Monday, January 9, 2012

Wait until I tell your mother

Strange windows and used-to-be windows overlooking the Piazza Santo Stefano
One of my besties is staying with us for a bit. It's been gratifying to see our beloved red futon used. When we found this place one of the first things I thought when I saw it was, "House guests." Really flexible, don't-mind-sharing-a-microscopic-bathroom, don't-mind-not-really-having-privacy house guests. She is our third. And it's been absolutely delightful.

Sunday afternoon we went to the Basilica of Santo Stefano. It's a complex of seven churches built hundreds of years apart but all connected with cloisters or other edifices. The oldest church, The Church of the Sepulcher (where the body of the patron saint of Bologna, San Petronius laid before being moved to the Basilica later built in his honor in the Piazza Maggiore), was originally built in the 5th century. It in, there is a column of black, African marble that was supposedly left over from the temple of Isis that the Church of the Sepulcher was built over, gives you 200 years of indulgences every time you visit. (Every time. As in, "Oh shoot! My 200 years is almost up! I'd better get back to Santo Stefano in a jiffy!) My futon is looking that much more appealing now, yes? What would you do with 200 years of indulgences, my friend?

Detail of the exterior of The Church of the Sepulcher as seen from the adjacent cloister.
Ada enjoyed increasing independence as we let her walk around the church as she liked. Michael was nearby but neither of us hovered close. When I later tried to pick her up and move her to another room she screamed and hollered and flailed her little self-determined body in every direction. She made me feel as embarrassed as I have ever felt as a mother in public. Too bad I couldn't use the trick I learned at one of my baby showers because I don't know how to say it in Italian. (Trick: When your child is screaming in public, just look at them and sternly say, "Wait until you get home and I tell your mother about the way you've been acting. She won't be happy." Goal: Learn to say this in Italian).

The church of San Vitale and Martyr Sant'Agricola was originally dedicated to St. Peter because it was rumored to have housed his tomb.  After the Pope caught wind that it was drawing pilgrims from the majestic Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, however, he ordered that this church be covered over and filled with dirt until rededicated. It was left buried for nearly 70 years until rededicated to the first martyrs of Bologna (victims of the persecution of Diocletian, an emperor in the 3rd century who was a little nuts-o and killed lots of people and burned lots of churches).

Preserved mosaics from the church when it was dedicated to S. Peter.
One thing I loved about the church was all of the fascinating brick work. It was almost Byzantine in detail and form. Like really big mosaics. Made of brick. All over the exterior of the building (and in that sense, it was very un-Byzantine). But because the churches were built (and rebuilt) in such a wide variety of times, Santo Stefano has so many architectural and decorative motifs. I think I'll go there and sketch more often when the weather warms up.

A creepy capitol.
A darling baby.
 Most of Ada's time was spent running. But for a brief moment she stood and looked around. I wonder if she'll ever have flashes of memory and remember the beautiful places she visited when she was just learning to walk.

Dear Ada, You practiced walking at la Basilica di Santo Stefano. It was good practice because the ground was pretty uneven in spots. You didn't mind getting tripped though. It just meant you got to take an extra close look at all of the interesting things that made up the floor.

A classic attempt at trying to take a picture of my girl.

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