Somehow, three weeks have passed since my last blog post. During that time, we have seen a change of seasons in Orvieto. Leaves are turning, chestnuts are roasting, and the autumn rains have come. Many mornings, we wake up to fog here. For desert-dwellers like us, it has been quite a treat.
One of the highlights of this month was a one-day field trip our group took to Florence, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and home of Michelangelo, Galileo, and many of the other most influential thinkers of that era. In the morning, our group toured the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore ("Mary of the Flower"), which has the famous domed roof pictured here. The inside of this massive church is as beautiful as the outside and includes an expansive fresco depicting the Last Judgment.
Later in the afternoon, we had the privilege of touring the Accademia gallery, which houses a number of Michelangelo's works, most notably the beautiful statue of David. As you might be able to tell, David has gained a few pounds. Perhaps it's the steady diet of pizza and pasta, or the life of inactivity he has led all these centuries. In truth, this is one of the most remarkable works of art I have ever seen. Michelangelo was depicting the intensity of the young David as he was about to enter into battle with the powerful Philistine warrior, Goliath. To put this image in its proper context, the Israelites and Philistines were in the midst of an extended war when Goliath challenged the Israelites to send out a warrior to fight him in a duel that would determine the outcome of the conflict. With the fates of two nations at stake--the losing side would be required to enter into servitude--a great deal was riding on David's shoulders. The seriousness of the task ahead is extremely visible in David's countenance. There is something about this sculpture that demands your attention. It's absolutely riveting and I, for one, had a hard time walking away from it.
A week later, we visited the area of ancient Rome that includes the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hills. Our fearless tour guide and program director, Claudio Bizzarri (pictured here with his daughter Costanza), did a tremendous job of dodging anti-government protests, traffic jams, and various other obstacles that faced us in Rome that day.We had an amazing tour of the Capitolini museum, which houses some of Rome's greatest antiquities, including the sculpture of the she-wolf that finds and suckles the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, in Rome's foundation myth. With all the remarkable artifacts that fill every room of the museum, I must admit that one of the highlights for me was a traveling exhibit on the life and work of Archimedes.
A mathematician, inventor, engineer, physician, and astronomers, Archimedes solved some of the great scientific problems of his era. The main thing I knew about him was the story of how he found a way to measure the density of the king's crown and thereby determine the purity of the gold used in it. But what I did not know was his invention of a screw-like device that could be used to pump water uphill. The exhibit included an interactive demo of the Archimedes screw that let us see how truly brilliant an invention it was--simple yet highly effective.
There is much more to share than one blog post can possibly hold. I would like to tell you about: the journey of exploration my students and I are taking this semester, the fascinating people and beautiful places that Jhan and I have encountered on our excursions in and around Orvieto, our spiritual discoveries, and glimpses we have had into the possible future of our community. But just like David preparing for the challenge ahead, I am still in the process of gathering up my inner resources so that I can find the most effective way to tell you the story that is unfolding for us here in Orvieto. In Love & Joy...