Faith and Travel Series: Italy's Art is a Religious Experience


If you've ever visited Italy, you know how romantic the country is. There is something warm and slow and beautiful about everything there, from the rolling hills of the countryside and little alleyways leading to quiet squares, to the fantastical architecture and history of the cities, especially places like Venice and Rome. Italy has a long history with Catholicism, with the Vatican City located in Rome, and many other historic religious gathering spaces graced with artwork from incredibly famous artists, including one of, if not the, most famous of all, Michelangelo.


I had heard the commonly used phrase of people having a "religious experience" when viewing artwork, but had only had a few moments like that before I visited Italy. I felt like I had a prolonged religious experience throughout my visit as I was continuously surrounded by works that took my breath away and showed what masterpieces that are truly given up to God can be like. I remember turning the corner to look down the hall towards David for the first time, being able to circle him and see the variations in his expression, feeling his determination and fear in the moments before he faced Goliath. The Pieta at the Basilica of St. Peter brought tears to my eyes and moved my heart in a way I did not know was possible from a piece of marble. Nothing could prepare me for the experience of a lifetime, though, when I had the chance to visit the Sistine Chapel in a small group after hours, where we could spend a good half hour in the space, looking above to the dazzling ceiling graced with some of the most iconic Christian imagery and the deeply intricate story told by The Last Judgement gracing the altar wall in the chapel. 


Being a deep appreciator of art added to my intellectual love of the masterpieces I had the privilege to see, but more than anything, my spiritual and emotional wellbeing are filled up even by the memories of these moments I spent with these incredibly moving works of art." 


The very busy views of David. A word of advice- go to his left, towards the direction he is looking and stand behind the first column, you will see the indecision and youth in his face appear. Also make sure to stop and learn about the unfinished sculptures along the hallway going towards David, they show a great deal of Michelangelo's genius process and are powerful in a unique way when you learn about the subject matter of those sculptures. 


Inside St. Peter's Basilica. I could not take a proper photo of the Pieta as it is behind glass now, but that is probably for the best, as it really cannot be appreciated in the same way over a photo. 


A portion of the interior of the Sistine Chapel, including The Last Judgement. So much detail and sensory overload means it is hard to appreciate without a long visit in the space, especially since we only had a small group of us in the Chapel.


On our last evening, we walked to the Ponte Saint-Angelo, a bridge featuring these beautiful angels carrying Instruments of the Passion. 


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