About Donald Bueltmann

Retired, married 49 years, living in AZ-enjoying the beautiful weather, written and self-published 3 books

Venice

 Venice

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At one time Venice was referred to as the Crossroads of the Renaissance world, in fact The Doge Tomaso Mocenigo referred to Venice as, Mistress of all the gold in Christendom.

We were only going to be here for a day and a half so we stored part of our luggage at the train station. We stepped outside into the late Venetian afternoon sun and checked out our travel alternatives.

What’s a Water Taxi

There were three methods. We could walk; take a waterbus, or a water taxi. The first option was not feasible. After trudging to our hotel in Rome we knew our limitations, we could not carry our luggage that far. The second option was out for the same reason. Waterbuses are just like land buses, they follow a set route and time schedule and the nearest bus stop was too far from our hotel, the Hotel Ala. The last option remained the water taxi.

A water taxi is a speedboat or runabout. They are clean, fast, and usually attractive, and very expensive. It cost us 86,000 Lira or $66 for a 15 minute ride to our hotel. The experience was almost worth the expense. The powerful engines throbbed as we noisily chugged our way through the maze of canals. We arrived at a side entrance to our hotel and buccaneer-style walked up a plank into the lobby. Never, have I arrived at a hotel in such style.

Acropolis

 

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The hotel was small but the employees were very attentive and catered to our every request. When checking in they offered us the opportunity to go on a free tour of the glass-blowing factory on the Island of Murano. This sounded exciting and since they had used one of my favorite words FREE, I immediately agreed to the tour.

Shopping in the Piazza San Marcos

It was now about 7PM and we headed for the Piazza San Marcos or St. Marks Square, the place-to-be in Venice. We walked out the door of the hotel (the front door this time) and down the street. We crossed over a bridge and continued walking following directional signs. We started seeing more shops, exclusive shops, Versace, Givenchy, and other immediately recognizable brands. We must be getting close to the Piazza. On the right side of the walk I saw an ATM, time to stock up. I withdrew 500,000 Lira about $333.

Oh Lord, What Did I Do?

About a half block further I saw a glassware boutique. I looked at the collection they had on display in the window and decided I had to go in (bad move). After looking a few moments I fell in love with a set of wine goblets. Venice is noted for its glassware and these certainly lived up to the reputation. They were beautiful, hand-blown made from Alexandrite glass (the glass changed color based on the temperature of the beverage), and hand-painted with both gold and ceramic dogwood flowers. They bordered on garishness, but I was captivated by their unique beauty. The price was 1,200,000 lira or $800.

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After much bargaining, I bought six goblets and a carafe for this price. Since the proprietor swore I had already cheated him out of his retirement years with my keen bargaining skills, he would not allow me to charge the entire amount. I went back to the ATM to get more money.

I walked back to the shop and told the proprietor that I had obtained all the cash the ATM would allow me to withdraw. We bargained a little more and he agreed to allow me to charge $450 and pay cash for the balance. The next discussion was what to do with my purchase. He said, “No problem.” He would ship it to my home; he did this all the time and never had a problem. That’s fine for him, I had never done this before and I did have a problem. But I had no choice; I surely was not going to carry it around with me.

Mark and I walked out of the shop. I was dazed! “My God what had I done?” I had paid a fortune for something that I might never receive nor could I be sure it would arrive intact. I tried to get assurance from Mark that I had not acted stupidly. Mark in his stoic manner, realizing that I did not really want to hear the truth, gave me assurance.

Why did I do it, and even more questionable, what would I do with it? I had no place to display this treasure but did not want to lose it. My youngest son Gregory had a passion for china and glassware; I planned on giving it to him. I thought perhaps this may assuage some of the guilt I felt because he was not able to join me on this little junket. I also would be assured of having visiting rights to it.

We walked around the Square too tired to really know what we were looking at. We were very hungry and it was starting to get dark. We stopped in a small café on the square, hadn’t we been warned not to do this? We ordered a couple of sandwiches, two Cokes, and for dessert two pieces of cake. We were presented with a bill for 60,000 Lira or about $44 US.

Moral: Don’t eat at cafes in St. Marks Square.

Mark noticed a sign on the wall stating that Richard Wagner used to eat there and meditate while composing his great works. He was probably trying to figure out how he was going to pay the bill. Maybe he did his work at cost plus and charged it to King Ludwig. We’ll talk about him later.

