ROME DAY 6: Twisty Tower, Tuna, and “Tini”

Sunrise was 7:13 and Colors will sound tonight at 18:41.  Once again 19:00 is the Ave Maria (as if anyone even bothers with that any more).

One of the great rivals of the history of art in Rome was between Lorenzo Bernini, who in worldly terms admittedly won the war, and the horizon-vaulting Francesco Borromini.

Yesterday I met for lunch at a newish, trendy place in the entrance to the Palazzo Braschi (lousy food, avoid it) a friend who I have not seen for years, a art historian and polymath who whose late husband was one of the great experts in the world on Caravaggio, Velasquez, and the whole gamut of that age.   She’s working on an exhibition of female artists of the Baroque period.  Very interesting.   In any event, she was doing some research at the nearby State Archive (thieved from the Church by the State) which includes the magnificent church of Sant’Ivo brought into being by Alexander VII (Chigi) and Borromini.  It’s lantern, on top of the cupola, is one of the most recognizable features of the Roman panorama.

Interestingly enough, it was a letter of Bernini that secured the commission for Borromini.  Bernini had recently taken credit for some of Borromini’s work at St. Peter’s.  It could also have been partly a “favor” for keeping quiet about some of Bernini’s dodgy activities.

Here’s the courtyard.   Consider the beauty of the symmetry.  Then consider the trash that is passed off as church architecture today, nay, rather the whole thought of undertakings in the Church right now.  I digress.

I sang a Mass in this church many years ago, and the schola cantorum (all women) which I directed did the Gregorian chant.

Borromini was a genius at working within narrow constraints of space.  Anthony Blunt noted, “Never perhaps did the Baroque ideal of movement attain more complete and perfect expression” than Sant’ Ivo, in and out.  The courtyard has bees for Barbarini (Urban VII) who started this project with Borromini at Bernini’s prompting.  On commentator said that a stylized bee is the key to Borromini’s design as well as the 6-point star (inside).  In one of my favorite books on the art and architecture of the day, I read that in early designs you can see that Borromini wrote verses from Proverbs 9, which were to be carved over the entrance: Sapientia aedivicavit sibi domum.  And this is, of course, the seat of the original “Sapienza” University.

The lantern is a kind of altar, twisting up like a horn or a ziggurat, topped with a flame for knowledge.  Borromini was a great collector of sea shells.

When I lived nearby, I had a beautiful view of Sant’Ivo from my window.

One of my old photos.  You can see how high my apartment was.  2007!  Happier days.

Look at what the clouds are doing.

There was a conference in the library, so I stuck my head in.

On display was a book mentioning one of my favorite Popes, Benedict XVI, of happy memory.  It is about fabric, and since I’ve been dealing a lot with fabric for vestments, it caught my eye.

Off for errands.  Passing by the entrance to the French College’s chapel, I popped in to the place across the street which houses both an cultural association dedicated to Roman dialect (presentations on Monday evenings) and also the room, now chapel (now disused) where St. Catherine of Siena died.  She is interred (most of her) at Santa Maria sopra Minerva around the corner.

This was the room, I suppose, where Catherine survived on the Eucharist.

Please, O heavenly Father, raise up now in our midst great women like St. Catherine, who have the Spirit-filled confidence to offer guidance and even correction to those to whom You have entrusted Your flock.   I ask this in the Name of Your Son.  E Così Sia!

In the evening, after Mass I met with my tailor.  Since cassocks are under attack, I’ll have another cassock made.  Then, to supper with one of the very best English language writers and commentators on all things Catholic.  He is here in Rome to cover the Synod.  We had a splendid supper at a place suggested to me by another personage of the blogosphere, and it was terrific.    The approach was a bit Borromini-esque, somewhat nuovo, but it was mighty fine.

Here is their rendition of vitello tonnato.  Different presentation, and really good.  There were four of these little amuse -bouche.

