We started the day at Museo Nazionale Romano where we saw priceless and renown frescoes and statues.
The Boxer at Rest
To me, the most memorable statue was The Boxer at Rest bronze statue. Looking into his face, you can sense his determination, feel his exhaustion. This treasure was excavated in 1554, but was created sometime between 330 and 50 BCE. Do you get that? Know what else was happening around the time this statue was made? Alexander the Great was the ruler of Greece from 336-323 BCE; in 221 BCE, the Great Wall of China was started; in 240 BCE, Archimedes successfully computed the area of a circle and the value of pi and he articulated the basic principle of gravity. Yeah. The Boxer at Rest was formed before humanity could really communicate what GRAVITY was!
My niece Emma, Dawn’s daughter, is leading the art history aspect of the trip. She has studied a lot for this trip and her preparation has really paid off. She points out fine details and tells us back stories we would have never known without her guidance.￼ As we viewed The Boxer, she says, “Notice the scars on his skin, the curvature of his spine, the texture of his hair. Make sure to look in his eyes. Remember he would have been painted, his eyes would have been made of jewels of some sort.” She makes the art come alive.
The Villa of Livia
One of the rooms we visited in the museum was built especially for a piece. It is a nearly complete fresco that was recovered from the summer residence of Livi, the second wife of Augustus Caesar. Interestingly, a portion of this fresco made into a print, decorates the dining room wall in Dawn’s house. We took a picture of the whole family there in the room, where the original is housed. The colors in this magnificent work are astounding. Bright blues, vibrant greens, accents of orange, yellow, and red. Additionally, the artist created it to be a realistic outdoor scene. When sitting in the room looking out, a guest would have felt as if the walls melted away to let nature draw near. Incredible work and from so early—approximately 40 years prior to the birth of Christ—1500 years before renaissance artists made the frescoes we all recognize: The Last Supper by Da Vinci and the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.
Santa Maria della Vittoria
Later we visited the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. Housed there is the famous Bernini sculpture called The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. I’ll have to spend some time to find the words for my experience there. I simply cannot do it justice without further reflection. I’ll just say this, from the moment I saw it, tears flowed unbidden. Thirty minutes later, when I try to describe my reaction to it, I still could not do so without quick tears. It is unimaginably beautiful. Of course, for me the true beauty of the peace is in how well Berdini illustrated the love Saint Theresa had for Christ. This devotion is one of my life’s goals: oh Christ to love you more!
The Stadium of Domitian and Aurora Bucks
￼After leaving the church, we went below the street to see ruins of the stadium of Domitian. This was an amazing opportunity as we were on the level of ancient Rome. Spectacular! Dawn and our guide Finn tag teamed, each with their own stories and spontaneous (apparently) teaching moments. The ancient space is accented with modern explanations and interpretations. One of the displays was devoted to Roman money. The kids were particularly excited by this. Why? Because Dawn has a reward system in class that she calls Aurora Bucks that is based on ancient Roman coinage. Amazing.
Gelato, hail, and the Pantheon
When we came back above ground, it was time for gelato! The sign here says “a gelato is always a good idea.” I have to say I do not disagree! Right after we got our gelato, the weather took a bizarre turn. We were hit by a massive hail storm! This kept us sheltering in place for about 30-45 minutes. It was crazy!
When finally, we could avoid being pummeled by ice falling, we went to the Pantheon. It was packed, but still such a worthwhile stop. The Pantheon was built around the first century. It is an architectural masterpiece. I loved being able to see it for myself.
By this time, the kids (and adults for that matter) we’re getting pretty tired. It didn’t help that most of us were also wet and therefore cold. We had some frustrations with our dinner plans, but the students have just been wonderful. They are all so engaged in learning, and also so supportive of each other, and of the adults on the trip. It is truly a privilege to be a part of such a rich experience.