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The Vatican and the Galleria Borghese

semi-overcast 13 °C

WEDNESDAY 18 JANUARY - Train from Civitavecchia to Rome. Quite a warm day so we went for a walk and called into the most amazing Basilica a few hundred metres from our hotel - Basilica Di Santa Maria deg like Angeli e dei Martiri.

The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs is a titular basilica church in Rome, Italy built inside the frigidarium of the Baths of Diocletian in the Piazza della Repubblica.


The basilica is dedicated to the Christian martyrs, known and unknown. Impetus for this dedication had been generated by the account of a vision experienced in the ruins of the Baths in 1541 by a Sicilian monk, Antonio del Duca, who had been lobbying for decades for papal authorization of a more formal veneration of the Angelic Princes. A story that these Martyrs were Christian slave labourers who had been set to constructing the Baths is modern. It was also a personal monument of Pope Pius IV, whose tomb is in the apsidal tribune that culminates the series of spaces.


The thermae of Diocletian dominated the Quirinal Hill with their ruined mass and had successfully resisted Christianization. MichelangeLo designed the church inside the ruined baths already 1200 years old. Here is a view from of the exterior of The Baths of Diocletian. The Basilica was built in one section of the baths.


At Santa Maria degli Angeli, Michelangelo achieved an unexampled sequence of shaped architectural spaces with few precedents or followers. There is no true facade; the simple entrance is set within one of the coved apses of a main space of the thermae. The plan is developed from a Greek cross, with a transept so dominant, with its cubical chapels at each end, that the effect is of a transverse nave.

The great vaulted transept gives a striking display of the magnificent scale of Roman constructions, 90.8 meters long, and with the floor that Michelangelo raised to bring it up to the Seicento street level, 28 meters high. Raising the floor truncated the red granite Roman columns that articulate the transept and its flanking spaces. Michelangelo made the transept 27 meters wide, thus providing vast cubical spaces at each end of the transept.

In 2006, Polish-born sculptor Igor Mitoraj created new bronze doors as well as a statue of John the Baptist for the basilica. In April 2010, a five metre high bronze statue of Galileo Galilei Divine Man (designed by 1957 Nobel laureate Tsung-Dao Lee) was unveiled in a courtyard within the complex.

Santa Maria degli Angeli was the official state church during the Kingdom of Italy (1870-1946).

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Pope Clement XI (1649-1721) commissioned Francesco Bianchini (1662-1729) to build a meridian line within the basilica to check the accuracy of the Gregorian reformation of the calendar (1582).


The sun shines through a small hole in the southern wall to cast its light on the meridian line each day.


THURSDAY 19 JANUARY - a visit to the Galleria Borghese.

The Galleria Borghesese is housed in the former Villa Borghese Pinciana. At the outset, the gallery building was integrated with its gardens, but nowadays the Villa Borghese gardens are considered a separate tourist attraction. The Galleria Borghese houses a substantial part of the Borghese collection of paintings, sculpture and antiquities, begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V (reign 1605–1621). The Villa was built by the architect Flaminio Ponzio, developing sketches by Scipione Borghese himself, who used it as a villa suburbana, a party villa at the edge of Rome. scipione Borghese was not particularly religious but was made a Cardinal at the age of 26 by his uncle, Pope Paul V despite never having been a priest.


Scipione Borghese was an early patron of Bernini and an avid collector of works by Caravaggio, who is well represented in the collection by his Boy with a Basket of Fruit, St Jerome Writing, Sick Bacchus and others. Other paintings of note include Titian's Sacred and Profane Love, Raphael's Entombment of Christ and works by Peter Paul Rubens and Federico Barocci.

Many of the sculptures are displayed in the spaces for which they were intended, including many works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which comprise a significant percentage of his output of secular sculpture, starting with early works such as the Goat Amalthea with Infant Jupiter and Faun (1615) and Aeneas, Anchises & Ascanius (1618–19) to his dynamic Rape of Proserpine (1621–22), Apollo and Daphne (1622–25) and David (1623) which are considered seminal works of baroque sculpture.

Here we s Bernini's Rape of Persephone and a close up of the hands on flesh. Bernini did this work when he was 21 years old.


Bernini's Apollo and Daphne and his David.


Antonio Canova's Venus was modelled by Pasolini Borghese, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. When asked how she could pose nude, she said it was quite warm in the studio.


Now from the world of art to the ridiculous - parking in Rome. I think it is a real art to getting a parking space.


FRIDAY 20 JANUARY 2017 - Most of the day at The Vatican, a city-state (44 hectares) surrounded by Rome, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It's home to the Pope and a trove of iconic art and architecture. Its Vatican Museums house ancient Roman sculptures such as the famed “Laocoön and His Sons” as well as Renaissance frescoes in the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling.

The photos show St Peter's Basilica, The ugly red brick triangular structure being the exterior of the very beautiful Sistine Chapel, Bernini's 89 columns.

The Vatican Obelisk was originally taken by Caligula from Heliopolis in Egypt to decorate the spina of his circus and is thus its last visible remnant. This area became the site of martyrdom of many Christians after the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. Ancient tradition holds that it was in this circus that Saint Peter was crucified upside-down.


Vast galleries and many steps take us through many galleries including Ancient Greece and Rome, the Tapestries Gallery, The Map Gallery and the four rooms of the Raphael Rooms before we get to the Sistine Chapel. The first picture is of Laocoon and Sons from 1 AD.


Art works from the Raphael Rooms of the early 1500's.


The Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 as s 32 year old. He painted the Day of Judgement many years later as a sixty year old. He looked fed a very lng life and died st the age of 89.


We walked through to St Peter's Basilica. The pictures below show the Holy Door generally only opened every 25 years to admit pilgrims, the Nave, the Dome, Bernini's Baldachin and Mother chelangelo's Pieta.

The Holy Door

The Nave

Michelangelo's Pieta was done when he was a 23 year old.

The Dome of St Peter's

The tomb of Pope John Paul 11 who was made a Saint 9 years after his death.

St. Peter's Baldachin is a large Baroque sculpted bronze canopy, technically called a ciborium or baldachin, over the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave surrounded by Rome, Italy. The baldachin is at the centre of the crossing and directly under the dome of the basilica. Designed by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it was intended to mark, in a monumental way, the place of Saint Peter's tomb underneath. Under its canopy is the high altar of the basilica. Commissioned by Pope Urban VIII, the work began in 1623 and ended in 1634.

The bronze for this was taken from the roof of the Pantheon by the Barberini's one of whom was the Pope. The saying was, "What the Barbarians didn't take was taken by the Barbarinis".

What a wonderful day! We leave for Rio Gordo, a little village outside Malaga, Andalucia, Spain, in the morning for an eight day stay. We have to endure a long day tomorrow with two flights from Rome to Madrid then Madrid to Malaga.

Posted by Kangatraveller 08:22 Archived in Italy

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