Here’s a half portion of bucatini all’amatriciana.  Like the latern of Sant’Ivo, all twisted up.  That’s the thing these days.

Shank of sucking pig cooked for 36 hours.  There was a hint of clove.

Not bad.  And it was quite reasonable for Roman restaurants.

All in all, a great day.

Today, my principle chore is to find a rubber spatula.

My cold is not better.  Tough night for sleeping.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. CasaSanBruno says:

    As well, I just ordered a new cassock and am shopping for a saturno I hadn’t considered purchasing 1 month ago.

    Honestly, these guys are like Obama in a cassock – while wearing proper priestly garb, they speaking in calumnious terms of those priests, young and old, who wear it, too. Obama was surrounded by gun-toting security and spoke disparagingly of gun owners; thus, causing more Americans to buy more guns and ammo.

  2. iPadre says:

    You need to interview Scalfari. ;-)

  3. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Sant’Ivo rivals San Carlo as Borromini’s supreme achievement. I’ve only found it open on Sundays.

    St. Catherine of Siena saved the Church in the 14th C. May she pray for us.

    Would you email me the name of the restaurant? Thank you.

  4. Mariana2 says:

    I’m green with envy. Today’s sights, and the hint of clove, too!

  5. Lovely pictures, as usual for your good photographic eye. And oh that food! ohhhh. Better than your everyday Ramen porridge back home :-)
    I am sorry to hear the cold has not let up. You know I’m always good for unasked-for advice…so unless you are reacting to something in your room, there are food remedies. Lots of water [one of the biggest contributors to ill health is dehydration] with massive amounts of Vitamin C if you can find it there. Or lots of lemon in your water at least. This will help flush what is bugging you. Also, we’ve talked about beets, right? Well, anything like that that stimulate the liver will help: besides beets, anything bitter [even Angostura, or Compari yay which started as medicines BTW], dandelion tea, artichoke leaves, … and stay.away.from.sugar.its the lethal contributor to this.
    Well I hope you get more comfortable while you are there…jammed up sinuses are miserable. I wonder if a pharmacy there has anything, is that worth a shot maybe?

    Thanks for the updates.

  6. tho says:

    Father, thank you for the great pictures, and your very informative comments. I enjoy them.
    P.S. I hope your cold eases up.

  7. tho says:

    Father, thank you for the great pictures, and your very informative comments. I enjoy them.
    P.S. I hope your cold eases up.

  8. tho says:

    Father, thank you for the great pictures, and your very informative comments. I enjoy them.
    P.S. I hope your cold eases up.

  9. rdowhower says:

    You mean Benedict XIV, right? I hope you were not unwittingly being predictive…

    On display was a book mentioning one of my favorite Popes, Benedict XVI, of happy memory

  10. Jacques-Antoine Fierz says:

    By the way, Borromini was not italian. He was native of Bissone in Ticino, Switzerland. Many artists, architects and masons who worked these days in Rome came from the region of the lakes of Lugano and Como. In Ticino we have the chance to have a lot of works done during their « vacations » by several artists and architects that actually lived and worked in Rome.

  11. Semper Gumby says:

    “Sapientia aedivicavit sibi domum”

    “Wisdom hath built herself a house, she hath hewn her out seven pillars.”

    The invitation to the banquets of Wisdom and Folly in Proverbs 9 resemble each other initially, but lead to two very different banquets.

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is prudence.”

    p.s. Cooking pork for 36 hours? That’s some mighty fine BBQ Fr. Z.

    [It was indeed, mighty fine! Mmm mmm MMM!]

  12. jaykay says:

    Thank you for all these gorgeous Roman posts, Father. One knew, when you said you were having a prolonged stay, that liturgical, cultural, architectural and edible beauty would ensue on a regular basis.

    You may at some stage have recommended Jake Morrissey’s book “The genius in the design: Bernini, Borromini and the rivalry that transformed Rome”? I got it anyway. It’s a great read for anyone who loves Baroque Rome.

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