saint peter’s left foot30th entry – le marche 2013

Sat-Aug17 025It’s been 40 years since I was last in St. Peter’s Square. (I visited during my junior-year-abroad.) Back then, the square was grey, its columns and facades tarnished by soot and age. Also, back then you could walk into the basilica; Michelangelo’s Pietà on the first altar on the right with no glass in front of it.

Today, the square is awash with tourists and security forbids entry into the church without first going through a metal detector and then showing everything in your bag. Also, the thing that amazed me was the brilliance of the white stone columns. In the blue afternoon their white luster radiated off the blazing sun. They are white marble, who knew.

My memory of the colonnade goes back to 1954. My family had come to Rome to secure the documents we needed to travel to Canada. After getting our passports, we went to St. Peter’s. I remember having lunch in the colonnade, its grey pillars a forest sheltering us. After eating, we went into the church and rubbed St. Peter’s foot and prayed for a safe journey. We also brought a souvenir of the statue to give to my grandmother when we got to Canada.

Sixty years later, the square is full of Chinese tourists hiding from the Italian sun under multicolored umbrellas. (Orientals under polka-dotted umbrellas seemed out of place in a Renaissance piazza.) The grey pillars have been cleaned of their memories of southerners looking to leave, looking to find hope in a new land. A land of the British empire, a land antagonistic to their cherished Catholicism.