Museo Nationale Romano and the Capuchin Crypts

Day 89, Saturday December 2, 2017

Saturday was a quiet rainy day. I worked on catching up on my blog and Bob went for groceries, several times! It isn’t easy to find what we need in one store so shopping sometimes requires several attempts to find everything on our list. I don’t know how Romans manage. Even something as simple as spinach is often not available.

Day 90, Sunday December 3, 2017

We thought today would be a bit quieter, just a little walk about but we ended up doing quite a bit. Bob found out that the four Museo Nationale Romano museums were free today so we thought we would visit the one near the train station. It was much bigger than we thought and we spent several hours there. This museum had lots of information on the history of writing and…lots of examples of writing on stone. What made it interesting was that all the pieces on exhibit had Italian and English translations. There were lots of informative videos and other kinds of information but it would have taken more than a day to do all that. There was a very interesting exhibit about the Fountain of Anna Perenna. Anna was an ancient nymph and the fountain was a place of magic. It was discovered in 1999 when work began on an underground parking facility. Many ‘magical’ objects were found in the well including several curses. This one is for a man called Cassianus who was cursed because he hired some women to rob the author of the curse. It shows a demon flanked with magical symbols. There were many curses on display as well as directions for casting spells.We tend to forget that ancient statues and reliefs were painted in bright colours. There was lots of pottery from settlements from the 9th to the 7th century B.C. The large pots held cremated remains.

This is a model of the Museum. The large green square…is this courtyard  and the buildings around it house the museum. This was built in the 15th century. Bob found a few interesting statues here. The large animal heads are located around the fountain in the centre of the courtyard. There were also horse heads, a ram, a camel, an elephant and a rhinoceros!
The complex behind the courtyard is the Baths of Diocletian which were built in 300 A.D. They held 3,000 people! It was hard trying to take pictures as the baths are so enormous.
This room was somehow used as a water reservoir. 
Here is an aerial view taken from a film about the baths showing their location in modern day Rome. The big white building in the corner is the Termini train station.Here is a close up of the baths. The building with the cross in the lower left is the best preserved section of the baths. The tepiderium was restored and converted into a basilica using Michelangelo’s architectural designs in the 16th century. It is now the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiria. This sculpture is on the door to the Basilica.The basilica interior gives us a good idea what the interior of the baths would have looked like with all their decorated walls and ceilings.

The basilica is a place of worship, art and science. I liked this enormous head on display. It is about three feet long.

We find one more obelisk!Republic Piazza is beside the baths.  Many of Rome’s streets are cobbled and it has made for some very rough bus rides.

Another branch of Rome’s National Museums, the Palazzo Massimo is right beside the Republic Piazza so we decide to visit it as well. There are some wonderful works inside.  The Discus Thrower and…the Boxer at Rest are amazing and..this sculpture of a hermaphrodite is interesting.The massive Portonaccio Sarcophagus from 172 AD is unbelievable. It is five feet tall, and most of the complex intertwined carvings are still intact.
This room with garden frescoes was discovered in 1863. The frescoes were moved to the museum in 1951 as they were in danger of being damaged from water seepage. There are more well preserved frescoes from an Imperial Villa on the banks of the Tiber River.We still want to visit the Capuchin Crypts which are a short walk from the museum. Everywhere we walk in this city there are interesting buildings and piazzas.The sun is setting but there isn’t much traffic even though it is 5:30. I find that rather curious.There is a famous Caravaggio painting, St. Francis in Meditation, in the Capuchin museum. We visit the Capuchin Crypt but there is a strict no photo policy and I restrained myself and didn’t take a single photo. So, do check out this link for a trip through the crypt. It was certainly different. I liked it but Bob didn’t.

The church ‘Our Lady of the Conception’ is above the crypt and after a quick visit we are more than ready to go home. Our short day out turned into a bit of a marathon!

 

 

 

Avila’s Medieval Walls

Wednesday, October 7

Today we visit Avila, which is the highest provincial capital in Spain, at 3,710′  or 1131 m. above sea level.  In winter the access roads are sometimes blocked with snow, but I wonder if that is because there is so much snow or if it is because they don’t have the kind of snow removal vehicles we have in Alberta?  The drive is through interesting countryside, which changes every few miles.  We seem to be always either climbing or descending winding roads. There certainly aren’t many long straight stretches of road, even the freeways meander.
image In about an hour we arrive in Avila and get our first look at the Medieval walls that encircle the city center.  We find a parking spot on the street and we are shocked that 30 cents gives us five hours of parking!  A great improvement over Segovia yesterday when it cost us more than 9€ for less time.image

The walls are very beautiful with ochre, pink and bluish toned stones arranged in an attractive pattern.imageIt took some doing, but we finally found the entrance to climb the tower walls and we find ourselves on top of the finest preserved Medieval walls in all of Europe.  These walls were built in the 11th Century and they are punctuated with 88 cylindrical towers.  We are able to climb up into many of these towers.image  The apse of the city’s cathedral, in the background, also forms part of the walls. imageWe stop and look down into a courtyard watching workers lay huge stone blocks for a walkway or perhaps a patio.  They are very good, and get the stones in the right position and almost level on the first try.  Bob has laid a lot of bricks in our yard and he knows this is not as easy as these guys make it look.imageThese walls are almost two kilometers long and we walk as far as we can.  Part of the walls have not been restored and we are are not able to walk on them.imageHere we are near the end of the walkable part of the wall, now we have to turn around and go all the way back, but first we stop and have tea and cookies at one of the many towers.image It is incredible to think that we are walking the tops of these ancient walls, and it is easy to imagine soldiers standing in the same spots we are, defending their city from invaders over a thousand years ago.  In Canada there aren’t any buildings or structures that are anywhere near that old.  Columbus didn’t even discover North America until 1492!  The sun casts long shadows as we make our way back to our car.image

