Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The road has led there at last

We're back from Rome, heads buzzing after three full days. The classical day was amazing and I was specially moved by the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. The skill was there for this anonymous artist to cast the huge figure of the emperor and his horse but another 1300 years or so passed before it was done again, by Donatello with his statue of "Gattamellata' in Padua. And the tiresome Leonardo still couldn't do it.

We didn't manage to get into the Vatican museum but did see St Peter's very thoroughly. Quite by mistake, we found ourselves in a queue to see the tombs of Popes in the crypt. There was no turning back and we realised that there were serious pilgrims in front of us, coming to see the burial place of John Paul ll.

To the extent that I'm any kind of Christian at all, I would describe myself as Anglo-Catholic and I find Protestantism instinctively repellent but I felt a twinge of sympathy for the Anti-Papist viewpoint during our time in Rome. Calendars and postacards of John Paull ll and Benedict XVl abound (and even bizarrely one calendar of handsome Roman priests, intended for the gay market, apparently, and posibly posed by models). It's not just respect but veneration, confusing the office with the holder (which is a heresy - Donatism I think) reminiscent of what many Americans feel for their president.

Though Dubya must have made it hard for American donatists (vide the mid-term results).

Back to Rome. The Early Christian mosaics were fantastic and one church, San Clemente, was built over a Mithraic temple. But most churches, apart from Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which is pure Gothic, had been vandalised by the Mannerists and Baroque artists who are so repugnant to me.

We made the special trip to see Saint Teresa and, if I hadn't been shown it by Simon Schama, I would have made nothing of it. It is almost impossible to see for the elaborate setting.

So, Rome is never going to mean to me what Florence and Siena do, but it is full of wonders and we will definitely be back.

Incidentally, I don't know why the previous post appeared so often; when I tried to send it, the message came back that there were problems and it couldn't be done.

This week I read 1599 by James Shapiro, a really good and thought-provoking book about a year in which Shakespeare wrote Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and Hamlet. Also, by contrast, Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith, which I have to review. I saw no TV programme at all but heard the deeply disappointing 15,000th episode of The Archers. Of course Ruth wasn't going to go through with her night of passion with Sam, otherwise there would have been no story. Dur.


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