It’s been a month since my mom and I returned from our trip to Italy, and looking back, one of my favorite moments of the trip was unexpectedly running across Michelangelo’s “Pieta” at St. Peter’s in Rome. Something you can’t see in a postcard or a textbook photo is the degree of expression on Mary’s face, such a profound grief that the massive (and I mean humungous) basilica in the background disappears for a minute. I didn’t want to forget the moment, so what did I do? Stupidly, I snapped a photo. I couldn’t think of anything else to do. (Incredibly, the basilica wasn’t super busy at this time, so we had plenty of time to just stand there and stare without much interruption.)
Now I’m back in humble but comfy Minnesota, and it’s only a few weeks later, and I realize my photo did not capture what I saw with my eyes. I blamed the mostly uninspiring photo on my poor photography skills and inexpensive camera, but then I dug out a postcard that I sent to Hubby while I was in Rome, which also features this sculpture. Guess what? I can’t see the power of that expression in this gorgeous professional photo, either!
I’m not a believer in the least tiny little smidgeon, but Michelangelo may have been genius enough to inspire a less stauch disbeliever. And there’s a bit of weirdness in the difference (at least in my mind!) between Mary’s face in the pictures, and Mary’s face in my memory. On the other hand, the difference is not inexplicable. Probably most of my shock in St. Peter’s was a result of delirium. Fatigue. You know, jetlag.
For the record, and because there is so much to love about this piece even without seeing Mary’s face in person, here’s the picture I took: