Sunday, February 10, 2013

Last day in Florence

Florence is a city, with a history and a tradition that the people cherish. Walking in the center of the city you continually encounter houses with coats of arms. It has the feel of history.

Of course, it's at times a very sordid history, including the machinations of families and others to control the city. The church is not exempt from these types of activities - witness the burning of Fra Girolamo Savonarola at the stake, where church and state worked together.

But there are beauties to be seen there, among the most amazing are the frescos of Fra Angelico in the San Marco Convent of the Dominicans, now a museum. Sad to say you can't take photos there, but then that enhanced the experience for me. I had to stop and use my senses to take in the beauty of the frescos, especially those that graced the cells of the Dominicans.

My last day in Florence I went to the museums; but after San Marco they were a disappointment except for a few facsinating pieces - of which there were no postcards.

I particlarly remember one image from the Renaissance of Jesus and four saints, mostly because the face of St. John the Baptist reminded me of a friend in the village of Camalote, Honduras. It was striking.

What I also noted is that in most museums there are almost too many images, but even though there are scores of images in San Marcos there is something different. Except for the galleries, most of the images are still in the place where they were made for. And even though the friars no longer inhabit the cells, there was for me still a sense of their presence. Often museum art is "place-less," thus separated from the reality of the world in which they were made. Now that's something for some philosophical and theological speculation!

There was, however, one place in Florence that I visited on the last day that was striking, the Church of St. Miniato, a martyred bishop of Florence who, like St. Denis of Paris, carried his head to the place on a hill after being beheaded. The piece was serene, with a beautiful view of the center of the city, with a three-level Romanesque church.

The last night I went to Trattoria Guelfa, up the street from where I was staying for a nice meal of vegetarian risotto. What I most liked about the place is the atmosphere, locals and visitors,with families.

And so I left Florence, glad to have spent three days there, but wanting to return again to spend even more time in San Marco, contemplating the frescos. That was for me a profound experience of God.

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