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Evening - Feb. 3rd
We are soon to leave for the opera - La Forza del Destino.
We had an outdoor tour of Renaissance and Baroque Rome this morning. Mostly
architecture and some art. The guide was the best of the 3 who are all fine
scholars. As we stopped before rather ordinary looking buildings which were
actually palaces of old leading families, cardinals or Popes, he would point
out architectural details which brought the building and the style to life
for us. It was really vastly educational. Among the finest buildings were the
Palazza Farnesi by Bramante. The classic work of perfect Renaissance archi-
tecture and the masterpiece from which most of our ideas of architectural
form and balance are formed. Saw the old Roman Pantheon whose dome was the
model which inspired Fermante's design of the dome of St. Peters.
At 11:15 we cut our tour short to catch a bus for St. Peters and the Papal
audience. Our audience didn't turn out to be a private one as it had been
for the second group last year. Instead we were ushered into a huge hall
about 50 feet wide and several hundred feet long with an aisle down the center and
standing room on each side. The crowd numbered between 2-3000 and several
nationalities. We were fortunate to get a position only 2 or 3 people from
the aisle so that when John went by he was only 6-8 feet away. The event was
much different in spirit from what I had anticipated. Instead of kneeling in
silence when the procession entered, the people clapped and cheered enthus-
iastically almost as we might do for Joe Dimaggio or some such figure in
America. I understand that this is a change requested by John himself. With
Pius XII, silent kneeling was expected. The procession was short but colorful.
Swiss guards in bright blue and gold uniforms with Trojan-type helmets, And
carrying medieval pikes came in front and rear with church officials - not
cardinals but translators and assistants. The Pope was carried on an open
chair stand supported by eight bearers dressed in colorful red uniforms
of French court style. John seemed to set the tone of the occasion, happy,
jolly, etc. He smiled at everyone as he passed and when he spoke, was vigorous
and spoke quickly and enthusiastically with many gestures, quite informal in
spirit. The translators then read similar messages in French, English,
German and Spanish and he said a closing blessing and the procession went
out. Total time perhaps 30-45 minutes and a very interesting experience.
Then we went to see St Peters itself. Its primary impression is size. It is,
of course, the largest church in the world - 30 yards longer than St. Pauls
of London which is second. Total length of main hall about 200 yards. It is
also proportionally high, dominated at the crossing of the halls by the dome.
The columns are of marble - about 20x12 feet each. Very diametric and contain
niches for huge sculptured figures. The ceiling is decorated in gold and is
quite bearable at that height whereas if it were lower, it would seem over-
ornate. The whole inside is quite overwhelming as it was intended. It is more
awesome than beautiful and one can only take it for a certain amount of time
before it seems excessive and grandiose. The most disturbing thought when
viewing such magnficence is how many empty stomachs it cost to pay for
Later we splurged and rented a horse carriage for an hour's ride. Passed
the Font of Trevi and Spanish steps, up to the beautiful Borghese Gardens
for a view of the city and a ride through the Gardens. We got off there to
view the city and watch the sunset. It went down exactly behind the dome of
St. Peters and I hope I have a perfect picture of that.
We were all so tird and sleepy that we hardly enjoyed the opera afterward.
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