February 26, 2012

SIGHTSEEING: When in Rome

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There is nothing quite like a visit to Rome. Unless you are literally blind, you will be slapped in the face by architectural genius. At some points it’s so overwhelming you’ll just want to close your eyes, cover your ears and stop learning. But the history will creep in. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you begin to wonder how Rome was built, period. Between the “ciao bellas,” cappuccino pregames and male eyelash fluttering that precedes every activity, it’s a miracle anything gets done at all.

The beauty of all this comes together in St Peter’s Basilica. When you enter, you have to crane your head to take in its full splendor. You could return there every day for weeks and still not fully internalize its intricacies. The ceilings are high beyond measure, with angled domes enveloping each other. Statues that would be feats of brilliance on their own litter the interior. The visual stimulus provides no resting place for wary eyes. The altar alone is taller than the tower of Pisa and made completely of stolen bronze. The Basilica boasts ornate gold accents and epic moldings throughout, not an inch left undecorated. The Pope’s altar is in the rear, touched by none but the holy one himself.

You know that moment when you see a piece of modern art with three blocks of color or a random abstract splatter, and you think to yourself, “I could have done that?” That never happened here.

If anything, the Basilica is an epic tribute to the era when art and sculpture was not a rebellious deviation from mainstream capitalist expectations, but instead studied, glorified and celebrated.

There is a reason why Michelangelo’s name, like his statues, has failed to become obsolete. St Peter’s Basilica has been in functioning order for more than 1,000 years. The paintings, the Latin, the statutes not only remain, but have born witness to centuries of religious service, to different generations of worshipers and many generations of popes. Wars and unrest have not laid a hand on this holy land, and the dust that lingers has more history than anything our short time here allows us to comprehend.

My knowledge of art spans no further than the choices I make to decorate my dorm room. Considering that currently consists of a 10×13 ft American flag, I acknowledge I have no credibility in the aesthetic arena. In between drowning in gelato and wading through linguini in Rome, though, I recommend visiting St Peter’s Basilica. It is casually impressive.

Annie Ziesing is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying abroad in Rome this semester. She may be reached at notesfromabroad@cornellsun.com. Notes from Abroad: Sightseeing appears on Tuesdays.

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Original Author: Annie Ziesing

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