Trying to figure out the shortest way there, not knowing how long it would take, but knowing I would be cutting it close. By 10am I was at Piazza Navona, which I knew was not far from the Tiber. Unfortunately, I was turned around, and so when I exited the Piazza and hit the next main street, I walked the wrong way, for about 10 minutes. I caught a cab that took me the last ¼ mile to St. Peter’s, excited to have made it to the Hall of Audiences on time (though seated in the last row), but disappointed that I got lost and couldn’t make it all the way on foot.
After the audience, I grabbed a pizza slice and a caffee and hit the Musei Vaticani. It’s easy to point to some of the great masterpieces in the museum, especially the Sistine Chapel, but also the Raphael, Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Dali, and others, but I was most struck by a simple bronze statue (is that the right word?) of Jesus carrying a lamb and leading a small flock of sheep. It evokes the kind of emotional and spiritual response that religious art is meant to evoke.
I left the museum after a few hours and made my way across St. Peter’s Square one more time on my way back across the Tiber to the Piazza Navona. The “Christmas Market” was in full flourish. It was like a big carnival, with stalls of games, food, Christmas items, and other “stuff” set up along both sides, with a merry go round in the middle.
I had a quick look and set off to find Chiesa Sant’Agostino which I was told had a 1604-06 Caravaggio painting above one of the side altars called “Madonna di Loreto” (of the pilgrims).
It was very interesting to experience this work in its chapel setting as compared to the collection of Caravaggios on special exhibit at The Borghese Museum. The museum exhibit was impressive, but to see these religious themed artworks in their natural settings (as altar pieces and church decorations – as complements of worship) makes more sense. I regret that I did not go to the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo to see its 3 Caravaggios.
(Side note: I may also have a soft spot for Caravaggio because he once killed [literally] an opponent in a tennis match and had to flee Rome, dying in exile.)