After eating and feeling a bit rejuvenated, we shopped a little, realizing that we would return again tomorrow. As we walked toward our hotel it started raining. We passed a canal-side restaurant that seemed to be very popular and walked down to read the posted menu and get the name. It was the Ristorante da Raffaele. When we got back to the hotel we asked the desk clerk to book reservations for dinner tomorrow evening.

This is an excerpt from my book “Fulfillment is a Place”, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is available through Amazon Books

Rome to Venice

Last Day in Rome

Day 8: Sunday, May 26. We were leaving on the train for Venice at 12:15PM. Since this was Sunday, we needed to find a church; this was not a big problem in Rome. We wanted to attend Mass at St. Peters with the Pope, but once again just did not have the time. During breakfast we discussed how we could get to Mass before leaving.

As I was settling our bill with the desk clerk, I heard church bells pealing. I asked the clerk what church it was and where it was located. I was informed that it was Santa Maria Maggiore and that it was two blocks away. This was one of the churches that I had heard about for years and we were right next door to it. We had plenty of time to attend 9:30AM Mass and still catch our train.

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore or Saint Mary Major was constructed in the 5th century under the direction of Pope Sixtus III. This was after the Council of Ephesus in 431 accepted as dogma the fact that Mary was the Mother of God. According to legend Pope Liberius was told by a vision to found a church in a location designated by immaculate snow. The church has been changed and added to over the years. Following the directions from the hotel desk clerk we walked up a hill to the church.

Mass was being celebrated in the Pauline Chapel constructed by Flaminio Ponzio in 1611 and named for Pope Paul V of the Borghese family. The Main altar was surrounded by magnificent marble columns about 30 ft. high, capped by beautiful gilded angels. In the center of the wall in back of the altar was a large painting of the Madonna and child in a frame protected by glass and surrounded by four gold angels. The painting is purported to have been painted by St. Luke but the work has actually been dated to the 11th century, 1,000 years later.

After Mass we walked around the church; at  the far end of a long hall was an altar. The design of the altar was very similar to the main altar in St. Peters. I had no idea to whom it was devoted. We descended some stairs at the side and found a small silver urn. Whose ashes did the urn contain? Nearby there were some confessional booths. I saw a priest emerging from one and hurried over and asked if he spoke English. Imagine my surprise when he informed me that he was from Boston and was there to study. I questioned him about the altar in front of us and the mysterious urn. He told us that we were looking at the holiest part of the church.

The main altar was surrounded by a huge baldacchino (altar canopy) which was modeled after Bernini’s masterpiece. He further explained that the altar protected the Crypt of Confession that houses the silver urn containing five pieces of the manger that once held Jesus at his birth. What a rush that was!

We said farewell and visited the gift shop where we purchased a few souvenirs. It was time to return to the hotel, check out and catch our train to Venezia or Venice.

Rome to Venice with Good Company

We walked to the Roma Stazione for the last time, checked the train schedule to see if there had been any track changes and approached our train, which was waiting for departure. We searched several compartments looking for a place to sit and found a compartment with two unassigned seats so we exercised squatter’s rights and grabbed them. We placed some of our luggage in the overhead rack and the rest immediately outside our compartment where we could watch it. We then waited to see who our travel mates would be for the five-hour ride.

Our companions soon entered the compartment. It was a man and woman and their daughter. He was a professor at Georgia State University and his wife also taught school. They were on a four-month teaching assignment in Heidelberg and had taken some time for a brief holiday in Italy.

We spent the rest of the trip talking to our companions about their experiences in Germany. They had traded homes with a couple in Germany for the duration of this assignment and swapped both homes and cars. They had obtained access to a Mercedes-Benz. Such a deal!

As we glanced out the window, we saw the train was moving across the causeway and pulling into the Santa Lucia Stazione in Venezia.

This is an excerpt from my book “Fulfillment is a Place”, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is available through Amazon Books

Florence

Florence

Day 7: Saturday, May 25. It is a beautiful sunny morning and we have a great day of adventure planned. We’re going to use our Rail passes for the first time, and Florence is our destination. My first experience using the Rail pass was very pleasurable. Imagine! No crowds! No lines! No check-in! It was a traveler’s dream.

We picked up a city map in the train station and walked outside into the beautiful city of Firenze or Florence. We walked down the Via De’Panzanii to the Via De’Cerretani it was several blocks, going toward the Piazza Duomo.

Duomo

The Duomo (Italian for Cathedral) has one of the most beautiful exteriors I have ever seen; colored tiles and stones are assembled into a gorgeous mosaic. It looks like the designer had sat with a pad in his hand and spent years performing geometric doodles until the plans were completed. This use of colored tiles is indigenous to Florence; the octagonal dome built without the aid of scaffolding is unique to the Duomo and was considered an engineering marvel.

The Duomo is dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore, Our Lady of the Flower. It was built on the site of a Christian church; construction of the cathedral began in 1294 and continued until 1436. Some of the most famous Italian artisans cooperated in the completion of the church, Giotto (better known as a painter of frescoes), Arnolfo di Cambio, Andrea Orcagna, and, most notably, Filippo Brunelleschi, who was responsible for designing and building the dome, which dominates the Florentine roofline

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Acropolis

Ghiberti’s Gates

Facing the cathedral and campanile is a smaller, octagonal structure, the Baptistery of San Giovanni (6th-9th centuries), noted for its gilt-bronze doors, elaborately worked in high relief by Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti. These beautiful bronze panels named The Gates of Paradise depict various scenes from the Bible. In a few weeks I’ll be able to compare them to Rodin’s Gates of Hell. I was stunned at the level of detail that Ghiberti had breathed into this magnificent work. The midmorning sun granted a golden highlight to the figures, providing many of them with halos. It was difficult to imagine that these doors had survived all these years, later I read that the original doors are kept indoors to protect them from the weather.

Acropolis

Acropolis

Unfortunately, at the time we were there both the Duomo and the Baptistery were closed and being short of time we pressed onward. Our next target was the Bargello.

Bargello

The Bargello is located near the Piazza della Signoria. A crenellated 94M (308-ft) bell tower tops the building.

The Bargello houses a large collection of sculptures by Italian masters. Among its treasures are Donatello’s David, Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini, and the Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna.  In the Upper Loggia is the Donatello Room and his David and St. George, and St. John, also works by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. The lower hall houses a collection of 14th century sculpture including several by Michelangelo.

In Search of the Uffizi

Mark and I set out in search of the Uffizi. I had never heard of the Uffizi but it was purported to have the largest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings in the world. We soon found ourselves at a river. This was the famous River Arno, how often had I found that word in crossword puzzles? I looked to the right and further down the river saw a bridge. At this time my mind was concentrating on one objective, finding the Uffizi. Too bad, it would have been nice if I had recognized and crossed the legendary Ponte Vecchio built in 1345. I still regret some of the things we missed because of our time limitations.

We continued to walk around the area and eventually came upon the Piazza de Uffizi where the entrance to the museum is located. We had to wait for perhaps 15 minutes to gain admittance to the museum. I have talked to others that informed me we were fortunate to gain admittance. If I haven’t already said this, “We were very wise to pick the dates for our fantasy trip”. We wandered through the museum; I had never seen such a fantastic collection of Old Masters in one place.

There were paintings by Giotto and others dating from the 13th century; Giotto’s beautiful altarpiece; The Annunciation and Saints, by Simone Martini dated 1333; Filippo Lippi’s hauntingly beautiful, The Coronation of the Virgin dated c:1441-1447; then there was Botticelli, The Adoration of the Magi, the two paintings of Judith and the Discovery of the Corpse of Holofernes, perhaps his most famous works Primavera and the Birth of Venus, Michelangelo’s The Holy Family; Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch and St. John in the Wilderness; Titian’s beautiful Venus of Urbino and Leda and the Swan; another painting that became etched in my mind was Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi.

You may think I have a thing about Judith. The story is fascinating and may be read in the Book of Judith in the Old Testament of The Bible. The Israelis were under siege by Holofernes (a general sent by Nebuchadnezzar), they were quickly running out of food and water. Judith, an attractive widow, volunteers to save them. She dons her finest clothing, perfume, and makeup, and wanders into the enemy camp posing as a traitor. She proposes that she will show the enemy how to take the Israeli town with no casualties on their part. Holofernes becomes enamored of her. Judith gets him drunk. While he is sleeping she cuts off his head and sneaks out of camp with his head as a trophy. When her treachery is discovered in the morning, the enemy is so unnerved that they depart.

