Sunday, 8 April 2012

Happy Easter & mass at St. Peters

Hello everyone. First I need to wish everyone a very Happy Easter and second to apologize for being so long in posting. I was going to work on sharing some events that are now part of the history of my experiences in Rome and the surrounding area. Instead I absolutely must share the events of today as it has been more than life changing and is more than memorable. Words just can not describe how unbelieveable today was for me. I am still in awe and disbelief. So without further delay here is my day.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the day in Umbria with Barbara, her husband, Paolo and Monali who is from India. The plan for this mornings event was to head to St. Peter's to experience a mass with the Pope. More specifically an Easter Mass with the Pope. Barbara and Paolo had made arrangements for tickets to the event so I was thinking that we would be somewhere down in the square, closer to the fencing and this would be where I would experience the ceremony. It couldn't have been further from the reality of my experience.

Paolo insisted on picking us up from Ponte Bionco so we met our hosts at the bottom of the hill and headed towards Vatican City in their car. Before I can even process what is happening we are driving through a guarded gate and into the heart of Vatican City. I am in an area that tourists and siteseers have no access. I can't believe it. Monali and I are of the same mind, pinch me please as I can't believe that I am really here inside Vatican City. Paolo drives around the basillica and parks. Monali and I pretty much jump and fall out of the car with our mouths open. Paolo opens the trunk of the car to get an umbrella and I explain that there is no need that I am sure that it is not going to rain on us, even though the sky is very overcast and it has been raining for 2 days. He says that if he gets wet it is my fault and once again I explaing that this is not going to happen. He closes the hatch and we turn around to begin our walk through the gardens towards the basillica.

In front of us is what was once an old train station. The building is now used as a sort of department store for the people working, living and/or staying in the Vatican. The gardens are lush and green, some of the fountains are bubbling water. I turn to Barbara and tease her about them being her fountains. Yes she says, she has over 100 inside the walls. This is going to be a walking tour with her for another day.

I turn around and there is the back of St. Peter's as Michaelangelo intended it to be. It is in the shape of a Greek cross which has each of the arms the same length. This was his vision and intention of what the basillica should look like when finished. I find out from Paolo that when Carlo Maderno took over the completion of the bulding of the basilica, he extend the nave east elongating it so that the interior plan became a Latin Cross. Also with the change, you can not view the interior of the dome of Michaelangelo from the crypt. What is left is the familiar facade known around the world as the entrance to St. Peter's, but it is not the one envisioned by Michaleangelo.

Instead I am looking at the great masters work from a view point that I could never have dreamed I would be blessed to see. There are statues in recesses all around the building as we walk down to enter the basillica. Barbara informs me that they are not ancient, but new statues. Gifts from various countries from around the world. Still in awe she stops us to point out a specific flower garden. It is really beautiful. She explains that the flowers form the crest of Benedict XVI and that it is clearly visible from the top of the cupola of the dome. We stop at another building that is an ancient church from the 1st century. This was the church used by pilgrams from Africa long ago and funny enough the place where Barbara and Paolo were married. This calls for a picture to make the momemt.

