Saturday, June 19, 2010

Reflective Essay # 2

The Colosseum and The Sistine Chapel


Lauren Wolf


While in Italy two sites have especially captured my imagination - the Colosseum, a secular building, and the Sistine Chapel, a sacred building. I gained a better grasp of the history of both sites because I took tours of them from very knowledgeable tour guides. In this reflective essay I want to compare and contrast them and discuss the impact the sites have on Italian culture.
The Colosseum is a well-known destination to people all over the world. It was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre; the nickname “Colosseum” came from the “colossal” bronze statue of Nero that was erected next to it. The Colosseum was built between 70 and 72 AD; construction only took about eight to 10 years because ancient Rome had so many slaves to help with the construction of the building. The structure was built for secular entertainment, hosting events that ranged from animals fights to gladiator battles. It could seat up to 50,000 people and was a strategic way to amuse Romans and keep them from rioting or creating other problems. Over time, this breath-taking structure deteriorated, but over the centuries, Romans realized its iconic significance and its reflection of the city’s rich culture. Recently, efforts have been undertaken to restore this structure, particularly to address environmental degradation. Present-day streets run along the sides of the Colosseum, and vehicle exhaust has eroded the walls. An extensive cleaning of the walls took place from 1993-2000 (Italy-Accom, 1996-2010). The Colosseum may be the most recognizable symbol of Rome’s history. Show a picture of the Colosseum to any person in the world and almost automatically the person thinks of Italy in general, Rome in particular.
The Sistine Chapel is another, very different building but one that also evokes an unmistakable image of Rome. It’s ceiling, covered with Michelangelo’s paintings, is a wondrous masterpiece in Vatican City. To imagine that one man could complete such a great work all those years ago is awe-inspiring. Artists today have technology to complete artworks “similar” to the Sistine Chapel, but even with our best work and best technology, it is difficult to believe that someone could come close to equaling that chapel. Michelangelo begrudgingly took four years, lying flat on his back, 100 feet in the air, to create this masterpiece, at the request of Pope Julius II.(Fay, 2009) Imagine what it would have looked at if he wanted to do the project? Michelangelo extracted nine scenes from the book of Genesis in the Christian Bible and turned it into a work of art no one who sees it will ever forget. As with the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel is a major tourist attraction.
These two iconic Roman buildings symbolize Rome. They are both similar in the fact that they have withstood time, but they represent two totally different eras of time, ancient Rome and the Renaissance. However both transport us back in time. Both sites give modern visitors a glimpse into the past. They connect us to something concrete, something that has withstood the test of time, and that greatly influenced our contemporary civilization.

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