Thursday, September 20, 2012

Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper

Today was a big day for us!  We visited Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper!  I had booked tickets about a month ago - prior to our leaving California.  I selected a date when my brother, Bob and my niece, Becky would be visiting us.  They arrived safely here last Tuesday evening and we are loving having someone to share our sightseeing with!

The picture at the top of the page is not the real Last Supper, it is a copy located in the Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum which is located about two blocks from the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where the Last Supper was painted in the refectory of the Dominican Monastery that adjoins the church.  They don't allow pictures of the actual mural in order to help preserve it.  When you come to see this "key image of Western Civilization" your tour group walks through two different rooms to dehumidify you.  Then you enter the dining hall and there it is!  It seems amazing to just walk right in and see the actual mural right there on the wall.

A 21-year restoration project was completed in 1999.  It removed 500 years of touch-ups.  Almost from the time it was painted, it began to deteriorate.  Instead of using the fresco technique, where the work is painted on wet plaster, da Vinci painted with tempera applied to a dry wall.  This method allowed him to work on the project for a long time instead of having to complete each section while the plaster was wet.  It was created over several years from 1495 to 1498. Unfortunately, using this method meant that the paint was just on top of the wall's surface and resulted in flaking. It's really a miracle that the painting exists at all because the church was bombed during World War II and the only wall of the refectory that was left standing was the wall on which it was painted!

The painting depicts the moment when Christ says, "One of you will betray me."  Each of the twelve apostles is responding to that statement in their own way - from Andrew who appears to be gesturing in a way that says "not I," to Simon Peter who appears to be requesting John to ask Jesus to reveal who it is, to Judas who is clutching his bag of silver and is the only one who doesn't look astonished.

How thrilling it was to see this masterpiece in person!

After that, we looked at the church next to the monastery - Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Then we headed off to the Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum.

In addition to the copy of The Last Supper, they had another painting that was done about 200 years later which was strongly based on Leonardo da Vinci's original painting, demonstrating interest in the masterpiece in the sixteen hundreds.

We saw models of machines from da Vinci's sketchbooks:

A moveable bridge

A ship designed to ram other vessels

A crane

A sawmill powered by water

A printing press

We also saw celestial and terrestrial globes made in Venice in the sixteen hundreds:

A beautiful Focult pendulum

We also viewed a display of musical instruments including dulcimers, lyres, lutes, violins, harpsichords, and mandolins.

And an interesting display of jewelry.

All-in-all a wonderful day!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Ride on the Metro and a Monumental Experience

Our goal for Sunday was to figure out how to ride the Metro and to visit another interesting place in Milan.

We had previously purchased a carne - or ticket for ten rides on public transit.  After checking our guidebook and map of the city, we realized how well placed our residence is - there are very few notable sites that aren't within walking distance!  Finally we settled on the Monumental Cemetery (Il Cimitero Monumentale).

We discovered that the Milan metro is very easy to navigate.  There are only three lines.  We would need to take the line nearest our residence and then transfer only once to arrive at our destination.  Once we exited the Metro, we were at a loss.  It was in the midst of a large construction zone with cranes and barriers all around.  We tried walking to one street and that didn't seem right (no visible street signs), then reversed directions, but that didn't seem right either.  At last we asked someone for directions and discovered we were only a few blocks from the cemetery - and what an amazing place!

The cemetery was opened in 1866 to provide a suitable resting spot for the city's famous and well-deserving men. The main entrance is through an enormous building called the Famedio:

 This is a picture of just a small section of the building.

Once inside there is a truly amazing array of tombs and enormous monuments with incredible statuary.

Mourning angels and wives:

Angels sheltering the deceased under their wings:

Reclining cherubs:

The grim reaper:

A farmer:

A young woman reclining peacefully with her faithful dog

This next statue was particularly moving.  The son was killed during World War II and his parents had this statue carved to remember him.  If you look at the pictures of the family you can see how exact his
likeness was created in the sculpture!  A memory of a much-beloved son in happier days.

Then there was this graphic sculpture of a First World War soldier:

As we moved further into the cemetery we came to the many enormous family monuments.

As you can see some are very new and modern.

The older monuments had amazing wrought iron doors:

This cemetery has been called a vast garden art gallery and George and I had to agree!  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Penny Visits Another Church

Last Monday I decided to visit San Lorenzo Maggiore since most museums in Milan are closed on Mondays.  We had walked by this church several times on our way to the laundromat and I was curious about what it was like on the inside.  I discovered that this church was begun in the 4th century AD.  It is built above what is believed to be a Roman amphitheater.

This is the front of the church.

 Further out front is this row of sixteen Roman columns. They were moved here from another nearby building that was possibly a pagan temple.

Another view of the columns:

And here in the front is also a statue of the Emperor Constantine.  This is a copy of a bronze statue that is in Rome.

My guidebook tells me that Milan was colonized by the Romans in 222 BC.  It quickly grew to be an important city because it was at the junction of several trading routes.  It was called "Mediolanum" which they believe meant city in the middle of the plain. Here in 313 AD Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which recognized Christianity as a permitted religion of the empire.This ended centuries of Christian persecution.

Now for a peek inside:

Here is the main altar.  When I first walked inside the church I was surprised by how small it seemed.  It looks massive on the outside, but the part under the dome is not very large - at least compared to the Duomo!

A view of the inside of the dome

 The pipe organ

 I like the paintings on some of the walls the best:

and my favorite:

I believe this is St Helena, the mother of Constantine.