Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Art Week II

Well, so much for my good intentions. I must apologize again for the long delay in writing, especially after promising more in the coming days after my last post. Although, perhaps you should thank me. I am giving whomever cares a God-like experience; how often do we apologize for our sinfulness and promise God that we will do better, only to fall again and again? I will ask you all to be Christ to me and forgive me each time I fail to deliver; perhaps one of these times I will deliver.

With that aside, I would like to talk about Art Week II. The focus of these four days was on the Renaissance and Baroque styles. The art of these periods is incredible. The details and realism achieved by the sculptors and painters is unbelievable, and the architects built some absolute marvels.

The interesting thing to me about the art of these periods is the transition from flat, unrealistic art in the Middle Ages (still beautiful and masterful in its own way) to the highly detailed and realistic art in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Here is an example of the transition, first in paintings, then in sculpture:

Risultati immagini per medieval painting
Madonna and Child, Berlinghiero, 13th century

Kiss of Judas, Giotto, 14th century
Risultati immagini per giotto paintings
Risultati immagini per fra angelico paintings
Painting by Fra Angelico, 15th century
Risultati immagini per paintings by raphael
The School of Athens, Raphael, 16th century
Risultati immagini per medieval sculpture
Medieval Pieta
Risultati immagini per pieta
Pieta, Michelangelo, Renaissance
Risultati immagini per bernini sculpture
The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Bernini, Baroque Period
Michelangelo is another incredibly interesting part of this period. He was incredibly talented, complicated, and worked in a huge diversity of fields. While most sculptors made small models of their sculptures, working up in size before going to the final product in marble, Michelangelo would take the block and start working right away, producing masterpieces without a model to work from. David, Pieta, and Moses are just some of his famous sculptures. Michelangelo painted the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but he did not want to do it. He had originally come to Rome to build the epic tomb of Pope Julius II, but was switched to the Sistine Chapel when the Pope decided against building the tomb. Michelangelo did not want to paint, so he went home to Florence, but the Pope convinced him to return and work. Michelangelo had a large group of help at first (it was a huge task), but he ended up kicking everyone else out and locking himself up in the Chapel to work. Incredibly, he painted the entire ceiling, by himself, in four years. That means he came up with the design, drew it out, put up scaffolding for one section of painting, prepared the ceiling, painted the ceiling, and moved the scaffolding to another part of the Chapel. It was only at that point that he was able to see what his work looked like in full. The paintings were done by candlelight (there were no windows above his scaffolding) and much of it was done with him lying on his back. All of this in four years. He would later paint one wall of the Sistine Chapel with the famous Last Judgement. To top it all off, Michelangelo was one of the last architects for St. Peter's Basilica. This job he took as an old man. He did it for free on the condition that nobody would tell him what to do. Overall, he was an impressive, fascinating, and confusing man, and incredibly interesting to learn about.

The visits were mostly to museums, churches, and villas where there are collections of art (the buildings themselves often being a work of art). I will close with a list a few of my favorite churches, as well as some of my favorite artists in case anyone is interested in getting a taste of what I saw.

St. Peter's Basilica (Renaissance/Baroque)
The Gesu (Baroque)
The Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Baroque)

Fra Angelico (Early Renaissance painter and Beatified Dominican Friar)
The Virgin of the Annunciation
Raphael (High Renaissance painter and Ninja Turtle. I especially like his works in the Vatican Museums)

Risultati immagini per the disputation of the holy sacrament
The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament
Risultati immagini per raphael madonna and child
Madonna of the Meadow
Caravaggio (Baroque painter with a very interesting and intimate painting style)
St. Jerome

The Crucifixion of St. Peter
Michelangelo (High Renaissance sculptor, painter, and architect)

Risultati immagini per michelangelo david
Bernini (Baroque sculptor and architect. Check out Apollo and DaphneDavid, Apollo and Daphne, The Rape of Proserpina, and Ecstasy of Saint Theresa)
Detail of The Rape of Proserpina. The realism of the fingers on the thigh is incredible.
Bernini's David.jpg

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Ah, Bulgaria

Apologies for the obnoxiously long delay in writing. I posted my last blog, went to Bulgaria for a few days, had the second week of art week (which left little time for anything), and then just neglected to write for a week. Hopefully that will not happen again. I am going to cover one thing in this blog, and then a few more tomorrow and this weekend.

