Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Beautiful Place

This is the Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta in Siena, Italy. Its black and white marble exterior is instantly recognizable. Black and white are the colors of the civic coat of arms of Siena, originally linked to the black and white horses owned by the city's founders, Senius and Aschius. The Cathedral was built between 1215 and 1263. Forty-eight years. To erect a building. Amazing.

It's beautiful from the outside, but when you step inside, prepare to be blown away. This is the nave. And it's stunning. It's overhwhelmingly stunning; you just don't know where to look. The black and white stripes of marble create a fantastic effect. A delight for your eyes. It's impossible not to stand and stare at the stripes on the columns; some of them placed there 795 years ago. The thought that someone not only designed, but placed those pieces of colored marble, layer by layer, is kind of inconceivable. I can't even stack coins without getting bored and giving up. What I really enjoyed was touching the marble. Cool and smooth under my hand, I knew I was touching the very stone a workman almost 800 years ago also touched. Astonishing.And as your eye travels up each of the columns, your eyes will come to rest on the cathedral's dome. The hexagonal dome is topped with Bernini's gilded lantern and the coffers are painted in the trompe l'oeil style in blue with golden stars. This was done in the late 15th century.
The main altar was astounding. Well, to me, not so much the altar itself, but the artwork behind it. So much beauty. Seemingly endless ceilings...but not really, because when you get to the top of this one, there's a beautiful stained glass window.
Pipes for an organ, that I'm sure emitted the most beautiful music ever heard...And then, there is the pulpit. Made of Carrara marble and sculpted by Nicola Pisano over 700 years ago. This pulpit is considered his masterpiece.
It was difficult to get close to the pulpit because it was roped off; but the floor was there for the taking. According to Wikipedia, "The inlaid marble mosaic floor is one of the most ornate of its kind in Italy, covering the whole floor of the cathedral. This undertaking went on from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, and about forty artists made their contribution."

Look at that floor. I wanted to get down and slither on it. Each area contained so much detail. And although it's marble, I kept thinking of my brother the "tile-guy", wishing he could see not only the beautiful detail, but the vastness of it. It covers the entire space of the Cathedral. From what I read, the uncovered floor can only be seen for a period of six to ten weeks each year. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I'm thrilled that I got to see it. This was, by far, the most beautiful Duomo I saw while in Italy. I propped my camera up on one of the (hundreds of years old) statues to take this picture of Eddie and I. It's rare that we get a picture with both of us in it. It's a little dark and I didn't have a tripod, but it'll do. One of the last things we did before leaving the church was to visit the little corner where you can light a small votive candle. This plaque hung next to the box of candles. I lit several for my family and friends. The best translation I can find, using online translation, is this:

I do not know how to pray
I do not know what to say
I do not have much time...
I offer this light and
a bit of my love.
a bit of my time.
a bit of myself.
This light that shines
will be my
That will continue
as I leave this

I'm not very much into church anymore, but being raised in the Catholic faith, lighting candles always felt very special. It was fun to do as a child and by leaving the lit candle behind you, in such a sacred place, it's as if you really knew that someone would be watching that brilliant flame and answering your prayer.

And for a moment, I was grasped by that childlike faith and left my candles flickering as I left this beautiful place.

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Unknown said...

absolutely beautiful....thanks for the tour....

Gil said...

Your pictures are so beautiful, sharp and clear!

Pat said...

Amazing. Thanks for not only the pictures, but finding the names of each architectural feature. I'm sure it took a bit more time to post this and it's appreciated. Now, I'm gonna have to find a blog on Italy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing these...

MAE said...

Magnificient pictures. Thanks for sharing your beautiful experience. Loved this blog.