It has been quite windy since we left Northern Spain, and we have seen lots and lots of these windmills. imageThere are stone fences everywhere, even in areas that look as if they were abandoned long ago. I really love all the stone walls and fences: it makes me want to build something out of stone!image

Montparnasse Cemetery and the Catacombes

An interesting day but also a day of of reflection.  I walked to the Gare de l’Est and caught the number 38 bus which took me all the way across Paris to Denfert Rochereau area.  This is a bit past where I go to draw and is the location of the Paris Catacombs.  There was a very long line, down the block and around the corner.  I ask one of the attendants, in French, if the line is better in the afternoon, and he tells me to that 4:00 is good so I decide to go visit the Montparnasse Cemetery first.

It is smaller than Pére Lachaise, where Bob and I visited several years ago, but it is still very large.  I spent a couple of hours just wandering about, taking lots of pictures.  I was hoping for angel pictures but there were very few angel statues.  That kind of surprised me.

imageThe cemetery is such a mix of old and new.  There are lots of the little house like structures that are very old, and sometimes right beside one of these there will be a modern tomb, where someone was very recently buried.

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There was a funeral today, the hearse driving slowly down one of the cemetery roads with a very old man in the passenger seat, and the mourners all walk following the hearse.  I wondered if it was his wife that died?

imageIt actually was the small personal touches that affected me the most.  A group of angel figurines on the tomb of a young boy named Luca who was only here for eight years, and flowers left on a tomb, even though the last person buried there was in the early 1900’s.

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I wonder about the ‘sepultures’, the little houses, some of them are so old that their doors are rusted shut, and the insides have not been cared for in many many years.  Who still has the keys to all these doors?  Does anyone come to visit anymore?  I wonder about the stories behind these tombs.

imageMany of the tombs or sepultures have several people interred in them, quite a few I saw had ten or twelve plaques with names and dates.  These tombs have been in families for hundreds of years.   There is no grass here, the plots are side by side with just enough room to walk between them, just as densely populated as the rest of Paris!  Some of the tombs are so old they have moss growing on the them and their words have been obliterated by time.

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I look for the tombs of some famous people, but no luck other than this one.  I tried to find Brancusi’s but it just wasn’t where it was supposed to be!

I had a bit of a picnic here, some tea and snacks and sat for a little while.  I saw a young man enter the cemetery carrying a big bouquet of white flowers. He stopped to fill a watering can and then headed down one of the cemetery roads.  Was he going to visit the grave of his wife, or mother, or perhaps even a son or daughter?  Seeing him made me feel quite emotional.  Cemeteries tend to put one in a pensive mood.

But then there were the tombstones that made me laugh!

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The only inscription was ” Il fait son choix d’une anchois et dine d’une sardine”. And was signed Berdal.  As near as I can make out, something like ” He made his choice of anchovies and dined on a sardine” The really funny part was when I walked around  to the other side to see if there was anything else written.  What does this look like to you?  I know I have been drawing the nude model a lot, but am I the only one who sees breasts?

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This one was quite strange.

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And then there was this fellow in bed with his wife and child!

I headed over to the Catacombes around three but there was still a long line so I wandered up and down a few streets, just looking at all the shops and people.  I have no urge to actually do any shopping, peering in windows Is quite adequate, at least for now.

I decide to get in line at 4:00, and although the line is considerably shorter than it was at noon it still takes 45 minutes before I am at the entrance.  I chat with a couple of guys from Georgia, who are visiting Paris for a birthday as well, while waiting and the time passes fairly quickly.

It is pretty hard to describe the Catacombes.  After walking down 130 steps and through long galleries I reach the ossuary.

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Although I had seen pictures and read a bit about the Catacombes, they really didn’t prepare me for the actuality of corridor after corridor and room after room of human bones, stacked on all sides, deep beneath the streets of Paris.

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I used a an attendant’s chair to take this photo.

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A barrel shaped pillar made of bones.

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Over 150 cemeteries in Paris and the surrounding areas were emptied and the bones brought here.  At first they were just dumped in huge piles, up to 11 meters high but they were later organized into the displays I saw today.

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There are the bones of over six million people in these catacombes.  I spent almost an hour and a half walking past their remains.  It was impossible to not be deeply affected.  We all die sooner or later, it is one of life’s few certainties. Of course I realize that, but seeing the physical remains of six million individuals was staggering.  I think that is something I kept thinking about, that these are not just piles of bones, they were people with families and they each had a story, a life.  Now they are a tourist attraction.

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Most people were very quiet and respectful but of course there are always some who are not.  I even overheard one girl ask her friend if he had pen as she wanted to write her name on the wall, hard to believe how some people think.  Luckily he didn’t have one, although there was some graffiti written on a few skulls….

On  the way hime saw more metro police.  Not sure if something has been happening.  I didn’t see any of these police the first ten days or so I was here, but have been seeing groups of three or four and up to ten at a time every day since then.

 

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I am really quite tired tonight, both physically and emotionally as well.  I didn’t get home until after 8:00, it was a good day, just a different one.  This ended up being a very long post, but considering I took over 250 photos today it was hard to whittle it down.

imageI also managed to get some drawing done today, I drew people on the metro.  It is a challenge, usually there are just a couple of minutes to try to get them on paper, they are often moving and sometimes my subject gets up and leaves just after I begin to draw!

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