Ethan, Nick, and I decided to go to Bulgaria from February 1st through the 4th. Why Bulgaria? The inexpensiveness of the flight and lodging mainly. The whole trip cost around 150 dollars per person. Besides that, the city we would be in, Sofia, has a lot of interesting influences. Greek, Christian (mostly Orthodox), Muslim, and Soviet influences can be seen all over the city. We mostly cared about seeing the Christian churches and experiencing a very different culture from our own and even Italy (they use a different alphabet in Bulgaria, not just a different language).

We flew out of Rome early in the morning on February 1st and were in Sofia a little before noon. We had not had breakfast, so our first mission was finding food to eat. We ended up at a burger joint called Boom!, chosen mainly due to the fact that it had a menu that was partly in English. The burgers were good and really cheap. The unit of currency in Bulgaria is the Lev (spelled how you would say it as I have no idea how to spell it), and the meal for all three of us cost between 50 and 60 Lev. That is the equivalent of about 30 or 35 dollars for three really big burgers and more fries than we could finish. It was awesome. After eating, we proceeded to walk around the city. We ended up in one of the many Orthodox churches in the city and it was beautiful. None of the churches we visited were like the Catholic churches that Americans would be used to seeing, and they were even quite different than the churches in Rome that we had seen. These churches were completely covered in icons of various saints. They were truly incredible. We happened to enter that church at around the time for vespers (evening prayer), so we decided to stay for it. The chanting was enchanting. We stayed for an hour (we had places to be so we left early), but the time certainly flew. We stood in place for the entire time, and I could have stayed much longer without any complaint. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

The next day was spent looking at more churches and going to a military history museum (just a park with a bunch of tanks and fighters). The day after that we had a Bulgarian guy drive us into the mountains in his van (aka, we paid for a tour) to visit an Orthodox monastery. It was an awesome place. We saw snow for the first time since leaving the States (aside from a random pile in Ravenna), and it was kind of nice. The church for the monastery was beautiful. The inside and outside were completely covered in icons. One thing that struck me was how the Orthodox Christians do not shy away from gruesome icons. Several of the icons depicted souls being tormented in Hell, while others showed martyrdoms (including blood, heads, etc.). Our tour guide had told us that there were bathrooms we could use at the monastery, but that they were uncomfortable. We had no idea what that meant (did they cover the seats in nails to mortify the flesh?), but we found out when Nick decided to use one. The toilets were actually just holes in the ground, so standing or squatting were the only options for use. We also decided to try the monastic donut things (more like funnel cakes than donuts) and they were very good. After the visit, we went back to our lodging, slept, and woke up at 4 am to catch a flight back to Rome (using Wiz Air as our airline), thus concluding our trip to Bulgaria.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Art Week

At the University of Mary we are blessed to have a president with so many connections. One of them is a French woman named Pascaline who studied and worked at the Louvre in Paris. She now teaches the Art of Rome and Paris for the UMary students studying in Rome. She is incredibly smart and clearly loves the class a lot. One of the most impressive things to me was Pascaline's ability to synthesize art, history, and theology, all while making it accessible and interesting to us. She says that her goal is to help us to really see the art; she wants us to know what a piece is, what the goal of it is, when it was made, what it was influenced by, etc. Remarkably, one week later, we were in the early stages of being able to do all these things.

A brief note about how the class works. Because she lives in Paris, Pascaline is not able to teach on a regular schedule. The solution to this is to have three weeks that are completely dedicated to the art class. Our first week of class was one of those weeks. It was absolutely crazy (we were usually doing class related stuff for 7-9 hours a day) and incredibly interesting. I thought going into it that it would be one of the most interesting classes I have taken because I know so little about art, and I was very right. I took more notes in one week for that class than I do in entire semesters for other classes, and every bit of it was fascinating.

The general structure for the class is to trace art historically from Antiquity (Greeks and Romans), to Early Christian/Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, etc. Each unit receives about a day in the class and a day-and-a-half or two days in the city. In the city, Pascaline shows us ruins, museums, etc. and has us work individually or in groups to work out what an old building looked like or describe a fresco/mosaic/statue. This was incredibly difficult and awkward at first, but became somewhat more natural by the end of the week. Just this past weekend I was in Ravenna, Italy (home to some of the most amazing mosaics in the West), and myself and those I was travelling with were able to read the mosaics pretty well if I do say so myself. We were certainly better at it than we would have been without the class, and that was an awesome feeling.

Some of the sites we visited were the Colosseum, the Roman Forum (center of ancient Roman life), the Palatine Hill (where the palaces of the emperors were located), the Baths of Caracalla, the National Museum of Rome, the Church of Saint Clement, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Vatican Museums.

