Was it right to take a picture? Did I want to confess my sins? What is ‘good taste’ when it comes to art? Should I visit the pope? Those are just a few of the many questions I considered when I visited The Vatican in Rome.
Jeanette, our Vatican tour guide gave us quite a lecture before we entered the Sistine Chapel. She emphasized the importance of not taking photos. She said camera flashes did irreparable damage to the ceiling painted by Michelangelo. Yet in the chapel there were people galore snapping pictures and making video recordings. Exasperated security guards moved agitatedly among them trying to get them to stop. Should I take a photo too? I wanted to, but my husband was the voice of reason. He said there were a million photos of the Sistine Chapel ceiling on the internet. Why did I need another one? Did I want my grandchildren to be able to see the masterpieces on the ceiling someday or did I want to play a part in destroying them? I decided not to take a picture. I think I did the right thing.
There were confessional booths in St. Peter’s Basilica with multi-lingual priests inside ready to listen to you. I was tempted to enter one to see what it would be like to formally confess. My husband Dave agreed to pose outside one of the handsome oak confessional booths so I could take his picture, but he told me he felt no need to go inside. He wasn’t about to confess to anyone, least of all a complete stranger. I decided to follow his lead.
We saw plenty of naked statues in the Vatican, many of Biblical characters. Some had strategically placed leaves or seashells covering sexual organs. Apparently when Martin Luther was busy criticizing the Catholic Church the pope became more circumspect and ordered the shells and leaves added to the statues. There is a story that Pope Pius IX in a conservative streak once ran through the Vatican at night with a hammer and chisel cutting penises off of statues. Whole boxes of the severed male organs have been found in the Vatican storage rooms. Was that pope being a prude or is the naked human body an artistic thing of beauty? What is ‘good taste’ in art, especially in religious art?
You can make arrangements to have an audience with the pope at the Vatican. I figured seeing him in person would make for a great newspaper or magazine story. However I gave it some thought and decided it wasn’t worth all the paperwork and waiting time. Turns out it was a moot question anyway because the day I was at the Vatican the Pope wasn’t receiving visitors. He was busy meeting with a group of Irish bishops about a scandal. The Irish police had issued a lengthy report accusing Dublin church officials of decades of covering up child sexual abuse by their clergy. It was probably more important for the Pope to deal with that issue than to see me.
I jotted down dozens of questions in my notebook right after I visited the Vatican. It was a thought provoking place.
You might want to read some other posts about our visits to Italy…….