We continue walking around the barrel of the basillica and before I know what is happening we are entering it through a back door. How many times in ones lifetime, mine, do I have the opportunity to be inside St. Peter's basically alone. There are no pushing tourists, screaming, running children, there is just the interior of this most amazing and majestic building. One of a kind in the world. Priests, cardinals, bishops and Nuns are moving about getting ready for the mass. My mouth is hanging on the ground as it feels like I have the whole building to myself. Monali once again says pinch me as I can't believe that I am here. Paolo and Barbara are casually strolling through the building, this is not their first time to experience a moment like this and will not be their last. As we wander around the interior taking pictures they ask to be excused and go to wish the head of the Swiss Guard, a friend, Bona Pasqua, Happy Easter.
We are slowly moving through the basillica towards one of  the main gates which will lead us out onto the diasis where the mass willl be performed. All of a sudden the giant pipe organ comes to life. The sound fills the building and is so beautiful. I am moved almost to tears as this is something more than I could have ever hoped for to experience. I ask Barbara if the organ will be played during the mass and she says that it will and that yes the people in the square will be able to hear and experience the music. As we draw nearer to the exit we pass by Michaelangelo's Pieta. There is a screen blocking the area and Barbara explains to me that this is where the Pope will remove his vestments before heading to the Papal balcony to give the Easter blessing and wish everyone a Happy Easter in every language of the world.
We step outside and were now overlooking the square and collonnade which is beginning to fill with people. The cardinals are seated with many other clergy to the right. We will be seated to the left one row from the front and about 20 feet from the alter where the mass will be held. OMG am I really here! The diasis is covered with beautiful flowers and plants. There are 4 vases each holding the same flower arrangement and of particular interest to me, peach coloured roses which were my Mom's favorite. The head of the Vatican police greats Barbara and Paolo and we are asked to be seated. Our seats are to the left of the alter. Paolo is seated in the front row just slightly behind the alter. Monali and I are seated next one row behind and one seat from the end of the second row which has a black trench coat covering it. Barbara is seated directly behind us and then is eventually moved to the front row and seated beside her husband. People within our section are standing up and taking pictures, talking and looking around. Wow.

There are crisp white booklets on each seat with the service contents inside, all 79 pages including the music and I mean the score of what will be sung. The mass will be in Latin. At 10 am the bells of St. Peter begin to toll. The mass in about to begin. The Swiss Guard enter first and take up various positions on the diasis and at the gates leading into the basiliica that are now closed. The processional begins with candles and the cross. Cardinals, bishops and monsienurs lead the way with the Pope following at the rear. He crosses the top section of the diasis and hands his large staff with the cross to an assistant, then 2 clergy assist the Pope in decending the staircase walking down the red  carpet to the alter. I am not sure what I expected, I thought that he was taller and much more vibrant. Instead he is this very small, very fragile old man who in some ways seems to be carrying the weight of the world. I just want to give him a hug. Strange reaction I know, but that is how I felt. He is once again helped up the stairs to the alter and takes the crozier with the incence and the ceremony has begun. I won't go through all of the details as I know that the mass was televised around the world. I will tell you that the music and singing were angelic and sublime. The experience beyond words even though I have tried to share the moment with you, I really don't think that I will ever really be able to describe the feelings. It still brings me close to tears and I feel incredibly verclempt. There are no words in any language that can express my thanks to Barbara and Paolo for taking me on this journey and allowing me to be part of such a moving and life transforming event. All I can say is thank you and Bona Pasqua.


I apologize for the order of the pictures but no matter how hard I try this program will not allow me to put them where I really want them!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Information and Documentation Management

Information and Documentation Management March 19 -22, 2012
This week we have been concentrating on various methods of documentation including the basic and complex equipment that can be used when doing a building assessment. Basic equipment can include a tape measure, clipboard, paper, pencils & pens, binoculars, camera with a lens cleaning cloth and tripod, string and a plumb bob and a torpedo level. This very basic equipment can assist you in gathering a great deal of pertinent information with minimal expense that can be of immense assistance when planning what type of interventions should be taking place or if more complex and expensive surveys should be undertaken.
Photographic processing that can be implemented to get different information include monoscopic, monoscopic pictorial, stereo pairs, thermal imaging, panoramic (QTUR) and other really interesting tools that you can implement that are not expensive but can yield good diagnostic results. It is all pretty impressive.
One of the instructors also introduced the class to a perspective rectifier that takes a camera image and rectifies it. This means that the program flattens the image so that you can use it in other programs such as AutoCAD. Why would you have to do this? Well cameras due to the lens and mirrors required to produce a picture curve the image. IF you just take the image in this state and import it into a program like AutoCAD the image is distorted and the scale and correct dimensions also are distorted.
We also were instructed to take our pictures at an ISO of 100 preferably, but 200 is acceptable. The reason is that the image quality is better at this low ISO setting. Shooting in RAW format is also better as the image can then be easily manipulated within a program like Photoshop.
Some of the neat types of photography that we talked about involved LEAP, Low Elevation Aerial Photography. The idea is that by using a balloon or even in some cases model airplanes and helicopters you can perform an aerial survey without the expense of renting a pilot and airplane and that you can manipulate easily the area that you want to see from above. This seems to be a newer and upcoming area of gathering information.