It was an incredible week and left me with some thoughts about modern art and architecture that I will try to convey soon.

God bless.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sorry for the Delay

It has been a while since I have posted anything and I apologize for that. It has been a crazy couple of weeks (Art Week which meant nine hour class days, a trip to the town of Orvietto, first week of regular class, a Papal Audience, a weekend trip to Ravenna, and many things going on back home), so the blog has been on the back burner. I meant to begin catching up today, but a very interesting morning made that impossible.

My friend Ethan loves the Ukrainian Rite of the Catholic Church (in short, the Ukrainian Rite is made up of people from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church--a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church--who left the Orthodox Church and realigned themselves with the Pope while keeping their liturgy and most of their traditions). Ethan had gone to a Ukrainian Rite church last weekend and invited me and our friend Maggie (who was raised in the Ruthenian Rite--similar to the Ukrainian Rite) to go with him this weekend. The Divine Liturgy (what they call the Mass) was celebrated at 10am, so we were on the road at 7:45 to make sure we arrived on time. As we approached the church, we saw a lot of police officers our front. Upon asking what was going on, we were told that the Pope was visiting the church at 4pm. We had to go through security as a result, but we made it in just fine. However, the Liturgy had been moved to 11am, so we had a two hour wait. The wait was not silent however; psalms and prayers were chanted starting at 9:30 and took up most of the time until 11. The psalms were in Ukrainian, so we could not participate, but the woman chanting had a wonderful voice. During all this, the church was filling rapidly. The place was packed and there were many people with Ukrainian flags and cameras. When the Liturgy began, we learned what all the people were so excited for; the Major Archbishop of Kiev (the man in charge of the entirety of the Ukrainian Rite--under the Pope of course) was celebrating the Liturgy in preparation to meet with the Pope at the church in the afternoon. I could not see much of what happened during the Liturgy, but I could hear it and smell it which was beautiful. It went until a little after 1pm (and there are no chairs or pews, so we stood from about 7:45 when we left until close to 2 when we got on the bus to campus) and it was very good. All that being said, I had planned on being back earlier and getting homework and blogging done. Instead I had to focus on homework and skip the blog. However, I suppose that delaying the stuff I wanted to blog about for the opportunity to be an American Latin Rite Catholic celebrating the Divine Liturgy with the head of the Ukrainian Rite Church from Kiev is acceptable. 

Hopefully I will give more of an update on things tomorrow.

God Bless.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Short Recap and a Plan

It has been a crazy eight days in Rome. We have been learning about Italian culture (language, habits, public transportation, etc.), life in community with a small group of people, expectations (both of us and what we can expect from the program), classes, food, and much more. In the first week I saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, a dozen other churches, and the tombs of about twenty Saints. I have learned how to get fresh bread and meat from a market and navigate the buses and trams (at least to a certain extent). I have tried a variety of wine (they charge you for water here, so wine is often about the same price) and pizzas, all of which were good. I have heard Mass in Italian (twice) and I have seen Pope Francis and prayed the Angelus with him (and a bunch of other people). I am sure there are other things, but it has been kind of a whirlwind of information and experiences, so I cannot think of all of them.

From now on I will be doing less of a chronology and summary of everyday events. I cannot imagine that everything in my day is interesting to read about, particularly because there are many parts that are boring for me to write about. Instead, I am going to focus on telling individual stories about experiences I have, subjects we cover in class, or musings about topics that come to mind over the course of the semester.

For my first musing (perhaps more of a brief rant), I will just say that I despise taking pictures (from either end of the camera), and I see little use for them. They cannot do their subject justice, and they usually leave viewers wanting to see the thing for themselves, rather than content with the image. Also (from a more selfish point-of-view), it forces me to stop taking in the present moment, which I believe is far more important and good than a picture. However, out of obedience to my parents and the chance that some unforeseen good may one day come of them (kind of like how Gandalf says that it might be a good thing for Gollum to be left alive, even though there is no foreseeable good that can come of it), I will take and post some pictures. If you want more pictures, go to With all that being said, here is a picture of St. Peter's Basilica.