The return trip was uneventful, I don’t remember but I imagine we both slept most of the trip. Still tired from our exciting and strenuous day we returned to the hotel to pack. We were leaving tomorrow for that magical, mysterious, place Venice.

This is an excerpt from my book “Fulfillment is a Place”, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is available through Amazon Books

 

 

The Vatican

The Vatican- Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel was named after Pope Sixtus IV who commissioned Baccio Pontelli in 1475 to build a palace chapel and Vatican fortress. The dimensions of the chapel are 40M X 13M. You enter the Sistine Chapel through a side door and walk down some very shallow steps into the main part of the chapel. Everywhere you look you see masterpieces. They start midway up the wall and overflow onto that most famous canvas, the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The room is a microcosmic museum unto itself. Your eyes look, your brain records, but cannot begin to register and realize the magnificence of the sight. I have visited the Chapel twice and am still stunned by the works that I have seen.

Along the sides are two galleries of paintings. The lower gallery painted by Perugino, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Roselli, and Signorelli depict the following biblical scenes:

  • The Baptism of Christ
  • The Temptation of Christ
  • The Call of St. Peter and St. Andrew
  • The Sermon on the Mount
  • Jesus Handing the Keys to St. Peter
  • The Last Supper
  • Moses Journey Into Egypt
  • Moses Receives the Call
  • The Crossing of the Red Sea
  • Adoration of the Golden Calf
  • The Punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram
  • The Last Days of Moses

The intermediate level depicts paintings of twenty-four Popes from St. Anacletus (76-88) to St. Dionysius (259 – 268). These paintings are in pairs and reside on either side of windows going around the walls. Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Roselli, and Fra Diamante painted them. Each papal pair is capped by a Lunette (arched painting) depicting the ancestors of Christ; the Lunettes were painted by Michelangelo.

Above all of this is Michelangelo’s ceiling commissioned by Pope Julius II in March of 1508 and composed of thirty-three individual paintings. They begin with the center strip consisting of:

  • God Dividing Light From Darkness
  • Creation of the Sun and the Moon
  • God Separating the Waters from the Land
  • The Creation of Man
  • The Creation of Woman
  • The Original Sin
  • The Sacrifice of Noah
  • The Deluge
  • Drunkenness of Noah

The center strip is bordered on all sides by an additional twenty-four paintings all depicting a variety of scenes from the Bible.

By far the most impressive are those depicting the creation of the world. We observe God in his omnipotence performing tasks we cannot even imagine, moving bits of Heaven and Earth about as if he were sweeping the floors or dusting shelves.

1024px-The_Creation_of_the_Sun_and_the_Moon,_Michelangelo_(1508-1512)_edited     Dividing_Light_from_Darkness_edited

He reaches out to Adam and animates the supine figure with life and the ability to reason. Who has not seen details of this most famous of paintings, the hands reaching toward each other. One filled with power, the other limp but desirous of intimacy with such power.

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Next we observe the creation of Eve and the couple being driven from Eden after falling prey to the evil advances of the Serpent. At the end of the center strip are three paintings portraying Noah, the Deluge, and sacrificial offerings of thanks. There are another twenty-four paintings around the perimeter.

Just as our eyes became accustomed to the overwhelming sight of Michelangelo’s genius, we turned back toward the door. There it was the most magnificent work of all, The Last Judgment.

This immense work was painted by Michelangelo twenty years after the completion of the ceiling, and fills the entire wall. In the Last Judgment, Christ appears in the center next to Mary. He appears to be the source of a powerful vortex that is calling the dead from their resting-places. The dead rise on the left side of the painting towards a cloud. On this cloud is a group of angels who are the keepers of the Books of Good and Evil Deeds. Each soul is called forth and answers for his deeds. The good are saved and welcomed into Heaven, the damned are sent back down to Charon and the beasts and demons of Hell.

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We finally depart from the tranquility of the chapel and give a last look over our shoulder as we walk through the door. We are back in the hallways again passing displays of numerous gifts that have been presented to the church and its officials over the years. Each a treasure unto itself, silver, gold, ceramic, every media is represented in these gifts.