Street entrance to courtyard

Courtyard with fountain. The portico and entrance.
Moving on from some of the technical stuff we have been studying to the group work/project that we were asked to perform. There is a church very close to ICCROM called St. Cecilia. The church is dedicated to a woman, her husband and her brother who were martyred for being Christian. It was long supposed that she was a noble lady of Rome who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius, and a Roman soldier Maximus, suffered martyrdom in about 230, under the Emperor Alexander Severus.

The research of Giovanni Battista de Rossi, however, appears to confirm the statement of Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers (d. 600), that she perished in Sicily under Emperor Marcus Aurelius between 176 and 180. A church in her honor exists in Rome from about the 5th century, was rebuilt with much splendor by Pope Paschal I around the year 820, and again by Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati in 1599.
The methods of executing St Cecilia were on the scale of horrific. First she was boiled alive for 3 days, but she did not die. Then the Romans attempted to behead her, but this also failed so they left her for 3 days to bleed to death. When her body was found many years later it was uncorrupted laying in the position that she supposedly died in. Her outstretched hands had three fingers extended, two on one hand and one on the other indicating her belief in the holy trinity. Her remains were moved to the location of St. Cecilia believed to be her home and were reinterred there.

There is a beautiful sculpture by Stefano Moderno, made of white marble of St Cecilia in the alter area of the church. The artist stated that when her tomb was opened in 1599 this was the state of condition and position of her body.

 Another interesting fact is that there are days when sitting in class that I can hear the braying of sheep. This is because the sisters raise the sheep in the cloistered gardens and the wool is used to make cloaks for new archbishops. The Pope consecrates the sheep every year on January 21st.  I find it moving that this long tradition continues even as Rome continues to grow and become more and more modern all around this little island of religious purity.

Now that you have a little background surrounding the church and the patron saint of music, I will explain the assignment given to the class. We were broken up into 4 groups of 5 and in some cases 6. We were asked to spend almost 2 days documenting the tomb stones that had been reinstalled into the floor of the church in 1599. Some were hung on the walls of the portico. The idea is that documentary evidence and research could be gathered and done to try and determine who the individuals under the tombs stones were and maybe a little bit about their lives. The assignment also included determining the state of deterioration of the stones, documentation of all the elements of the tombs, including missing elements, if possible translation of the Latin inscriptions and then develop an intervention plan to help conserve these important relics.

The team that I had the pleasure of working with included Kamil, Israel, archaeologist, Barbara, Vatican City, architect, Niramon, Thailand, Architect, Rosilene, Brazil, Conservator, Angela, Italy , expert in marbles and then me. What a great team. We spent a great deal of time gathering information and doing all kinds of photo documentation under a variety of conditions. I did most of the photography, including taking detailed shots of the tombs which I broke down into a 6 inch grid system. This meant there was a huge number of pictures per tomb and we had 7 tombs to document. We then took a special program called Panorama Maker 6 and stitched the photos together to create a very detailed image of the tomb. This allowed the group to have very detailed information including the existing condition of the stone, cracks and chips, deteriorated or missing information. I had to run back and forth a few times to take more pictures to clarify information that the group determined was missing. We then pulled together a power point presentation which we had to present to the rest of the class, the instructors and interns on what we found and our recommendations for immediate and future interventions.

A hard copy of the information we collected will be given to the sisters of the church and hopefully will help guide them with future conservation work. I must admit that it feels pretty good being involved in something first of all so ancient with interesting histories attached to it and second trying to ensure that the information about this small part of the church is not lost forever.