Good night, and God bless.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Roving Through Ireland (Days 4, 5, and 6)

On Day Four of the Ireland adventure, we went to Inis Oirr (inish ear), one of the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland. We had to take a ferry out to the island (about an hour-long journey), and we were captained by Captain Robert, who will be discussed more later. Inis Oirr is a small island, about three kilometers by three kilometers, so it was easy for us to walk around. It is an incredibly interesting and beautiful island, giving a strong Lord of the Rings or The Last Jedi vibe. The island had many houses and several small businesses near the dock, but it appeared to be sparsely populated; we saw about four men and one woman that were not tourists during our entire time on the island. Another interesting bit of information is that, unlike the rest of Ireland, Gaelic is still the primary language of the people of Inis Oirr. While walking around the island, we saw two ruined towers and an old (no longer used) church that was over a thousand years old. We walked from one end of the island to the other, and there we hung around by the ocean for a while. The ocean is a truly magnificent and humbling thing. It is incredibly vast and powerful, and it was awesome to look out across it and see the Cliffs of Moher to the left and blue as far as the eye could see to the right. From the ocean we walked to a wrecked ship and then back to the dock. We had a little bit of time before it was time for the ferry to leave, but it was not enough time to go to any of the other sites, so we sat down near the dock and talked. A short while later, we saw Captain Robert approaching us. He said that he was waiting for the time to board the ferry as well (he said that he is too old to get on the boat without the gangplank). We (meaning mostly me) talked to Captain Robert for about an hour. He looks like the most stereotypical sea captain you could imagine: short, a little round, missing teeth, and a big grizzly beard with just the chin shaved. He told us that the first time he had sailed was around 61 years ago. He had served in the UK's version of the Merchant Marines, and then had worked on ferries for the past 30 years with a brief break for international sailing again in the mid-90's. He also knew a lot about poetry, reciting a lot of it for us, singing us a song, and talking about some of the stuff that he had written. Eventually, we made our way back to Galway. We decided to go get food and began looking for a good, reasonably priced restaurant. However, an online menu that was different from the real menu led us to a very expensive, fancy restaurant. We ended up getting appetizers and calling it good. The food was awesome, but not really filling. We then decided to buy some beer at a store to save a little money. I purchased a Beamish (good, but not as good as Guinness) and then we all split a small bottle of Jameson (also very good). We took this stuff back to our room and hung around and talked and drank for a few hours and went to sleep, ending probably my favorite day of the trip.

On the last full day in Ireland, we attended Mass at Galway Cathedral in the morning. It was a lightly attended Mass, mostly of elderly Irish men and women. Breakfast followed Mass, and then a journey back to Dublin via a bus. After arriving and getting settled into our Airbnb, we headed back into the city to see some of the bones of St. Valentine. While winding through a bunch of narrow streets to find the Whitefriar Street Church, we happened upon a large music store. Upon entering the store, my eyes were met by one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen; it was the biggest music store I had ever seen, filled with hundreds of instruments (many of which I had never seen in a store before), and all were available for me to play. I played a Gibson Explorer electric guitar, an upright bass (which sounded excellent but was slightly out of my price range at 6500 euros), a violin bass guitar, a mandolin, and a harp. The upright bass and harp were a lot of fun to try and figure out, and I could have spent a lot of time playing them if there were not other places to go. Nick and I each ended up buying cheap tin whistles (a traditional Irish instrument that is similar to a recorder--listen to "Devil's Dance Floor" by Flogging Molly or the beginning of "Concerning Hobbits" to hear it) for five euros. After some more walking, we found the church we were looking for. It is a perfect example of a common occurrence in many European cities: on the outside it was very unassuming and easy to miss, but on the inside it was magnificent. I do not have pictures of the inside of the church, but it was much bigger than it looked from the outside, and the art and ornamentation of the church was incredible. Besides the beauty of the church, there were also the bones of St. Valentine that we came there to see. However, it was not just St. Valentine that was represented there. Pope St. Pius X, St. Albert of Sicily, and St. Jude all had relics at this church as well. Judging from its location and how it looked on the outside, I would never have thought to go in it. Food was next on the list, followed by a fairly early return to our room and beds; we had to be up at three for our flight to Rome.

