Posts from the ‘People & Portraits’ category

St Peter’s Basilica

The original church built on the site where St Peter is supposed to be buried, dates back to AD349 during the reign of the Emperor Constantine, Rome’s first Christian Emperor. However the church we see today (easily the richest and most spectacular Church I’ve ever visited….and I’ve seen a few) was largely built during the 16th and 17th centuries. 

If the Sistine Chapel was a bit of a disappointment – see previous post – St Peter’s Basilica made up for this in spades. It is quite simply magnificent. Although, like the Vatican Museums, it attarcts a lot of tourists, because it is so vast you never really feel crammed-in and that certainly helps to create a positive impression.

© Mark Simms Photography (2019)

Vatican Museums

Although they house one of the finest collections of art, sculpture and artefacts in the world, the Vatican Museums are without question a victim of their own success…….the mass of tourists certainly detracts from the experience.

No where is this more the case than in the Sistine Chapel, where frankly you would have more room in a tin of sardines, to use a well worn metaphor. Also, although everyone is supposed to be silent and no photographs are allowed inside the Chapel itself, this doesn’t deter people from chattering away and taking the odd sneaky photo on their phones……and as you can see from one image below I also succombed to the latter temptation myself.

I don’t know if it was the overall disappointing Chapel experience that has clouded my judgement (it probably is) but I actually felt slightly underwhelmed by Michelangelo’s famous ceiling. Personally I much preferred the 120m long Gallery of the Maps and the truely beautiful early 16th century apartments painted by Raphael.

If you’re visiting Rome then the Vatican Museums are really a must see, and I certainly wouldn’t want to put anyone off making a pilgrimage, because the art is spectacular. However I think it’s only fair to warn the future visitor that unless you have plenty of money and can afford to pay for one of the more exclusive out of hours tours, then you will need to prepare yourself to be carried along on a tide of humanity. Speaking of tours, I would advise pre-booking on to one of these (there are many options available). If nothing else this saves you having to navigate the incredibly busy and confusing ticket hall yourself.

© Mark Simms Photography (2019)

Pantheon – Interior

The interior of the Pantheon is all about the magnificent roof. At 43.3m in diameter (which exactly matches the interior height, giving the building it’s wonderful balance and symmetry) it is the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built. In fact until the 15th Century it was the largest dome anywhere in the world, only surpassed by the massive cupola of the Duomo in Florence.

At the centre of the dome is an 8.7m wide oculus, which serves a number of purposes. The most important of which is the vital structural role it plays in re-distributing the huge tensile forces caused by the unsupported dome. Second it creates a symbolic connection between the temple/church and the Gods/heaven. Finally it creates a very physical connection between the worshippers and the elements, most notably by flooding the central rotunda with amazing light (even on a cloudy day) but also of course by letting in the rain…which fortunately we didn’t encounter on the day we visited. 

The interior of the Pantheon is hugely impressive and it is little wonder that it’s considered ancient Rome’s most important architectural achievement and has subsequently proved one of the most influential buildings ever constructed.

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

© Mark Simms Photography (2019)

Pantheon – Exterior

Built about 2,000 years ago as a temple to all the Gods – hence the name Pantheon from the Greek pan (all) and theos (god) – it was subsequently consecrated as a Christian church in AD 608 and is now officially known as the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres.

I’ve seen images of the Pantheon plenty of times before in books, magazines and on TV, but until I saw it “in the felsh” I didn’t really appreciate how impressive it was. For one thing it’s much bigger than I thought and for another it’s amazingly well preserved considering, in it’s current form, it dates back to AD 125. In fact the Pantheon was my favourite of all the places we visited in Rome……

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

 

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

Pantheon, Rome, Italy, Europe

© Mark Simms Photography (2019)

Palazzo del Quirinale

The Palazzo del Quirinale is the official residence of Italy’s head of state, the President of the Italian Republic…..not that we realised this at the time we were walking past, although the police and guards did give us a bit of a clue that this was something official.

From the square outside the palace we also got our first glimpse of St Peter’s Basilica, across the River Tiber in Vatican City, with it’s massive dome rising about the rooftops in the second image below:

Quirinale, Rome, Italy, Europe

Quirinale, Rome, Italy, Europe

Quirinale, Rome, Italy, Europe

Quirinale, Rome, Italy, Europe

Quirinale, Rome, Italy, Europe

© Mark Simms Photography (2019)

Twelfth Night

In honour of Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the festive period and the night by which all Christmas decorations should be taken down, here is a mixed gallery of images from Lincoln Christmas Market and the Christmas Lanterns at Chester Zoo…..it’s all about the lights:

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© Mark Simms Photography (2019)

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