Italy Mission Trip Day 3: Pilgrimage

I love Italian coffee! It is dark and thick and smooth, like used motor oil, but goes down like a Guiness Stout. They serve it with steamed milk on the side, and I drank mine with a croissant. We decided to get up early and beat the lines to the Vatican. Something in me told me that I needed to see the Sistine Chapel.

I resisted going at first, mostly because of the religious implications of it. I did not want to intrude on the pilgrimages of others. But then I came to the conclusion that I was going on my own pilgrimage of sorts, to meet “The Creation of Adam,” which for all the cliche-ness of it all, is still a powerful and inspired work of art.

The Vatican is amazing. Past the endless array of museums, past the hundreds of thousands of square feet of paintings and murals and tapestries, we enter a small set of steps and through a narrow door marked “Capella Sistina.” Instantly a hush came over me, as I found myself surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling masterpiece.

More than just “The Creation of Adam,” there are at least a dozen scenes of God’s interaction with man up on the ceiling, e.g., the creation of Eve, the temptation of the snake, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden, etc. Below this ceiling mural and surrounding the room is a series highlighting Jesus’ earthly ministry, e.g., healing the paralytic, overturning the moneychanger tables in the Temple, etc. Below that layer sits the Old Testament prophets on thrones, and below that sit a series of dead popes on chairs. Finally, faux curtains hang on the wall to the floor. Cherubim and seraphim float around whimsically all about the place. And at the front of the chapel is a disturbing yet compelling vision of the judgment day, more inspired by Dante than by Revelation.

I sit and slowly drink it in. There is simply too much to see. Although he obviously didn’t get a lot right when compared to the Bible, he paints a view of the majesty of God’s unmistakably active movement in the universe. To the illiterate laity of its day, this was pretty much the entire Bible illustrated to them every week.

The rest of the day was logistics. Moving from the hotel to the apartment, getting our equipment to the site, purchasing additional equipment from a local music store here, getting everyone together, paying for it all. Bob had asked me to mind the logistics of the hotel room, so I was kinda busy for a bit. I met a young man named Danillo. He is an aspiring musician who traveled here from Sicily to help with the concert. He tells me the sad state of affairs for music in Italy (e.g., 18 euros for a CD, no one writing for the Italian market, lack of new music and ways to get it). I gave him my three albums and he was very grateful. I also get a chance to have dinner with Willie and Melissa Saulnier, who are publishers of a Christian magazine in Anchorage. They are the ones who published the magazine that we will distribute during our concerts. Steve and Karen Puleo also have also joined the group.

By the way, amongst the hundreds of beautiful paintings was this one mural of two choir directors…arguing. I couldn’t help but laugh and take a photo of it.

By 11:30 PM, we’re all settled into our apartment and we gathered and prayed with one another and with Pastor Valerio Mungie. I drop into bed and sleep like a baby.

Food Scorecard: I had my first authentic Italian pizza, which has a very thin crust with simple sauce and cheese. Unpretentious, unambitious, but really quite tasty. Also had some real Italian lasagna for dinner and an Italian beer. Life is good.

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