Rome Diaries - Week 85

June 14th, 2009

Making pictures with flower petals is thought to have begun in Rome during Bernini’s time whe he was the maestro of Baroque spectacles. The practice soon spread to other cities and towns including Genzano di Roma, which sits on atop the caldera that forms Lake Nemi and Lake Albano. From the top of Via Bruno Buozzi, with Lake Nemi at your back, you can see a carpet of flowers stretching down to the main piazza; Lake Albano sparkles in the distance.


Originally the flower pictures were created and paid for by property owners in the path of the Corpus Christi procession, now the city has taken over all aspects except the procession itself. Proposals for the subjects of the flower pictures are made to a city administrator. This year, the three clearly religious subjects are St. Paul and St. John Bosco -- both celebrating anniversaries -- and the Crucified Christ; these are spaced out between flower pictures of clowns, rainbows, a cigarette smoking guitarist and Futurist Giacomo Balla’s “Street Light” (Futurism is 100 years old this year). The anticipation builds as evening approaches and the loudspeakers, which had been sending forth classical piano music, start playing Sousa marches and the Anthem of Europe, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Perhaps the medieval procession of the Eucharist had the same mix of sacred and profane, but it’s still a bit jarring to have the priest and his entourage make their way past cold drink vendors, pork sandwich booths and a fashion show runway. As in all memorable events, the best is saved for last. That’s when the entire procession walks through the carpet of flowers and into the last church on its circuit.


June 15th, 2009

On my way to visit the cloistered nuns who live in the Vatican Gardens, praying for the intentions of the church, I pass by the 16-foot high statues that are lined up in niches all around St. Peter’s. Today, ENI the Italian state energy company which sponsored the cleaning of the basilica’s façade is continuing to work on the side of the church. One of the massive statues, twirling from a crane, shows itself to be quite hollow from the back. It is a newer sculpture; niches on this side of the church (with a view of the Vatican gas station) have only become available since 1999 and were not intended to be used originally. Now a spot can be arranged for any canonized founder of a religious community. The charge for a Carrara marble statue of this size is over $250,000. I can only guess that, somewhere, a solid marble statue is being readied...or that a payment as not yet been made.

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