Day 04

Monday, March 12, 2012

   Today was such an amazing day because we had the opportunity to climb to the top of the Duomo! I mentioned on our first full day here how we went to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with the big extravagant dome that was designed by Brunelleschi and built centuries ago. Today we returned to go to the top and had to climb 463 stairs to get up there! The stairs were very narrow and very winding. Before we got to the very top of the dome on the outside, we got to see close up the mural on the ceiling of the dome on the inside. Once again we were trying to interpret the meanings of all the pictures in the paintings. I know back then that messages were communicated through art. What really got me was how they perfectly painted those murals so high up. I mean I want to go and do a study or something on the painting of all the murals. It’s absolutely mind-boggling! And like I said before, it’s really something you have to see with your own eyes to really understand the magnitude of awesomeness in these murals. I just can’t figure out how they did it.

   We got to the top of the dome and saw the view of the city and it was simply breathtaking! Beyond all the vintage orange rooftops were misty mountains in the horizon. The air that high up is so clear and fresh, it was so serene and peaceful. Dr. Jennings has gotten us into the habit of taking notes in response to our experiences, so while we were on top of the dome we each wrote our thoughts down in our class journals. We probably spent a good forty-five minutes at the top just journaling, taking pictures, and enjoying the view.

   When we returned to the ground the group did a little shopping and eating before we headed to our next  visit which was the Basilica de Santa Croce; a Franciscan church over 700 years old. This basilica is pretty significant because of its Florentine artwork and tombs. Inside the basilica I saw the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli. I was very excited to see the tomb of Rossini; he composed the William Tell Overture and the Barber of Seville. I listen to his pieces all the time and to see the place where he was laid to rest was such a privilege because he is one of my favorite composers. I was not expecting that at all.

   We spent several hours at Santa Croce. A couple of times we would all sit together as a group while Dr. Jennings explained a lot of historically significant things to us about what we were looking at. I love those times of learning because they cannot be gained from reading a textbook. Someone will see a painting or a monument or a building or anything and it will spark curiosity. That curiosity leads to questions. Those questions lead to deep discussions. Those discussions lead to the exchanging of ideas and information. And the more places we visit, and the more we see how it is all tied together, the more curious we become and the more questions we ask and the more we are enlightened. This true learning is so much more effective to me than a book report or an assignment to write a paper about a famous figure because the quest for knowledge is truly initiated from within when it is made tangible and real. Learning becomes two-fold because the teacher is teaching but the student is seeking. The names of historical people and cities and wars and buildings get lost in our memory and sometimes lose significance when only seen as black letters on white paper; but when we experience history first-hand, it truly makes a lasting connection. As I said before, I will always remember the name Brunelleschi because not only did I read a book about him and the dome he designed, but I had a chance to see it with my own eyes and actually climb it. The same for Machiavelli and all the other Italian history we studied before coming here. Being here and learning on site will help everything actually stick with me and it means so much more. What a privilege! I wish everyone had learning opportunities like that and I hope I have many more.