Alter area

Sheep are beside the tin roof left side behind tree


Subterrainian chapel

Church interior

Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Canadian Pancake Breakfast

Yes you read the post title correctly. As part of getting to know each other ICCROM suggested to everyone before we arrived that we should bring some food type typical of our countries. Then at some point we would all cook for each other. Well 2 things have happened since this email was sent, first almost everyone at Ponte Bionco poles their food and eats in Kamil's room. Kamil is the representative from Israel. Second I was foolish enough to bring 3 bottles of maple syrup and 2 jars of Saskatoon jam. Now please tell me what could be more Canadian or representative of Saskatchewan.

So I being the fool that I can sometimes be decide to hold a pancake breakfast, the problem is location. According to the rules at Ponte Bionco we are not allowed to take food of drinks into the study room and we have already had a few complaints about being to noisey while in Kamil's room. So I try to arrange something with the ICCROM staff to be able to access their facilities on Sunday. This also does not turn out, so it is looking rather bleak regarding pulling this off. One night on my way home I just for fun ask one of the front desk clerks if I could have a party on Sunday March 18th at noon. I explained the plans and the next thing I know the party is on and now I have to do some serious cooking for between 25 -30 people. Oh a little bribing with a plate of food also goes a long way to help make things happen.

Barbara the representative from Vatican City says she will take me to the Metro to do the shopping as it is a large wholesale warehouse store, but you have to have a special card to get in and her husband just happens to have just such a card. Food purchased arranged then there are maps for what floor and room to head to for the different menu items. Yes I did say menu items. Pancakes and syrup, scrambled eggs, sausage, hasbrowns, freshly cut oranges and juice. Again I say what was I thinking! I have a 2 burner stove, no oven and now have to figure out how to cook all of this food.

The week goes on with our classes. We have been studying Management and Planning Context. The guest lecturer was Jane Thompson and Englsih woman who now lives here in Rome and is a PM working at Herculeneum. We are heading there at the end of April for 5 days. Anyway in between lectures and groupd work and arranging to do presentations some of the group is helping me plan the party. Friday finally arrives and everyone is shattered as usually and stumbles back to the residence. A number of us meet at Kamil's for supper and of course wine and then call it an evening around 11 pm.

A street close to ICCROM
 Saturday arrives and I am enjoying a quiet day at home before heading to St. Peters to meet Barbara as she was working today. It is a beautiful day so I take the tram to the stop I normally get off of to head to class. Today I walk through the winding twisting tiny streets to reach the Tiber River and start walking. I could take the bus, but it really is beautiful out and I want to enjoy the sunshine. Walking along the river is so beautiful. All around you there is stunning architecture and history. I can see the Castel Sant' Angelo and for once I did not have a camera in my hands. First time I have left my apartment without one. There will be other days of walking and taking pictures which I will share with you.

The Tiber River
The trees are just starting to bud out and it really is a beautiful day. I arrive at my cross road and turn to my left onto Via Della Conciliazione and am staring at the Piazza San Pietro and of course the Basillica di San Pietro, or St. Peter's. It is about 1:15 so I stop at a pizzaera and order some piazza and a coke which I decide I will enjoy while sitting in front of the obilisc in St. Peter's square. I sit on the guard rail of a fountain off to the side of the square and watch the people as I enjoy my piazza. The tourists are lined up around the collanade to wait to access the church. I then decide that I have a few minutes to just sit and take in the whole site so I move to the obilisc and sit down on the ground facing St. Peter's. My back is resting against a bollard and there I am in one of the holiest sites in the world just hanging out. I must admit that it is a little sereal to say the least. Finally 2 pm comes and Barbara comes looking for me so that we can go shopping. First though we are heading to her apartment where her husband, Paulo is making pasta for us to have for lunch. Of course a meal like this is not complete without a glass of red wine. Their apartment is literally across the street front Vatican City. You can see the Papal rsidences as well as the apartments for some of the nun's, priests and cardinals. Pretty great view, even though the street is rather noisey due to the tourists. Lunch is amazing and Barbara is good enough to provide cooking supplies like a frying pan that is larger than 6 inches in diameter.

