Thursday, April 3, 2008

European Vacation Day 15 - Michelangelo

Today we toured the Vatican. We are not Catholic, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. I did know that Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel was a “must do” for me on this trip. After many corridors and rooms, we finally made our way into the Sistine Chapel and….I was totally unmoved! I was so disappointed to feel that it offered nothing more than many of the other rooms and halls we had visited – such a disappointment! I’ve gotten used to that feeling on this trip. While there have been many highs and many moments of awe, there have also been several times when the reality of the experience has not lived up to the expectation. The Sistine Chapel fell into that category. Then, only a few moments later, we went into St. Peter’s Cathedral, the largest Catholic Church in the world. Its size is almost incomprehensible. And, while I found the size and the extent of the art absolutely amazing, what truly moved me was just inside the door, to the right as we entered. We went over to see The Pieta – Michelangelo’s statue of a young Mary holding a dead Jesus. Michelangelo was a twenty-four-year-old unknown sculptor when he carved this statue. Mary is depicted as a young girl, not the almost-50-year old woman she would have been when Jesus was crucified. Yet, the statue of her holding him, with her left hand outstretched as if questioning “Why?” “How could this have happened?” literally moved me to tears. How can any parent understand the death of a child? No matter the religion, no matter the age of the child, a child is always our child – in our hearts we know that whether the child is a two-year-old, a twelve-year-old, a twenty-year-old, a forty-year-old simply doesn’t matter; she or he is still our child, still the one we care for, love and protect. We are always the parent, they are always the child. Looking at this statue, no matter the religion, no matter the culture, it is clear that Michelangelo, at the young age of twenty-four, understood the love of a mother and a child and his portrayal is simply breathtaking!

2 comments:

amy said...

Glad to get an update. It sounds like it was a moving moment. I've seen pictures of that statue. It's pretty cool.

Jexxica said...

I've actually read a bunch about Michelangelo's art (I had to write a paper on another version of the Pieta that he did towards the end of his career, and actually attempted to destroy), and I read somewhere that a lot of the time when he uses Mary as a subject, he paints or sculpts her at the age of 24, which is the age his mother died. I found that interesting, that he chose to immortalize her suffering at the age that his mother's death started his suffering.