On Stumbling Upon a Michelangelo.

The Santa Maria sopra Minerva Basilica has a relatively plain facade - pale, nondescript, three sets of impossibly thick doors across the front of the building. Though Bernini's Elephant and Obelisk sculpture in front of the Basilica hints at the place's significance, the church does not boast a flashy exterior.

But in the likes of another Lucy I know, I curiously stepped through a pair of unassuming doors into an enchantingly beautiful world filled with treasures to discover.



After a few days in Rome I had gone through this routine several times - stretching my scarf down into a shoulder-covering shawl, folding my aviator sunglasses over my shirt collar, shifting out of the blistering heat into cathedral shadows and entering into a room where frescoes, oils, sculptures, gilded detailing, and quarryfulls of marble columns and pedestals fill the vision field of anyone who visits. So when I approached the Santa Maria sopra Minerva I wasn't surprised by the magnificent vaulted ceilings, rich lapiz hues, ancient rosaries and altars. And to clarify, not surprised ≠ not impressed (I would hate to ever get used to magnificence). 

Every detail of design, per usual, was impeccable. This would have been sufficient reason to be dazzled, but then a friend pointed out a marble sculpture to the left of the main center altar of Christ carrying the Cross (Cristo Della Minerva). It's a piece made by a man named Michelangelo Buonarroti in the early 1500s. Michelangelo was an insanely talented man. Duh. He was a Florentine sculptor by choice, a Roman painter largely against his will (note the subtle portrait in the Sistine Chapel of himself being dragged into hell by Bartholomew.. though that part of the painting doesn't get brought up too much), as well as an architect, writer, and he was probably secretly good at things like singing and making pizza. But I'm no expert. Regardless, he is an icon. A distant, remarkable, inconceivably deep mine of artistic ability. No one can argue that he possessed unparalleled levels of talent.

The sculpture of Cristo Della Minerva is unguarded, and apparently is the only Michelangelo open to the public to approach, to touch. Five hundred years later and the masterful work of a Florentine man is revered as equally immaculate as it was in the Renaissance - possibly more so. 
It's incredible how time holds virtually no adverse power over things that are truly beautiful. 
And maybe I'm just saying this because I've studied him, admired his skill, learned about his childhood, and am an artistic person (though of an entirely different caliber), but my goodness. I spent several minutes at the sculpture, running my fingers across the anatomically perfect joints of the Christ's stone toes and the slight contour on the back of his ankle, clenching marble drapery between my fingers and letting the jagged texture of the chiseled base leave impressions on my hand.

It's a crazy/funny/embarrassingly-giddy realization that even though we are separated by centuries and cultures and skill levels, MICHELANGELO AND I HAVE THE FEELING OF RUNNING OUR FINGERS OVER THAT PIECE OF POLISHED MARBLE IN COMMON.


I like to imagine that if he and I ever found ourselves casually chatting at an Italian dinner party, I might be able to give a knowing "ah yes, I totally know what you mean" nod if he were to bring up this sculpture...