Women's Basketball Diary - Maggie O'Hara

Aug. 24, 2006

Buon Giorno from Italy!

Well this is day two in Italy and it has been awesome. Our rooms are pretty funny, I am rooming with Jill when we are in Rome and they count two twin beds pushed together as a room with two double beds, think about two girls over 6 feet tall sleeping in twin beds! However recovering from jet lag and I think being up for over 24 hours because of the plane trips I slept like a log!

We went to visit Vatican City today. For all of you that don't know it is one of the smallest countries in the world. Because it is its own country the girls had to go in with their knees and shoulders covered and we all had to wear close toed shoes. This wasn't too bad but it was another hot day in Rome.

To say the least the Vatican was breathtaking. It is surrounded by a tall brick wall; it is what I would imagine a fortress looked like back in the day. We toured the Vatican museums first, our tour guide told us that there are around 30 different galleries within the museum; we went to the select few that are the most famous. We started out and saw one of the oldest bronze statues of Hercules; this was awesome because we were told that in the early days of Rome it was not uncommon to melt down all available metal for use in other areas, so to see a pure bronze statue was quite rare.The first gallery that we went into was full of statues and busts of gods and goddesses. Old popes were known for their collections of art and it was evident in this room, we saw statues for the god of wine and lots for the gods and goddesses of fertility and happiness. The second gallery that we entered was full of huge, and I mean these things covered entire walls, tapestries. Some depicted biblical times, the last depicted when Caesar was murdered, all however were connected to one pope or another. Popes would have these made by their families and then leave traces of themselves behind by adding their family crest somewhere on the tapestry. The third gallery we entered was, I think called the map room or something along those lines. This was a map history of Italy and the Vatican. We saw how big the Vatican used to be and the areas that it influenced, as well as how large Rome was in its height of power.

The last gallery that we got to visit was the famous Sistine Chapel. We were not allowed to take pictures within the actual chapel because the flashes from cameras will degrade the color of the frescos. This was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. On the ceiling the paintings depicted the book of Genesis, essentially the beginning of man. In one fresco we saw God creating the cosmos, then one of the most famous paintings was Adam being created, where Adam and God look like they are touching fingers, then there was the depiction of the original Sin with Adam and Eve. Also along the sides of the Sistine Chapel were depictions of the life of Jesus on one wall and then the life of Moses on the other wall. One of the most important frescos resides on the wall depicting the life of Jesus, that is when Jesus gave Peter the keys to the church, essentially turning over the church to Peter. Our guide told us that both Moses and Jesus are depicted because it was the old and the new coming together to form the Catholic church of Rome. The frescos of Moses and Jesus were to depict the two main religious leaders of that time.

Another fresco that was amazing was that of the final descent. It depicted a souls' journey in a circle, from birth to heaven or those being cast off the boat by the boat keeper into Hell. Throughout this fresco Michelangelo added important figures throughout history, St. Peter of course, St. Katherine, and St. Bartholomew with Jesus and the Virgin Mary being the center of this entire fresco. This sadly only touches on the beauty and the depth of the Chapel, its details were amazing, the entire ceiling and the walls were painted. It took Michelangelo 4 years to do the ceiling and another 4 years to do the fresco of the final descent. Michelangelo lived until he was like 80 so that is why we see so much of his work, he had an exceptionally long life for that time and he painted throughout most of his life.

One of the coolest things that occurred to me while we were in the Chapel was that each pope that had been elected has been selected right in that room, every cardinal in the world has been there, every pope has walked within its sacred walls, and I was standing there looking at these beautiful frescos. It was unreal.

So from here we then went into the main church, St. Peters Basilica. This is the largest Catholic Church in the world, as well as the first. In this church there were statues of all of the different popes as well as beautiful paintings. We saw two canonized popes, and yes their bodies were really in glass tombs within the church, and we also saw a mass going on with chanting in Italian. The most amazing part about this church is that it was built upon the tombs of the popes, so we were walking along the church and buried beneath us was St. Peter, and all the other popes that have served. I also got to touch the feet of St. Peter. There is a statue within the church that represents St. Peter and it is said that if you touch his feet a miracle will occur. It was an honor to be able to touch the feet of St. Peter and even more amazing is that the stone where his toes should be has completely worn away because of so many pilgrims traveling to Rome to visit St. Peter.

From the church we went out and entered St. Peters square. This was also breathtaking. Surrounding the center of the square was columns and in the middle was the huge tower like structure with a cross on top. It was so huge, but what struck me was that this area was full of people when our last pope died, that was astounding. From the square we walked down to the castle St. Angelo. We were told that there is an underground passage way from the papal palace to the castle and back when Rome was the capital of the world, if the pope ever came under attack that he could use this passage way and escape without the intruder even noticing.

From here we walked along the streets right outside the Vatican state limits, haggling with street vendors on the best prices for purses and sunglasses. Don't worry Mom I got you a birthday present from inside the Vatican walls just like you asked, you are going to love it, and Dad you would have loved the Basilica, I wish we were here on a Sunday to see a mass.

We had the rest of the evening to ourselves and we walked to the Spanish Steps again and down towards a trendy side of town passing all of the major stores. Cheri and I had some gelato and it does live up to its rep of being very, very tasty. It was an amazing day in Rome, the Vatican was more amazing than I can even explain and I am excited to play our first game tomorrow!



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