Farther down the hall we stopped at the Vatican Gift shop. The first thing that attracted my attention was a book of the paintings of Raphael and Michelangelo found in the Vatican Museum. I am so thankful that I purchased this book, you have no idea how much pleasure it gives me to be able to refer back to it to answer questions or just to look again at the beauties of these masterpieces. Incidentally, after coming home I found the same book at our Art Museum bookstore. Oh well, I didn’t carry it around too long, I mailed it home from Munich.

I also purchased a few Rosaries, medallions, postcards, and stamps. In case you didn’t know, the Vatican has its own post office. Who could resist sending mail home postmarked from the Vatican? We quickly wrote and addressed our postcards and headed out. Jackie was really excited when she received her postcard and saw the Vatican postmark.

We walked out the door and around the corner on our way to that wonder of wonders, St. Peters Basilica. We passed sidewalk vendors selling shirts, books, and various religious artifacts.

How many of you have been to see the wonders of the Vatican? Were you as impressed as I was?

Next stop St. Peters . I’ll be looking for you.

This is an excerpt from my book “Fulfillment is a Place”, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is .Available through Amazon Books

 

The Basilica

Piazza San Pietro or St. Peters Square

You approach St. Peters on the Via Del Conciliazione which was built in 1930 by Mussolini to connect the Vatican with the rest of the city. Shops on both the right and left sides of the street were selling religious articles or books. There are also swarms of vendors selling rosaries, medallions, key chains, figurines, and anything else that might appeal to the emotions of their prospective clients.

Bernini built the colonnade sometime prior to 1667. His beautiful design represents the arms of the church reaching out to embrace humanity. The colonnade is 340Meters wide with a 240M center oval enclosed by 4 rows of 284 columns and 88 pillars. The balustrade topping the columns supports 140 statues of the saints. In the center of the oval directly down from the grand staircase are eight-meter high statues of Saints Peter and Paul. In the center of these statues is an obelisk that Caligula had brought from Egypt to Rome to decorate Nero’s Circus.

Piazza San Pietro

Pope Sixtus V had the obelisk moved here as a witness to the martyrdom of St. Peter and perhaps to indicate the triumph of the church over the degradation imposed during these early years. This huge area is where the public gathers for the Papal Audiences every Wednesday and also to hear the words of the Pope every Sunday. The colonnade is beautiful in the size, strength, and delicacy of the design and is a fantastic addition to the structure of St. Peters itself. We walked into the Piazza and looked around trying to get our bearings. The large center area was open and fairly devoid of people. There was a large fenced area which we later discovered was used for seating during the Papal Audiences ; and a long line of people on the right side of the colonnades waiting to enter something. We went to the left side of the colonnades, where there was a much shorter line. As the line moved slowly forward we looked upward at the magnificent Dome and the front of the church.

 

The Dome

The huge dome 137M (meters high) seems to cap the Basilica as a Miter or a crown, a fitting tribute to complete such an immense and imposing structure. The dome was designed by Michelangelo and was completed under the direction of Giacomo Della Porta in 1590. Eight-hundred men worked night and day for two years to complete this marvel.

The Facade

Made of travertine marble and extending 114M long by 45M high this beautiful front was designed by Carlo Moderno. At the top are thirteen six-meter statues representing “The Redeemer”, John the Baptist, and 11 of the apostles. The missing two, St. Peter and St. Paul are in the Piazza below. In the front of the Basilica are five doors, among them are: The Holy Door, The Center Door, The Door of Good and Evil, and The Door of Death.

The Interior

The huge Basilica measures 25,616 Meters square; the outside perimeter is 1,778 Meters long. It has 44 altars, 11 domes, 778 columns, 395 statues, and 135 mosaic pictures. The central nave is 187 meters long, 140 meters wide and 46 meters high. The Dome rises 137 meters into the Roman skyline.

Mark and I gravitated toward the crowds of people on the right side of the Basilica and found the famous Pieta. The Pieta is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the body of her son Jesus Christ immediately after He had been taken down from the cross. Her face reflects serenity in the knowledge that her Son’s earthly battle has been completed and that He can move on to the next phase of his life accompanying His Father, God. Michelangelo created the sculpture when he was merely 24 years old. In 1972 it was damaged by a vandal who destroyed Mary’s hand and nose. It was restored and is now protected by a sheet of transparent acrylic.

