July 8, 2011

Bryson on Saint Peter's

One of my favorite authors is a guy named Bill Bryson.  He is best known as a travel writer, his most popular book being "A Walk in the Woods" which recounted his hike of the Appalachian Trail.  About 20 years ago, he wrote a book called "Neither Here nor There" which is about his travels in Europe.  I took it off my book shelf this afternoon and opened it to a random page...and it was the chapter on Rome!

Now Bryson is no Bible thumper.  In fact, I don't think he is religious at all.  But this is how he described Saint Peter's Basilica:

St. Peter's doesn't look all that fabulous from the outside, at least not from the piazza at its foot, but step inside and it is so sensational that your mouth falls open.  St. Peter's is a marvel, so vast and beautiful and cool and filled with treasures and airy heights and pale beams of heavenly light that you don't know where to place your gaze.  It is the only building I have ever entered where I have actually felt like sinking to my knees, clasping my hands heavenward, and crying "Take me home, Lord."  No structure on earth would ever look the same to me again.

I wandered down the wide central aisle, agog at the scale of the place.  It is 730 feet long, 364 feet wide, and 438 feet from the floor to the top of the dome.  But as Mark Twain noted in "The Innocents Abroad", the trouble is that because every bit of it is built to such a scale, you have to remind yourself continually of its immensity.  


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