Friday, January 22, 2010

My first Over Seas Trip : Rome to London 26 July 1978



Having decided to take bus tours, we saw a number of fascinating places but the Vatican museum made them all look rather small by comparison.

Taking pictures was again a dead loss as the photos could not bring out the true magnificence of it all. Even the bought pictures loose something. But I can't help but wonder what were the motives of the art.

This comment was based on the idea that maybe the art was all about idol worship of some kind or more about spending money at the expense of the poverty that surrounded the church. On my return to Rome many years later I discussed these ideas with one of the guides. This is something I would not have dared to do on my first trip as the Vatican was held in too high an esteem to dare to question anything about it.

In any case the guide was very good and pointed out that the sate of literacy at the time necessitated a different form of teaching. It was one thing to read the scriptures from the pulpit and to have sermons, it was quite another to have people being able to revisit their favorite stories or contemplate the meaning of the text. Therefore the original intent of the art was to teach and for people to be able to revisit the stories at their leisure.  I was quite please by this answer because it made me realize the difficulty of oral society was being confronted from very early times.

So the Art, at lease originally, had a very functional purpose as well as being beautiful. and isn't beauty something to also be celebrated in the Christian community.

The other places we saw were just as beautiful but no where near as spectacular. Except the Tivoli Gardens (right). Mum was terrified as we carried her down the stairs, about 200 of them, in her wheel chair.

Out of all the things that impressed me there was one place that disturbed me: the Stairs of St John.

These are said to be the stairs that Jesus climbed in order to be judged, I'm not sure whether by Pilate or by King Herod. They are the stairs that Luther climbed in his search to find grace.

There were actually people climbing these stairs on their knees as we watched. I suppose that it all depends on the motive involved in what one is doing but to me it was a potent display of the sad side of what is potentially oppressive about the Roman Catholic church . Don't misunderstand me I am not anti the Catholic Church. I think that it does, we who are protestant, to remember that it is in a very real sense part of our parentage. These stairs were just a little hard for me to come to terms with.

It has been interesting to compare the differences in churches as we have gone along. I recalled that in Jerusalem the Garden tomb or the official sight of the garden tomb, is controlled by the older church traditions such as the Eastern Orthodox. As it is in Rome you are constantly told "this is the exact spot were such and such happened.  I also recall how refreshing it was to go to the Protestant Garden tomb and have them say that "this is possibly the spot were Jesus was buried, but if it isn't it gives you a good idea of what it may have been like". I guess it depends on who ends up guiding you.

I think I am starting to get the idea that you have to barter for souvenirs.

I continue to praise the Lord for his constant provision of people to help us with mum. Without them this trip would have been much harder.

Next we fly to London.

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