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Recalling a visit to the Strange Capuchin Cemetery in Rome

October 14, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

cemetery_of_capuchinsWith Halloween approaching, I thought I’d blog about a few of the eeriest places I’ve visited over the years. Without a doubt, the Capuchin Cemetery in Rome, Italy, takes the dubious honor.

You’ll find the cemetery, actually a crypt beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (Immaculate Conception), on the Via Veneto near Palazzo Barbareni. The ghastly chamber reeks with decay and is divided into five tiny chapels linked via a dim passageway. The place is so weird, even Dan Browne skipped a mention in his book, Angels and Demons.

Within lies the final resting place for over 4,000 Capuchin friars who died between 1528 and 1870. Some were first buried elsewhere and then transferred here. The soil in the crypt was brought from Jerusalem. A few dozen skeletons remain intact, draped in hooded Franciscan habits. Large numbers of bones adorn the walls in complex decorative patterns; some resemble bas-reliefs, others hang from the ceiling as working light fixtures. One chapel overflows with countless leg bones and skulls.

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The first room, known as the Crypt of the Resurrection, features a picture of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, framed by parts of a human skeleton. Visitors are encouraged to interpret the displays of funereal art as the Christian belief in resurrection and everlasting life.

A plaque in one of the chapels reads, in three languages, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”

I honestly can’t describe the macabre, grotesque effect, albeit with a certain artistic merit. The unearthed skeletal array makes this sacred shrine more a ghoulish tourist attraction. One needs only a few minutes to see the place, if at all.

Debi Reviews Angels and Demons: The Movie

May 25, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

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Angels & Demons- The Movie starring Tom Hanks

Part 8- Angels & Demons: The Movie

Most know I’m a fan of Dan Brown ‘s best-selling books, which I mentioned at the beginning of my virtual Angels & Demons blog tour . Can’t wait to read his new release, The Lost Symbol, coming out September 15, 2009.

However, neither movie based on his novels, The DaVinci Code nor Angels & Demons, have captured the intrigue and suspense of the written word. Hmm, maybe that reinforces the need to read instead of being fed video?

I’m captivated with the way Brown drops in behind-the-scenes nuggets, factual details (for the most part) about artisans, art and religious history. Brown tells it like a great tour guide, providing insight with anecdotes that make a place come alive.

But, Director Ron Howard was unable to bring the profusion of historical data onto the big screen, at least not to the degree that Brown incorporates it into his storyline. And, who can blame Howard; he only has two and half hours?

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Movie Scene- The College of Cardinals walk to the Sistine Chapel

Suspense seems to be the quintessential element the movies aren’t replicating. Film should have the advantage by presenting the viewer a visual illusion, the actual scene. The camera can zoom in or fade out the focus. The novel writer has to rely on the reader’s imagination to create the picture.

Sound also helps build suspense, the muffled thump of heartbeats or gradual crescendo of spine-tingling music. Howard’s film, Apollo 13, had me on edge, even though I knew of the astronauts safe return. Angels & Demons fares better than the DaVinci Code, but still fails to capture the fervor generated by the book.

I’m also a devotee of talented actor Tom Hanks ; loved him in Big and was crazy about his performance in Castaway and Terminal. But, I think moviegoers can’t quite connect with his role as Professor Langdon. Viewers don’t identify with him because they don’t feel his emotions.

Non-reader moviegoers won’t understand Langdon’s depth of knowledge or the meaning of the symbolic clues. Trying to squeeze that information into a scene doesn’t work. Langdon comes off like an uptight British gent instead of an empathetic soul, thrown into a life and death situation. There’s no time to build his character, there’s too much story to tell.

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed watching Angels & Demons. Howard blessed us with a new ending; Brown’s version was a devil, a disappointment at the end of a good book. The movie offers an alluring tour of Rome. And, I thought the creation of the Vatican scenes were superb, considering filming was not permitted inside the holy confines.

Perhaps Hollywood should move on to Steve Berry books. I, for one, would love to see The Amber Room made into a movie. On second thought, I want to visit Russia’s Amber Room in person. But right now I’m looking forward to a trip to Paris, and can’t wait to follow the DaVinci Code Rose Line .

Photos Courtery of Sony Pictures

Mimi’s Angels and Demons Tour continues: Vatican Necropolis and St. Peter’s Tomb

May 23, 2009 by · Comments Off on Mimi’s Angels and Demons Tour continues: Vatican Necropolis and St. Peter’s Tomb 

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Early Christian Ceiling mosaic of Jesus in Necropolis masoleum

Day 7- Necropolis and St. Peter’s Tomb

We left Langdon and Vittoria racing along the pasetto (corridor) from Castle Sant’Angelo to St Peter’s Basilica. Our story now picks up speed, makes confusing turns and exposes a few devilish surprises, as it nears the climax.

I won’t try to summarize or give away the plot; you simply must read the book or go to the movie. But, let’s just say, both versions lead to our next site. We venture deep below the Vatican– to the Necropolis .

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Doorway into ancient masoleum under the Vatican

Most visitors to Rome, and many residents, have no knowledge of the hidden city lying two stories below the main altar. Ancient mausoleums were not uncovered until 1939 when Pope Pius XII ordered a secret archeological dig. He hoped to find St. Peter’s grave . The result of their discoveries was not publicly announced until decades later.

I learned of the Vatican Scavi (necropolis) tour while researching my 2008 trip to Italy, and applied for tickets. Only 150-200 people per day are permitted into the tombs. Tickets costs just ten euro, but must be requested months ahead.

The morning I arrived at St Peters, I stopped a priest to ask for directions to the meeting point. I showed him my confirmation letter and he looked at me, smiled; then said, “You are blessed.”

And I was. To stand in the most sacred space in Rome is incredibly powerful.

I wrote a descriptive article about the Scavi tour, recently published by Bootsnall.com. I hope you will use this link to read the details of the search for St. Peter’s tomb .

Angels & Demons Secret Vatican Tour

Inside Catacombs (not the Scavi tombs)

Inside Catacombs (not the Scavi tombs)

This photo was NOT taken in the Vatican Scavi, it is a photo of catacombs.


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