We went on a pilgrimage to Padua (or Padova as it’s known here in Italia) to see the Giotto frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel. Fifteen minutes for 20 to 25 of us in a micro-climate-controlled room before we are allowed to be in the presence of genius, of masterpiece, of the glory that is paint on a two-dimensional surface rendering life even more than alive. The cycle of Christianity from before even Mary was born to Christ’s ascension to heaven and sitting on the right (is that right?) hand of God on Judgment day. And did I mention the man did it all in two freaking years?
What to say? Hell looked pretty much like Dante describes. I’m sure I’ll have more words once the whole experience sinks in. Right now, the seven miles we hoofed today are still being felt in my falling arches and our very-much-Italian late supper is nearly, nearly done. The highlight of John’s day was seeing the lingua (tongue) and mento (larynx) of St. Anthony, relics enshrined in gold and glass in the cappello of his daunting, astonishing basilica.
This evening, after returning by train from our outing, we found ourselves in our neighborhood campo when the panificio was open so bread could be bought. The vegetable stand was still open, too, at just-past-work time and we scored potatoes and tomatoes to add to our leftover apartment dinner fest. People walk under our windows—our apartment is on a first floor, the piano terra as they call it here—chattering in Italian about life, liberty, maybe even the pursuit of happiness while Pennsylvanians, my people, go to the polls.
I wonder, did Giotto sense what he was doing when he painted those all-so-human expressions on those faces, changing the whole history of art, or did he simply do it because that was all he felt, all he knew?
John just reported the tide is coming in, because the newspaper someone threw into our canal is floating to the right instead of the left. Life in Venezia: 22 April 2008.
The public domain image above is a detail of “Scenes from the Life of Christ—Flight into Egypt” by Giotto di Bondone in the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy.