Today is day two of orientation (and this fascinating exercise in practical education, successful or not, will continue until the weekend). The morning's attraction involved a hundred students sitting in a classroom, listening to various rules about drinking, etc. However, this afternoon, we had our first expedition into the city. It was stunning and overwhelming, though in a vague way due to the fact that we were split into hurried tour groups for a fast tour of some of the city's landmarks. Not exactly an activity calculated to instill grand sentiments of awe. Thus did our introduction to the city function as a advertisement for the rest of the semester – it gave us enough of a taste of the real thing to want to come back, but no time to enjoy it. The pleasure of Rome remains largely anticipatory.
St. Peter's in Vatican City, however, was amazing. We went to Mass there at 5:00, and then had time to wander around and look at things until 6:30. The church as a whole was stunning both in size and beauty; the famous statue of St. Peter with its toes worn down from years of reverent touches was magnificent, and the thought of just how many generations of Catholics have preceded us in this place sends a chill up one's spine.
But the best attraction by far was the Pieta. None of the widely circulated copies of the statue come close to giving one an idea of the actual thing. The marble is pure and smooth and appears almost soft, as though it were alive, but on a different plane than the observer. I can't really describe it beyond that, and I won't post a picture, as it couldn't do it justice.
However, I do have a couple of other pictures, and here they are:
Pantheon from the front
Pantheon from the back
The St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel in Santa Maria Supra Minerva
The tomb of St. Catherine of Siena in Santa Maria Supra Minerva
The Victor Emmanuel Monument, known for resembling an over-sized wedding cake.
I'll have to post more of the pictures separately, because I don't want this post to jam up the wireless here.