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Mar 8, 2013

Villa Farnesina: the popes' banker's residence.

 
Commissioned by Agostino Chigi the banker of the popes, the villa was meant for a woman: his young Venetian mistress Francesca Ordeaschi who some years later he made his wife. They had five children, who were illegitimate.  When he became seriously ill (he was only 54) he decided to marry her and the marriage was celebrated by the pope Leo X. Chigi died the following year.
Between 1506–1510 the Sienese artist Baldassarre Peruzzi designed the villa intended to be a summer pavilion.  Best known are Raphael’s frescoes on the ground floor; in the loggia: Cupid and Psyche and The Triumph of Galatea (this one so reminiscent of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus!).

March 9th is the only day to visit Santa Francesca Romana Monastery.

For the anniversary of her death (March 9th, 1440) the Monastery where she spent the last years of her life is exceptionally open to the public (only one day a year actually - March 9th from 9 to 11,30 and from 14,30 to 18,00).  Santa Francesca Romana chose a monastic life after the death of her two children for the plague and the illness of her husband.  She was born in a wealthy and aristocratic family and she wanted to become a nun since she was 11 but at the age of 12 she was forced to marry (a happy marriage in the end which lasted 40 years). A life of constant tension between the Vocational instict and the inner sense of family.  She was canonized in 1608 for a life spent to help the poor and the sick.  She founded the Olivetan Oblates of Mary (a confraternity of pious women) and the Monastery of Tor de Specchi near the Capitole hill.  The Monastery is a beautiful exemple of the artistic transition between Medieval and Renaissance art (the very precious frescoes by Antoniazzo Romano illustrate the life of the saint and offer a valuable insight of the period including some very interesting iscriptions in Roman dialect).  In 1925 pope Pius XI declared her the patron saint of automobile drivers because of a legend that an angel used to light the road before her with a lantern when she traveled keeping her safe from hazards. Within the Benedictine Order , she is also honored as a patron saint of all oblates.
On this day admission is free for all those who wish to remember a little known Saint and visit the Monastery where she is buried.

Mar 7, 2013

3 good reasons not to miss Titian's Exhibition


 
1) The artist:  it is a unique opportunity to admire 40 masterpieces from all over (Titian can be considered the first great European artist).  The exhibition shows the evolution of his extraordinary and versatile long career (from sacred to mythological subjects including portraits of his powerful patrons).  From his early years with Giorgione and Giovanni Bellini, to the large canvases for the Doges, the Este dukes or the Della Rovere family up to the commissions for the Emperors Charles V and his son Philip II.
 
2)  The location: the Scuderie del Quirinale (Scuderie is the Italian for Staples) were originally the 18th century staples of the popes.  Very special Staples indeed designed by 2 great architects:  Alessandro Specchi and Alessandro Fuga. In 1938 the staples became a garage and a after a complete restyling in 1997 a unique exhibition space (by the way the restyling is by Gae Aulenti:  the architect who transformed the Gare d’Orsay into another great museum!)

3)   Last but not least if you are visiting Rome those days… You could feel deprived of something since the Sistine Chapel is out of the question for the Conclave.  Well, this could be an excellent plan B!!!  Tiziano will ‘replace’ his colleague and contemporary Michelangelo admirably!

An Armenian Saint in St. Peter's


Leaving the Sistine Chapel on the way to St. Peter's Basilica our attention is called by a huge marble statue located in one of the external niches of the church (side wall of St. Peter's onto the right). At the base we read: S. Gregorius Armeniae Illuminator. 
It is brand new compared to the others.  The statue was added in 2005 and blessed by John Paul II on January 19th just before one of his traditional Audiences (a few months before his death). It's more than 15 Ft tall, 18 tons of pure Carrara marble, it was sculpted in 2 years and it costed 250.000 euros. Its author: the Armenian-Lebanese sculptor Kazan Khatchick won an international contest for the project.
It is the first statue portraying an Eastern rite saint placed here.
This great Saint, more than 17 centuries ago, converted the Armenians to Christianity:  Armenia thus being the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301.
A conversion that has profoundly marked Armenian identity. The term "Illuminator", with which this Saint is called underlines the passage from darkness to the light of Christ but it also refers to the the light that comes from the spreading of culture through teaching, alluding to the mission of those monk-teachers who followed the example of St Gregory.
Interesting to know that Gregory before his monastic life married Miriam, a devout Christian,  the daughter of a Christian Armenian Prince in Cappadocia and had 2 sons.