I know Rome is a whole new level of stress when my usually stable and gungho travel cat returns to the hotel room and plops down on the bed for a nap. She never sleeps on the bed but today Rome and all the people peeping into her bubble pack tired her out. She is used to a more peaceful pace, spending more quiet time in churches or looking out from under the table at a restaurant or cafe. Today we were on the move all the time with the Art History classes and there was no time for prayer. She was the star pupil from the first moment everyone of the academy laid eyes on her, and one of the professors commented “Well this is different, we’ve never had a cat along for a field trip.” If I felt like the Pied Piper of Hamlin in Assisi with everyone following us around, here in Rome it was down and out paparazzi. While walking her around the Piazza della Repubblica I had one person run up to me with his phone to take a photo of Champagne. The shopkeepers stepped out of their boutiques to smile and look at her, and I heard comments in at least 10 different languages beside and behind me.
The combined Art History lesson for the Graphic and Interior Design students began at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e Dei Martiri, famous for its peculiar feature of having been built in and upon the former Roman thermal baths. Designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, the church’s peculiar design patterned after a Greek cross sets it apart from many other churches.
Next we walked over to the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria and my mind was overwhelmed on so many fronts. According to the professor, nothing in Florence compares to this church in terms of being a perfect example of baroque architecture and artistry. The word “overloaded” came to mind the moment we stepped in, but when I laid eyes on the Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpture of The Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila, I stopped dead in my tracks. My mother named me after St. Teresa of Avila primarily because she was angry at God when I was born with so many defects. The nun at the hospital told my mother that after getting stuck in the mud after the wheel of her carriage fell off, St. Teresa shouted up to God “If this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so many enemies!” A writer, contemplative, lover of silent prayer, St. Teresa is my patron saint in more ways than one.
The walk continued to the center of the city, passing by the Trevi fountain, the Capitoline Hill, and back down again. I regretted my choice of shoes today and seriously missed my prayer time. Rome is absolutely fascinating with so much history and power residing in and about the walls and streets. I would need at least a week to explore this place in peace and quiet, and even then I doubt I would cover it all.
Champagne kept up with most of the walk, complaining only if we stood around and didn’t move. At some point after the statue of Marcus Aurelius she decided it was nap time and woke up only at the church of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It was as if this Art History lesson had been tailored for me. Here I am in Rome for the first time and I was led to the pillars of my spirituality.
We parted ways after the Pantheon (a place that I have absolutely no idea how to do photographic justice to), but before heading back, I sat at the piazza at the foot of the fountain with my daughter to my left and the cat to my right, and imbibed the incomparable pulse and vibrant atmosphere. My mother was on my mind the whole time, her words of “live in the present” echoing in my heart the whole day.
My feet are killing me but we paid another homage to Mommy by finding a pizza place that served the pizza by the slice, and the slices were cut off with scissors instead of a knife. You tell the sales person how much you want, they cut and weigh it and that is what you pay. Mommy regaled us both with these pizza-and-scissors stories for years and today I finally understood her amusement.