Today, I gatecrashed an Italian funeral while walking the streets of Rome.
Well not exactly…..I stumbled upon the San Pietro in Vincoli Church and ducked in for a quick look on my way to buy tickets to the Colosseum.
As I was sitting in a pew admiring the frescoes on both walls and ceiling I was quickly surprised and surrounded by a steadily growing crowd of Italians, obviously dressed for mourning – and then out of nowhere a casket was wheeled in and up to the altar.
As no one seemed to notice me I decided to stay and observe.
It’s interesting to see how much ‘art’….sculpture, painting, and food is deeply embedded in Italian culture and an everyday part of their lives. Whether it’s frescoes in a church, a monument on a street corner or street altar to Mary or a saint…the magnificent architecture of an everyday clothing shop or a simple but sublime still life of fruit, cheeses and wine in a restaurant window…art and life are so entwined for them – and really are inseparable.
And so, often as we seek to elevate it to some God like status in a gallery, somehow it becomes unreachable and causes a disconnect in us that is a backwards step. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for protecting priceless works of art and national treasures – but not at the expense of stopping them doing what they were intended for.
To elevate the artwork instead of it elevating us is getting it the wrong way round.
The beautiful, old art works that graced the walls of this church encompass all of life – seeking to lift us up beyond the mundane
Frescoes of birth, death and ultimately resurrection – in us and our everyday lives.