At three in the morning we arose and silently prepared to depart. When we met our taxi driver who was to bring us to the airport, we found out from him that we had been staying in one of the roughest parts of Dublin (we never would have guessed from the look of the town or the kind family we were staying with), and that we "could have gotten any drugs or hitmen that we wanted." We were all alive and undrugged, so we did not care, but we were curious if he was telling the truth. Checking in, security, and getting to our gate at the airport all went smoothly. However, we were delayed forty-five minutes by a late flight with passengers that needed to be on the plane to Rome. Normally this would not have been a big deal, however, we were supposed to meet all the other Rome students at the airport and bus over to the campus; the forty-five minute delay was going to make that incredibly difficult to be on time for. We were all a little nervous, but things went smoothly and we found Dr. Lombardo (the head of the UMary Rome Program in Rome) waiting for us at the airport. We then found out that the group flight that had most of the students had been delayed through some ridiculous weather and other events at JFK airport in New York. This led to the three of us having lunch with Dr. Lombardo while we waited for the rest of the group. It was a very enjoyable meal, and it was good to get to know Dr. Lombardo a little bit. With the arrival of the rest of the group about an hour later, we departed for campus. Once there, we moved into rooms, filled out paperwork, received a tour of the campus, and went out to eat at a pizza place. After a Divine Mercy Chaplet, we went to bed.

While the trip to Ireland was a blast, and I would highly recommend a visit to that beautiful country, it was good to see friends, and it was reassuring to be on the campus and know that the real adventure could finally begin.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Roving Through Ireland (Days 2 and 3)

Day Two of the Ireland trip began in Belfast and ended in Omagh. We started the day by packing up and leaving the house we were staying at and walking to the bus station in Belfast. We traveled to Downpatrick--a short bus ride away--and visited Down Cathedral, the sight of the Tomb of St. Patrick, St. Columba, and St. Brigid. After asking for the intercession of these Saints, we walked a couple of miles to Inch Abbey. This was one of my favorite stops of the trip. Inch Abbey was a Medieval Cistercian monastery built in the 12th century. It is in a beautiful spot, right on the River Quoile. We walked around the ruins and marveled at what the monks were able to build. We then had a pipe inside what used to be the nave of the church. It was a very peaceful and enjoyable smoke. On the walk back to Downpatrick, a light rain began to fall, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. We ate at a little sandwich shop in town. The ladies working there were very friendly. They remarked that the weather was really terrible. We said that it beat the weather we had back in the States. They then told us that some of the states (including North Dakota), had been in the news because of their temperatures. After we had our food, they pulled out the one table they had so that we would not have to wait for the bus in the rain (this was after they looked up the time it left for us), and then they gave us some of their freshly made soup for free. When the time for us to leave had arrived, we thanked the workers profusely, and departed for Belfast. We went straight from Belfast to Omagh.

Upon arrival in Omagh, the people we were staying with picked us up at the bus station, saving us the walk or taxi. We then found out that there had been a miscommunication somewhere along the line and our hosts had only been expecting two people, not three. Without batting an eye, they set up another bed in our room and then offered to take us back into Omagh in an hour, saving us a walk or taxi again. Once in the town, we ate at Sallys. I had a delicious burger, some garlic potatoes, and a pint of Guinness (still my favorite beer from what I have tried). Following food, we went to a High Kings concert; it was phenomenal. For those of you who are not familiar with this band (probably most people), they are an Irish folk band. The four guys who make up the band are ridiculously talented singers, and they each play multiple instruments. The show was incredibly fun, with a good mix of upbeat, raucous folk music and slow, beautiful ballads. One of the highlights was when they opened the song "Finnegan's Wake" with the intro to "Thunderstruck" played on accordion (here is a link to a version of it if you want-- With the end of "Parting Glass," the concert ended. We took a taxi back to the house and talked and went to sleep. The following morning we were fed by our host. We had a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, and toast. They then called a taxi for us and we went to the bus station. Before leaving, we thanked our host profusely for her kindness and helpfulness. If you ever end up in Omagh, Northern Ireland, I would highly recommend staying at Arvalee Retreat House. From the bus station, we departed for Dublin where we could get a bus to Galway.

Day Three of our trip was uneventful. We rode buses for most of the day, arriving in Galway in the evening. We walked to our hotel and checked in. We then walked back into town to eat (I had sausage, potatoes, and soup), and we went to a bar (I had a pint of Guinness again). We then walked back to the hotel and hung around until we fell asleep.

A two general notes about Ireland. First, the country is exceedingly beautiful. People do not exaggerate when they describe it. It is incredibly green. The look of the rivers running through the countryside, the ruins of monasteries and occasional castles, and the old towns remind me strongly of how I picture the Northern areas of Middle Earth. Being a history major, having the ruins pop up randomly on the landscape is awesome.

Second, based on our interactions with several people, as well as what we saw on newspapers and TVs, people in Ireland pay attention to American politics. It was really interesting and kind of eye-opening to see how much people pay attention to America.

Well, that's all I have to say about that.

(Here is a link to Nick's blog: