I had not planned to have a post specifically on church ceilings and floors, but my Cuz in CA made a comment about how the white columns of San Pietro in Vincoli highlighted the ceiling fresco. Here are more images of this and other ceilings and floors we came up on our pilgrimage in Rome.
But, before we even arrived in Rome, we came across these in Naples. Returning to the concept that the Christian churches drew upon their Roman tradition, let’s start in Pompeii. In this Roman bath, you can see the barrel vault with plaster images of Greek/Roman gods-goddesses. Okay, lots of knockers and penises, but they had different concepts about nudity than we do today. Remember this, for you will see lots of knockers, but few penises in Christian art in Roman.
In another district in Naples is Catacombe San Gennaro. In various niches are early Christian frescos. On the ceiling of the lower entrance was this fresco of Jesus blessing those entering the tombs. Those badly worn (the catacombs had been used for burials, church services prior to the acceptance of Christianity, and eventually a b0mb shelter during World War II), you can see the transition from Roman baths to Christian architectural decoration.
On a different hill in Naples, we toured Largo San Martino. The beautiful views capture many tourist. The museum and royal estate rooms captivate others. We knew there was a chapel in the complex, but could not find it… until I investigated a dark stairwell that had a heavy black canvas sheet across the doorway (my mother would have been proud of my nosy approach to see “What’s behind this…”). Well, this is what I found:
And that was just the chapter room (where the priests/monks would gather to read the scriptures and sing hymns). Once we arrived at the chapel, we had to sit and try to take in what we were seeing and about the experiences in even grander terms in Rome. Look at the floor: all cut marble.
As I mentioned previously, the cut marble floor tradition began long before San Martino was built. Going back to the 4th and 5th centuries, marble floors were being added to churches. San Clemente has a mesmerizing example of a patterned, cut marble floor. Ooh, and Ahh about the ceiling while your are at it.
Outside the walls of Roman (take the tram for a fun ride there) is San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, which also has similar grids and interlocking circles of marble on the floor. This continues right up the back wall to the bishops chair. On a side note, when reading up on this church, I could not figure out why it had those short, stocking columns with huge Corinthian capitals. When I finally walked up to the altar (which is where I took this photo from), I realized that those are full-sized columns, but they raised the altar floor. The base of the columns continue into the relic crypt below. More on those relics later.
Okay, start looking up and plan to pass out…
Next time we will spend more time exploring those side chapels, which sometimes are the star of the show