourn had little to do with religion.
Thanks to the Canadian Embassy at Holy See, I was given a “Reparto Speciale” – a pass to a VIP seat at one of his weekly audiences. After I got an ideal seat behind the delegation from the USA (immediately to the left of the pope, a man ushered me over to the left-hand fence of my section? Why, I asked. He said that the Holy Father would pass by that way and shake my hand. The man was Arturo Mari – the official Papal photographer for 5 popes – that would include all of Pope John Paul’s reign.
I was in awe of Pope John Paul II, the former Polish actor who had also worked in a quarry and a chemical factory, the man who was now shepherd to the global flock of 800 million Catholics. The Papacy was the world’s only elective monarchy and the Holy Father managed an incredible global bureaucracy that included 4,000 bishops, 400,000 priests, and at least 1 million nuns. I was not Catholic, but that did not matter. Neither did the fact that he was staunchly conservative in a world that seemed to cry out for more flexibility and tolerance, even adaptation. I regarded Pope John Paul not only as a man of God but as a man of peace.
(Having just written that, and feeling that “God” could also represent the supreme deity of any religion, it seems that “peace” and “God” are, in any case, inseparable. So why is the world still fractured in some places by religious intolerance? God only knows. Is there some secret to achieving world tolerance and peace that we have yet to discover?)
I admired Pope Paul’s courage and tenacity in spreading peace throughout the world, especially because he got out there personally and did it so often.
I really blew it here, photographically! I should have waited until a person entered the frame so I could give you true perspective. These are just a few of the 284 massive columns of Bernini’s Colonnade at St. Peter’s Square. Each one is actually 66 feet high and 5 feet wide! The colonnade supports 140 statues of saints, popes, martyrs, etc.
In St. Peter’s Square, this is one of the two massive, beautiful fountains that were created in the 1600’s.
St. Peter’s also housed the most beautiful object I saw in all of Italy – the Pietà. Surely, I thought, this life-like image of the slain Christ lying in Mary’s arms could wring tears from the stoniest of souls. It was hard to believe it had been fashioned by human hands. But Michaelangelo fleshed it out of marble when he was only 25 years old. It had been said that he sought, in his art, to liberate the form of the human body from a prison of marble. This was a metaphor for the struggle of the human soul, imprisoned in an earthly body, and a condition ripe for themes of triumph and tragedy and Man’s inhumanity to Man.
Climb the 491 steps to the top of St. Peter’s Dome – another of Michelangelo’s awesome creations.
I went up the tilted stairway to take in the view from the top of Michaelangelo’s magnificent ribbed dome. Please forgive cliché, but it was truly awe-inspiring. From the backs of the Saints, the panorama of Rome spread out from the square below, which was not square at all. This held, for me, the essence of the view: the colonnade and the square looked like a giant keyhole – architectural symbolism of entry, it you found the key.
And as always, I was on the lookout to photograph… LOVING COUPLES.
CANADA ~~ ENGLAND ~~ WALES ~~ SCOTLAND ~~ NORWAY ~~ SWEDEN ~~ DENMARK ~~ THE NETHERLANDS ~~ BELGIUM ~~ LUXEMBOURG ~~ GERMANY ~~ LIECHTENSTEIN ~~ AUSTRIA ~~ SWITZERLAND ~~ FRANCE ~~ SPAIN ~~ MONACO ~~ ITALY ~~ THE VATICAN ~~ GREECE ~~ EGYPT ~~ SUDAN ~~ KENYA ~~ INDIA ~~ NEPAL ~~ SINGAPORE ~~ MALAYSIA ~~ JAPAN ~~ HAWAII ~~ USA ~~ RETURN