...or the closest thing to God I think someone like me can ever see.
Friday was probably one of the most amazing days of my life--definitely one of the top ten experiences I think I will ever have. It was also the first day I think I really realized the power and reputation of the Stanford name...but let me stop rambling and get on with it...
Early Friday morning, the 35 of us left for the Vatican. There, we were given exclusive access to two collections--the most impressive ancient epigraphical collection in the world and the other, one of the most exclusive collections of Christian art and sarcophagi in the modern world. Let me say that although both of these collections were amazing and beautiful, they did get old very quickly. It probably had something to do with the fact that I can't read ancient Greek or Latin, but generally after epigraph number 275, even the most academic of individuals gets a little bored ;)
That took as all morning, and then it was time for lunch. It took us, even with the help of the guide, exactly one hour to exit the Vatican museum. There were thousands upon thousands of people and there's only one way out--through the Sistine Chapel--so we had to walk through the entire museum in order to grab some lunch. We had maybe 15 minutes to see St. Peter's Basillica on our way out, and of those 15 minutes, I spent 10 staring in awe at Michelangelo's Pieta.
After lunch, we met at the Scavi Vaticanus, another one of the Vatican's exclusive exhibits. I gave my speech on the history of St. Peter's tomb, and then we went down, under the Vatican crypts to see the pagan Necropolis and the Christian sarcophagi. It was absolutely breathtaking, looking and watching Christian history melt away before my eyes. We learned about Caligula's Circus Maximus and the entire "Catholicized" story of the search for and finding of the saint's bones. Only 200 people a week get to enter this exhibit--we were incredibly lucky!
Afterwards, we met up with our lovely guide Francesca for a 2 hr private tour of the Vatican. Yeah--I said private and yeah, I said 2 hours long!
We saw beautiful pieces all over the museum, but the best part was when we spent 45 minutes looking at the Sistine Chapel. We just stared, and stared and stared. We took pictures, we studied the painting--and then we took it all in.
I've never seen anything so beautiful and never been so priveledged to see such a beautiful and important work of art for such a long amount of time. It was the like the more I looked at the colors and the composition, the more beautiful and moving the entire piece became. I think it might have been the closest to a religious experience I will ever have (at least in regards to art ;).
I am obviously still on an art high that I don't think I'll ever get to repeat again.
Today we went to Pompei and Naples. Also cool, also beautiful, also interesting--but how do you compete with the Sistine Chapel?