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La Cappella Sistina August 15, 2011

Posted by rachaelcopeland in Travel Log.

There is a particular scene in the newer version of Pride of Prejudice. In this scene, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are dancing at a ball. As the scene intensifies, all the other attendees at the dance fade away until all those who remain in the room are the two just mentioned.
Do you have that pictured in your head? I apologize to anyone who has never seen the film and/or to any males who believe the movie is too feminine for their own good. You happen to be incorrect, for your information.
Now, with that out of the way, we are going to transport to the South a bit. I am talking about a little place called Rome, Italy. More specifically, I am referring to the Vatican City. Rome is my favorite city in the whole world, and the Vatican is the country inside of Rome.

St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City

In the Vatican City lies the Pope’s personal chapel, the Sistine Chapel. A certain famous painter messed around on the ceiling about five centuries ago. You may have heard the name, but it’s no big deal.
As you approach the chapel, you are led through a series of rooms in a museum that houses some of the most important artwork of the Early Italian Renaissance. Raphael’s School of Athens is there, among many other of his own works.

Raphael Sanzio's The School of Athens

When I walked into the Sistine Chapel, My jaw dropped. Literally, my mouth was gaping open, which is incredible unladylike, but I couldn’t help it. It was beautiful. Every surface was covered in frescoes, not just of Michelangelo but also Botticellli, Perugine, and more. The most famous portion, though, is the ceiling.

If you have never seen the film The Agony and the Ecstacy, which is about Michelangelo’s commission on the chapel ceiling, I definitely recommend that you check it out. While not perfect in historic accuracy, it provides an excellent perspective on the hard work put into the ceiling and the stubborn personality of the talented artist.

Everyone in the chapel has their neck bent backwards, looking up towards the ceiling. I one heard that they used to provide mirrors with which you could view it more comfortably, but I didn’t see any around. Necks do start cramping after a while, but it is beyond worth it.

Here is where the Pride and Prejudice part kicks in. As I was observing each panel of Michelangelo’s work, I came to the most famous: the Creation of Man. We all know what it looks like, and it is displayed (and parodied) so frequently that we almost become numb to it. However, seeing the piece in real life was mind0boggling. I couldn’t stop staring at it. Every time I looked away, my eye immediately drew right back. It was addictive, beautiful, elegant, powerful, and so much more. And then, despite the thousands of people surrounding me and bumping and squeezing and pushing, they all disappeared in my mind, just like in Jane Austen’s novel. I felt like I was the only one in their with a special privilege to see the chapel alone. I felt an incredible sense of fulfillment and happiness, not lonely at all. It was one of those moments in life when you literally think about nothing else. In this hectic world, those moments are very rare. I treasured that moment because I feel that life will only have a handful of ones which are similar.

A view of the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica, right next door to the Sistine Chapel.

The fresco itself was magnificent, and even beyond an artistically technical level. It is a divine sight that shows the mercy and grace of God on the human race. Michelangelo was pure genius in capturing so many emotions into one work of art.




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