Wednesday: For some reason, I did not hear the 7am church bells ringing next door to the hotel this morning, and so slept in until almost 8am. I tried to hustle a bit through breakfast because I wanted to catch the metro to the Vatican by 9:15a so I could make sure I got a seat for the Papal Audience at 10:30a. I got to the Stazione on time but as I approached the entrance to the Metro I saw staff turning people back. Apparently someone fell or jumped or the train turned over or something (I couldn’t understand). What I realized, though, was I had to get across town to the Vatican fast. I dashed outside and there were at least 100 people in the line at the cab stand. So I started walking. Fast.

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.

The Hall of Audiences is a large auditorium. It must seat at least a couple of thousand people, and it was full of individuals, groups of pilgrims, and student groups. Pope Benedict came out to loud applause and chanting. There was a scripture reading in Italian, German, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish, followed by the Pope’s statement in Italian. After that, groups from each of the languages were recognized, with a waive and a smile from the Pope, and then the Pope read a brief statement to the groups in their native language. English-language groups were recognized from the US, England, Ireland, Nigeria, and Kenya. There is certainly a great deal of majesty to the Pope and this situation, but Benedict is definitely not a charismatic figure. There is respect, but not the love that people obviously felt toward John Paul II.

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.)

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One thought on “Italy Day 7, Rome Day 3: Papal Audience, Vatican Museum, Piazza Navona, Chiesa Sant’Agostino

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