The shopping trip takes us first to a specialty shop where I can buy some baking powder. I am still not certain if baking powder is a foreign item or if it just called by another name. One item down and many more to go. Paulo is driving and I end up completely confused as to which way we have traveled or for that matter where exactly I am in Rome. Thank goodness I really don't need to know.

We arrive at the Metro and once again I am tasked with trying to shop in Italian, but this time I have an interpretter to assist me. Barbara and I rund around the store gathering food and other items required to feed 25 people. Paulo does their shopping and after about 2 hours we are finally done and ready to pay and head back to Ponte Bionco where I have to begin cooking parts of the menu for the next day. So how you pay is you stand in line as normal, but you do not put anything on the belt except small items and you do not do this until the person in front of you has completely removed their items and is leaving. Very civilized compared to the craziness that happens at Cosco. We get through the cash load the very tiny car and head to the Ponte Bionco. The street leading up to the residence is barely wide enough for 1vehicle and there are cars parked on both sides of the street and it is a deadend unless you live there to be able to open the swing gate. I am amazed at how easily Paulo manuvers through the traffic and up the street and we get parked in front of the hotel. the three of us start to carry in the food and I call for reinforcements. Kamil comes to help and take all the drinks to his suite. Mageda from Morocco comes and helps carry the rest of the food to my suite. Barbara and Paulo leave and it is now time to start cooking. It is afte 8 pm and I have 10 pounds of potatoes to get cooked on a small 2 burner stove this is not looking good. Time to call in more reinforcements. Kamil takes the first pot of potatoes with Emilia form Bulgeria and Monali from India and Megda from Morocco all taking pots of potatoes to get cooking for the hashbrowns. Please keep in mind that everyone except Mageda live on a different floor. I start getting the sausages prepared and cooked. Things are starting to come together 7 pots of potatoes later I can start to make the hashbrowns. Kamil calls and tells me to come for some supper as I am not to keep cooking until I have something to eat. Up I go to suite 509 the gathering spot and have a quick supper and visit with Kamil, Emilia and Monali. Time to take to last batch of potatoes from Kamil and start on the hashbrowns. This part of the cooking process goes very slow, as I can really only use the large burner because I have a normal sized fryng pan. Finally at 2 a.m. I crash. The sausages are done and delivered to suite 303, Emilia and Monali, the hasbrowns are done and ready to go to 509, Kamil and 209 Nida from Turkey. This is definately an international breakfast more than a Canadian one.
Sunday morning arrives way too soon and once again it is time to start cooking, this time I have to prepare all the pancake batter and start cooking the pancakes. Emilia arrives to offer some help and have a first taste, so far so good. She disappears to go and make me a coffee and arrives back with a surprise for me. Nida, Emilia and Monali have pitched in to get me the perfect Roman cooking apron for this event.

Gerry from China is the official photographer and he is not missing a shot for this party. Niramon from Thailand lives across the hall from me and is good enough to offer to cook the eggs while I continue to work on the pancakes. Food, food, food, everywhere you look there is food. I suppose this is a good thing. The map has been prepared by Emilia and Monali and slipped under everyones door last night. I think that we are ready and can actually pull this off.


The Food is moved to Bun's room as we found out that he had been holding out on everyone and has a massive terrace large enough for everyone to be in one place. The carefully planned party is now in one location and the food begins to disappear and everyone to have fun. At the end of the day there was a partial tray left of hashbrowns that the group as a whole donated to some Nun's who feed the poor near the Vatican. I think that this was a fitting end to a great day. Oh and we also feed 2 front desk clerk's, one of the tenants that wanted to know what was going on and also a maid that had to work on Sunday. The party was a complete success and I finally got my mind back and will not be doing such a crazy thing like this again soon.
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Sorry for not getting the pictures to line up, but the program is just not cooperating either that or it is time for me to post this blog so that you can all have a good chuckle. I have to be up by just after 5 am tomorrow as we are heading to Florence for 2 days to meet with an expert in wood conservation. That will be for another blog post. I hope that you are enjoying, more to come.