If you’ve ever visited Italy, you know how romantic the country is. There is something warm and slow and beautiful about it, from the rolling hills of the countryside and little alleyways leading to quiet squares and the fantastical architecture. Italy also has a long history of Catholicism, with the Vatican City in Rome, and many other historic religious gathering spaces. Most are graced with artwork from 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 experienced this a few times before I visited Italy. Turning a corner at the Accademia Gallery, I saw David down the hall. Being able to observe the changes in his facial expression, feeling the strength and fear in him as he prepared to confront Goliath was a spiritual experience. I had many of these throughout my visit, as I was surrounded by works that astonished me and showed what masterpieces that are truly devoted to God can be.
A word of advice- when you visit David, 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. Also, make sure to stop and learn about the unfinished sculptures along the hallway. They show a great deal of Michelangelo’s genius process.
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 thrill of a lifetime, though, when I had the chance to visit the Sistine Chapel in a small group after hours. They gave us 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. Visiting in a small group when the chapel is closed to the public is the best way to view this masterpiece.
On our last evening, we walked to the Ponte Sant’ Angelo, a bridge featuring beautiful angels carrying Instruments of the Passion.
Being a deep appreciator of art added to my intellectual love of the masterpieces I had the privilege to see in Italy, but more than anything, my spiritual and emotional wellbeing are filled up by the memories of these moments I spent with these incredibly moving works of art."