Pieta

We slowly wandered around past the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. Bernini designed this most beautiful chapel. The sight you remember as you leave is of two beautiful gold angels inviting you to worship.

We walked past the statue of St. Peter where a long line of people were waiting to rub the toe of the statue, praying for him to open the Gates of Heaven for them when they die. Near the statue is the central and most holy area of the church. This area fittingly contains, The Baldacchino by Bernini, the Tomb of St. Peter, The Altar of Confession, and crowning it all, as a source of illumination, Michelangelo’s Dome.

In front of all of this is the Tomb of St. Peter. After Christ’s death the future and the expansion of the Catholic Church rested on Peter’s shoulders. He was the Rock and is the main reason that pilgrims visit the Basilica today. In front of the tomb 99 oil lamps burn constantly as a reminder to be faithful to Christ and St. Peter.

Bernini designed his Baldacchino when he was only 26. Can you even imagine such precocity? Four spiral columns richly trimmed in gold support this beautiful bronze canopy. The Baldacchino was started in 1624 and took 9 years to complete. It is the largest known bronze artwork. The Baldacchino covers the Altar of Confession, which is made from a single block of marble. This altar is referred to as the Main or Papal altar because this is where the Pope presides during religious services.

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Framed by the Baldachino, is the Chapel of the Cathedra featuring another fabulous creation of Bernini, the highly stylized, Chair of St. Peter. This is not a usable chair; merely a representation of what could be considered a chair suitable for someone of St. Peter’s magnificence. Topping the colossal chair is a fabulous stained glass work representing the Holy Spirit as a dove in flight.

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The Roof

We wandered around looking at the myriad of altars, mosaics, and statues wishing we had more time. We both desired to go to the top of the Dome. Reluctantly we went out the door on the right side of the Portico and saw an elevator. I paid 12,000 Lira for us to take the elevator, well worth the price for the view we would soon enjoy. Silly me, I soon learned that the elevator only took us to the roof and that the rest of the way to the dome was by stairs; not only by stairs, but extremely narrow steeply winding stairs. I decided to walk around the roof and allow Mark to fill me in on the high spots, no pun intended.

In the middle of the roof I spotted a toilet facility and a souvenir stand. Whoever heard of a toilet on the roof? I made use of the one and then visited the other. The souvenir stand was fairly small and crowded. A few nuns who were busily conversing with visitors in various tongues operated it. I picked up a small gift box adorned with one of Michelangelo’s angels and a few token key chains and walked to the edge of the roof using one of the 13 statues of the Apostles as a shield to ward off an attack of vertigo, I looked down on the Piazza and far out onto the Via Del Conciliazione. What a beautiful view, of course, it was nothing compared to the view that Mark was getting from the top of the Dome. But then I’ll let you be the judge, take a look at the postcard quality photo my private lensman shot.

Acropolis

Mark soon descended from the Dome and joined me on the roof, we walked around and took a few photos from the roof and then realized we had to move on. It was getting late and we still wanted to visit the Catacombs. We grabbed a soda and candy bar for nourishment and went to the bus stop. We waited for Bus #660, it would take us to the Via Antica Appia. This was very difficult for me; I never ride the buses at home. But there seemed to be no other way to get to the Catacombs. As an apology, let me state that the bus system in Rome is very easy to use and my reluctance was ignorance and bias on my part. After reading about the catacombs we decided to visit the Catacombs of San Callisto which seemed to be the largest.

This is an excerpt from my book “Fulfillment is a Place”, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is .Available through Amazon Books

 

 

History of St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peters Basilica

History of St. Peter’s Basilica

It is said that St. Peters is the largest church in the world; I believe I have heard the same statement made about St. John the Divine in New York City. Perhaps it would be best to state that it is the largest Catholic Church in the world.

St. Peters was originally built on the grounds of a pagan cemetery next to Nero’s Circus. It was on this site that the Apostle St. Peter was crucified about 67 AD. His body was taken to the cemetery and entombed. The remains of that cemetery are still visible beneath the Basilica. Excavations that took place between 1939 and 1950 unearthed the tomb and the remains of St. Peter.

Pope Anacletus, who succeeded Peter, had a small temple built over the tomb. As you can imagine it became a place of worship for the early Christians who came here in spite of the danger of being persecuted by the Romans. The persecutions came to an end with the reign of Constantine who brought official recognition to the church through the Edict of Milan in 313.

In AD324 Constantine built a large ornate Basilica over the cemetery and part of Nero’s Circus. Extensive excavation was required to level ground, move graves, and tear down Nero’s Circus. Throughout the next few centuries the Visigoths, Vandals, Saracens, and Normans sacked the Basilica. Even though the church was being destroyed throngs of pilgrims continued to assemble for worship, after all, it was the resting-place and reliquary for St. Peter.

In 1506 Pope Julius II began the construction of a 120 years project that was to culminate in the completion of the new and existing Basilica of St. Peters. The greatest artists of this era worked toward completion of this magnificent monument to man’s faith in God. Can you imagine hiring Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Fontana, Della Porta, Bernini, and Maderno? I imagine many of these superior artisans donated their time and work for the honor and glory of God.

It’s beyond understanding to think of all these legendary artists working to bring this magnificent structure into existence.

How many of you have visited St. Peter’s? Were you as impressed as I was?

Next we’ll visit the Basilica.

This is an excerpt from my book Fulfillment is a Place, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is .Available through Amazon Books

Pantheon and Trevi Fountain

The Pantheon was significantly built at the confluence of two small streams, the Aqua Sallustiana and the Annis Petronia. Legend stated that near this area Palus Caprae (the mythical founder of Rome) was transformed into a Hero by Mars and taken into the Heavens. In 27BC Marcus Agrippa built a temple on this site. After suffering through two fires the temple was totally rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian. You remember Hadrian don’t you? This is the same Hadrian who built the monuments in Athens. He really got around! When the temple was rebuilt Hadrian gave Agrippa written credit for the structure. The temple was dedicated as the Pantheon (Pan means All and Theo means God, therefore dedicated to all the Gods).

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The front of the temple is a large columned square with six steps leading to the portico. As you go through the portico you enter the Great Hall itself. A huge dome shaped like a half-sphere tops the Hall. The dome has a radius and a height of 21 meters and was made from poured concrete. How did they ever get a cement mixer that high? It seems that I read somewhere that huge mounds of earth were packed around the top of the structure and the concrete was poured down into the forms. This dome stands today as an architectural miracle and was the model for the Jefferson Memorial and the dome at the top of St. Peters. Over the years the Pantheon has been restored several times. In AD202 Septimus Severus and Caracalla did a restoration. In AD608 the Emperor Foca gave the temple to Pope Boniface IV who dedicated it as a church to St. Mary of the Martyrs. Fifty years later Emperor Constantine stripped the dome of its beautiful bronze panels and left it up to Pope Gregorius III to replace the missing panels with lead sheeting. Pope Pius IX also did some major restoration in 1857. As previously mentioned the Great Hall is a large open circle with seven chapels and eight tabernacles surrounding the walls. These tabernacles presently house the bodies of King Umberto I, Victor Emanuel II, and that most famous of artists, Raphael.

Trevi Fountain

Built by Nicolo Salvi in 1762 under commission of Clement XII, the Trevi Fountain is based on a design by Bernini. The water flows into the fountain from the ancient Aqua Vergine aqueduct. This also supplies water to the fountains in the Piazza Navona and the Piazza di Spagna. You may wonder what a Trevi is? Legend states that the fountain is named after a young maiden who directed the Roman soldiers to the original spring where they might drink. She is depicted in one of the bas-reliefs above the fountain. image020 The huge fountain is 26 meters wide by 20 meters high. It depicts two large Tritons (Mermen) pulling a seashell serving as Neptune’s chariot. Legend states that anyone throwing a coin into the fountain will return to Rome. I can assuredly state that this works since I returned to Rome with my wife (yes, the same wife that would not go with me on this trip, but that’s another story) in the Fall of 1999. The next stop is The Vatican. Hope to see you there.

