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March 12, 2006



There is no comparison for seeing mass or attending prayers at one of these places, if you are Catholic or Christian.

But some people who are not feel that it is inappropriate to treat someone else's religious service as part of their tourist experience--the duomo in Florence actively discouraged tourists from attending mass IIRC. And I was quasi-Catholic then, whereas now I'm not at all.

If tourists happen to walk in on one, they may feel that staying away and not staring is a way of being as courteous and unobtrusive as possible. (Of course, if you're really trying not to intrude it's much better simply not to visit during prayer services but the timing can be unpredictable and there are an awful lot of steps up to San Pietro in Vincole).

That said, I like museums, but there is no comparison with seeing this art in a Church. The Giotto frescoes in Santa Croce in Florence, Michaelangelo's Moses, Titian's assumption in Venice...no comparison. And I like to sit in the sanctuary if I am not interrupting or tagging-along to a service. And I'm not averse to attending services as an educational thing, but how many tourists who don't take communion does an already-packed Church want?


Or to put in another way: I think it's much more likely that the art-appreciation group saw themselves as intruding on the worshippers religious service, not the worshippers as intruding on their art history lesson. I have been in that exact situation and that's certainly how I feel. If I hang back or leave it's not: "ewww, Christians"; it's: "this is really their Church, I should be as unobstrusive as possible or visit when I'm not interrupting."


It's a meditation, Katherine, not an analysis. A meditation on the divided spirits we all bring to such moments. Do we let ourselves be affected by the art and its depth or do we just observe from comfortable spaces?



Regarding those German tour guides -- how many languages did you find yourself speaking?

When I went, I ended up speaking five (seven if you count the Greek and Hebrew words in the Mass) -- English, of course, and bits of Italian, Latin, French, and German. (Who'd have thunk I'd remember words from Junior High French and High School German class??)

Of course, whenever I would attempt to ask a question in Italian, using the handful of words I learned, they would respond with a whole long speech in incomprehensible Italian, requiring me to ask sheepishly "parla inglese, per favore."


...A haunting short essay by a writer!


"They come and go...but the attraction is Moses". Love the Eliot reference. Thank you for sharing your Rome experience with us. I do feel as if I'd been there, and can't wait to go back!


I find it interesting that so many well-educated secular people approach "art" with the same reverence as religious people do their faith and the relics/art associated with their faith. The secular folks or tourists glorify the artist and put him or her on a pedestal and in essence worship the artist and the work of art. In fact, I can take this analogy even farther in that they have made art a religion in itself (whether or not it's religious or anti-religious); the imporatant thing is that it is "ART." They can divorce themselves from the fact much of this art was inspired by a religious source and that many of the artists were quite devout. Amy blogged about Margaret Visser's book The Geometry of Love so I got a copy and read it. Somewhere in the beginning Visser states something along the lines of that people tell her she can't be a good or honest art/architecture critic because she is a believer. Quite frankly, I think a believer comes off as a more honest critic because of the emotions the art inspires in the believer. Hopefully the believer actually is on the receiving end of an emotion or reaction to the work of art that the artist had originally intended,


Still waiting patiently for your Scavi "review"...

No pressure! :-)

David Kubiak

Next trip do go to the Galleria Borghese, which has been splendidly restored. The great Bernini Apollo and Daphne is there, and one of my very favorites, the statue of Pauline Bonaparte by Canova. Georgina Mason's book has a good description of the place, which after many years once again corresponds to reality.


Thank you Amy, for writing these pieces. Indeed, you take us there!


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