by Ruth, a.k.a. Momma Frizzle
Here’s a story I shared with you earlier in the summer, but it actually happened last year. I thought I’d share it again since I’m simultaneously missing my sister Sarah (aka Ambassador Hen) and longing to visit Rome. Maybe the next time I’ll appreciate the Pantheon more! Happy Sunday reading!
September 2010 – Rome, Italy – We knew it would happen. My sister Sarah and I knew we’d reach a point when we could not look at one more ancient ruin or another artistic masterpiece. We just didn’t know exactly when or where.
It happened late in the afternoon on our third day in Rome . . . at the Pantheon of all places.
The day was glorious. We’d toured the Vatican Museums, paying special attention to the Raphael rooms and worshiping in the majesty of the Sistine Chapel. We marveled at the grandeur of St. Peter’s Basilica and promenaded through Bernini’s magnificent colonnade.
We ate authentic Roman pizza and strolled through a neighborhood of designer boutiques. Enjoying every new experience together.
But when we finally reached the Pantheon, we were punchy and tired. Approaching the famous structure from the backside, Sarah quipped, “I really think this is its best side, don’t you?” which sent us into hilarious laughter. We sat on a wall back-to-back to rest and compose ourselves. To no avail, it turns out.
The Pantheon is like many ancient buildings in Rome. It is an amalgamation of ancient pagan temple, medieval Catholic church, famous Renaissance tomb, modern tourist site and current restoration project. Elements of each are achronistically visible.
Turns out Sarah was right about its “best side!” The front of the building was half covered with scaffolding from the current restoration efforts. Modern-day gladiators milled around in the plaza posing with tourists for a fee.
Its grand facade long ago stripped of marble reveals ancient brick archways instead. Once inside the famous dome, there are reconstructions of the red, black and gray marble decorations that used to cover the interior. Lining the walls are altars and tombs.
All of this, Sarah and I took in quickly. When we sat down to see if we could summon up the expected awe, we noticed instead the girl next to us reading her guidebook on a Kindle. One too many juxtapositions!
We started laughing, uncontrollably. Laughing in that annoying, mocking way which ruins meditative moments for others. So we did the only graceful thing we could – left the Pantheon quickly. Failing to note that the artist we had so admired earlier in the day – Raphael – is buried there.
Exiting the Pantheon, we passed a fake gladiator shouting after a cigarette-smoking tourist, “You shouldn’t smoke. It’s not good for you.”
I couldn’t resist, “Are you sure you should give health advice in your line of work?”
Missing the humor entirely, the gladiator responded, “The cigarette will kill him.”
Irony apparently does not translate well. My sister and I experienced many things in Rome, but the Pantheon is the only place that made us laugh hysterically!