This is an excerpt from my book Fulfillment is a Place, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is .Available through Amazon Books

 

Roman Antiquities

The next day was spent visiting antiquities:

The Colosseum:

This immense amphitheater was built by the Emperor Vespasian to immortalize his family name. The Colosseum took 8 years to build and was inaugurated in AD80 by Vespasian’s son Titus. Ancient documents state that the Colosseum would seat 87,000 people, it is commonly believed that 50,000 is a more likely number. It stands 165 feet tall and is built as an ellipse with axes 610 feet by 515. The Colosseum is three stories tall with eighty arches around the perimeter in each story. There was a cover called a velarium that could be pulled into place and provided shade for the spectators on sunny days. The floor of the structure was wood and below the surface were cells and holding pens used to house the human and animal combatants before the battles. Acropolis

The Roman Forum

Once the center of commerce and activity for the ancient Romans, the site of the Senate House, the meeting place for the decision-makers and ruling body of the citizens of Rome. It was also the site of many temples and monuments to the power and grandeur that once was Rome, however only the faintest vestige remains of these once enormous edifices, much of the stone has been either taken by collectors (don’t try to take any) or reused in other buildings

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We headed down the Via del Corso toward what seemed ,to be a huge block of marble surrounded by a traffic circle. This enormous monument gleaming whitely and topped by its twin charioteers, appropriately named “the Wedding Cake”, was built in 1885 to commemorate the unification of Italy. The monument houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as a museum. I can’t begin to communicate the feelings that this monument inspires in me. It is so wide, and so tall, and so white, and so imposing that it insinuates itself into many vistas of the city. For example, as you look out over the Roman Forum from the Arch of Titus, you can see the twin charioteers looking down protectively.

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The Coliseum and the Forum were exactly what I had expected. I was blown away by the Memorial to Victor Emmanuel.

Were any of you surprised by this monument?

This is an excerpt from my book Fulfillment is a Place, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is Available through Amazon Books

Rome

 

We enjoyed cruising the Mediterranean and visiting the islands of Poros, Hydra, and Aegina.

Acropolis

By the time we got to Poros my face was really sunburned. With my fair complexion I had to get a cap to shield me.

Actually, I was in search of protection from the sun. My face was starting to redden and I could feel my forehead burning. I searched the many souvenir shops for The Cap. It had to be the perfect cap, one that fit both my demeanor and me. It must be a cap with attitude that shouted to on-comers as it approached them. I finally found it, it was bright, it was my favorite shade of yellow, and it had emblazoned across the front where everyone could see it, POROS.

I wore The Cap proudly. It was my badge; it stated that I had been to Greece. When Mark rejoined me and saw The Cap He merely smiled, murmured something unintelligible, and humored me.      image009

The next day we departed for Rome.

Rome

The train station in Rome Stazione Terminin Roma was huge. On the wall of the main concourse was a map listing all services available and their location. On the first floor was a bar and restaurant. On the lower level were more conveniences, a barbershop, hairdresser, showers, and a lounge. ATM’s and money exchange stations were readily accessible.

We stopped at the Information Center to get a city map and directions to our hotel, The San Remo. I would recommend the San Remo to anyone visiting Rome. It was near the train station, subway, and St. Mary Major Cathedral.

This is an excerpt from my book Fulfillment is a Place, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is .Available through Amazon Books

 

Athens

We finally arrived in Athens and found our hotel. It was located in the old section of Athens called “The Plaka” and our room had a view of the Acropolis. We grabbed a bite and began walking and walking uphill till we reached our destination 515 feet above sea level. Displayed before us were the temples:                                                                             Acropolis

The Propylaea means foregates; this was the entrance to all. This structure was completed in 431BC.

Next was the Erectheum (Okay, grow up. I heard some giggles over the name) completed in 407BC. The most famous feature were the Caryatids, statues of maidens used as columns.

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Finally The Parthenon completed about 432BC. It was designed to honor Athena for assisting them winning a battle over the Persians. It is said that Pericles (he of the   Golden Age of Pericles) supervised       much of the construction.

As we were departing the Acropolis we saw a small hill with a memorial in front of it. The placard said this was the site where in AD50 Saint Paul spoke to the Athenians about The Unknown God; for a rerun of this speech refer to youtube  Oops, I meant Acts 17:22-34.

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One more temple I could never forget is The Temple of the Olympian Zeus. This colossal structure was completed in 132 AD. Today it is little more than 15 columns in the middle of a cinder lot. But what columns, these are God-sized columns. They reach! They stretch! No, the appropriate word is, they soar 90 feet upward reaching toward Zeus himself. Remember that the columns of the Parthenon are only 34 feet tall, these are three times that height.

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My main comment on these ruins is, “If we had sights like these, we’d probably tear them down and build parking lots.

More to come