Elevating Spaces

Hadrian’s Pantheon is a temple to all gods. Its ecumenical nature is as encompassing as the celestial space the magnificent and mammoth dome implies. This is the broadest dome in Rome and is a feat of Roman engineering, made of concrete (a Roman invention).

Hadrian’s Pantheon is a temple to all gods. Its ecumenical nature is as encompassing as the celestial space the magnificent and mammoth dome implies. This is the broadest dome in Rome and is a feat of Roman engineering, made of concrete (a Roman invention).

There is an undeniable rhetorical and emotive power in vaulting spaces.  The Catholic church makes use of this sense of elevation and awe in spaces meant for worship, confession, and ritual.   Being in lofty spaces, can inspire consideration of what, who, and how we worship.

St. John the Lateran is the cathedral church of Rome and has extraterritorial status, rendering it the mother church of all Catholics in the entire world. Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor, built the original structure in 324 AD.

St. John the Lateran is the cathedral church of Rome and has extraterritorial status, rendering it the mother church of all Catholics in the entire world. Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor, built the original structure in 324 AD.

I have been reading Ovid’s Metamorphosis, trying to get a handle on the complicated melodramas that inflect the lives of gods, goddesses, nymph, morals, and other beings.  It is intriguing and a bit sobering to encounter the moral failings and ambitious strivings that drive these tales of transformation.

Santa Maria Maggiore retains its 5th century basilica structure. Church basilicas were inspired by ancient Roman basilicas, which were secular assembly halls. They feature a spacious central nave, side aisles, and a rounded apse. Santa Maria Maggiore is the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary upon the 431 AD Council of Ephesus declaration that she was the mother of god. It is built atop a temple to Cybele.

Santa Maria Maggiore retains its 5th century basilica structure. Church basilicas were inspired by ancient Roman basilicas, which were secular assembly halls. They feature a spacious central nave, side aisles, and a rounded apse. Santa Maria Maggiore is the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary upon the 431 AD Council of Ephesus declaration that she was the mother of god. It is built atop a temple to Cybele.

The gods and goddesses that animate Ovid’s 250 stories are human all too human and yet were worshipped as deities.  The same could be said of the majority of popes and emperors, just as many churches are built atop pagan temples, hubris and greed are common building blocks for rising and falling power structures.

Santa Maria sopra Minerva is the only gothic church in Rome. Roman architecture is very entrenched in its classical precedents. The church is built on a site of great significance, as its name suggests, on top of (or at least near) a temple to Minerva (the Roman name for Athena), goddess of war, wisdom, and handicrafts

Santa Maria sopra Minerva is the only gothic church in Rome. Roman architecture is very entrenched in its classical precedents. The church is built on a site of great significance, as its name suggests, on top of (or at least near) a temple to Minerva (the Roman name for Athena), goddess of war, wisdom, and handicrafts

A couple of days ago I read the tale of Echo and Narcissus.  Echo, a “garrulous” nymph, distracted Juno at Zeus’ bidding, from his numerous “consorts” with nymphs.  Juno never is duped for long and always exacts vengeance upon the female beings who “consort” with her roving husband or in any way cross her.

Note:  There is a rather distorted sense of culpability in Greco Roman myths, e.g., women, both divine and mortal are blamed for men’s lust and even for rape!  More on such injustice in a future post…

Echo’s punishment is loss of her own voice; she is only able to repeat the words of others. This inability to assert, to implore, to declare is truly a loss of agency.

St. Peter’s Basilica is built on the St. Peter’s tomb. His remains are under the baldachin (part of which is pictured above, designed by the one and only Bernini). It took 120 years to build the current basilica. It is built on top of the St. Peter’s church, which was built in the 4th century under Constantine’s rule. St. Peter’s is the biggest church in the world and the dome, the highest point in Rome, was designed by Michelangelo.

St. Peter’s Basilica is built on the St. Peter’s tomb. His remains are under the baldachin (part of which is pictured above, designed by the one and only Bernini). It took 120 years to build the current basilica. It is built on top of the St. Peter’s church, which was built in the 4th century under Constantine’s rule. St. Peter’s is the biggest church in the world and the dome, the highest point in Rome, was designed by Michelangelo.

Her inability to communicate is especially frustrating when Echo falls for a handsome youth in the forest.  Echo encounters the handsome Narcissus while he is out hunting and is utterly beguiled.  Narcissus senses her presence and calls out to Echo.  Echo is only able to repeat his words.  This cofounding call and response culminates in Narcissus’ request and subsequent, tragic miscommunication:

‘Here, let us meet together’. And, never answering to another sound more gladly, Echo replies ‘Together’, and to assist her words comes out of the woods to put her arms around his neck, in longing. He runs from her, and running cries ‘Away with these encircling hands! May I die before what’s mine is yours. She answers, only ‘What’s mine is yours!’

Narcissus flees Echo and soon encounters his own comely face in a still pool.  He falls in love with his reflection and slowly withers away, tormented by a self-reflexive version of unrequited love.  As Ovid poetically puts it:

 Fool, why try to catch a fleeting image, in vain? What you search for is nowhere: turning away, what you love is lost! What you perceive is the shadow of reflected form: nothing of you is in it. It comes and stays with you, and leaves with you, if you can leave!

What, who, how do we worship?  How can we encounter elevating spaces, feel elevated, when so much of our focus is downcast, gazing into pools of reflecting light that comes and stays with you, and leaves with you, if you can leave.