Friday, July 29, 2011

The Roman Pantheon: Bread for Pigeons, Bread for little Souls

(The Dome Ceiling or Rome’s Pantheon)
We wandered side streets until we came to the Pantheon. Kinu in the stroller and Rebekah and Xian trading the backpack back and forth. We had a bubble blower that shot silvery soapy spheres into the sunlight that popped on cobblestones, and of course, our laughter.
(Pantheon Exterior after wandering via mingheti)
Outside the Pantheon was amazing. I’ve been to many ancient places in the world, India’s Varanasi, Beijing China’s Old Quarter, Cambodia’s ruins of Angor Wat, and the stones always smell the same: piss and blood and mold and age. These stones are no different, worn by pounding of sandals, horse hooves, and the echoes of voices and time.
(Originally constructed as a temple to the Roman gods, the Pantheon has functioned as a Catholic church since the 7th century.)
That morning we’d been to the Piazza Campo dei Fiori, which actually means “fields of flowers.” A vibrant piazza, set off by historic statues, vegetable markets, and little cafes for lovers.
(The fountains outside are gothic examples of demons and devils)
But no matter where we go, my daughters just want to throw bread to pigeons. They love to set out after them in full soldier attack, arms steady like lances, legs pounding on stones, they chase them in circles and into waiting trees. Until they get tired, that is, then they want me to bring out the stale bread I keep wrapped in an old blue bandana to feed them.
(Catholic worshippers from around the world wander inside in tour groups or in small packs, some kneel on creaking wooden pews, some lay on the prostrate on the floor, some hold their mouths in awe.)
We’ve spent many an afternoon here in Rome watching the sunlight fall against the buildings and tossing old crusts and crumbs of bread to the pigeons, laughing as they waddle toward us.
(There are portraits inside of famous leaders during the Renaissance modeled in poses of the Virgin Mary, Zeus, and what appears to be Artemis the huntress)
I find this is sometimes the best way to keep their attention. When the bread runs out and they want some more, I take them inside these holy places and show them the art: Jesus nailed to the cross, Mary sitting in a chair holding the young child, Old sightless John’s arm raised toward heaven. Bread for birds, bread for my daughter’s little winged souls.
(It is the most well preserved ancient structure in Rome, and the oldest to still support a dome)
Later that afternoon we headed over to Palatine Hill, one of seven hills in Rome, to look down at the Forum and the Circus Maximus. There the girls ran around Cyprus trees and we lounged in the shade throwing bread into the dust.
Days like today, watching the world and life and meaning slowly unfold, I am beside myself with joy. The fading afternoon light, my girls laughter louder than any passing voice. Heads turn, necks crane, eyes look at me and smile back. Well, those that know, they smile back, because they see I am the richest man alive.

No comments:

Post a Comment