January 17, 2011

Trastevere, Rome. October, 1986

There are lots of reasons to visit Trastevere, the section of Rome “across the Tiber” from the centro. My first trip was to a Sardinian restaurant where I’d sampled the flaky, ultra-thin flatbread carta di musica (sheet music.) Another time was with Paolo, a sometime Fellini actor and Italian teacher-turned-boyfriend of an American friend, who was going to show me the best pizzzeria in Rome, the St. Ivo. The place was packed with sports fans, the pizza memorable, and I recall moving several barricades so that we could park within an off-hours construction site, no other space being available. (I call this kind of shenanigan “When in Rome” behavior.) But if I had to pick my favorite site in Trastevere, it would be this: the Bernini statue of Blessed Ludovica Albertoni in the church of San Francesco a Ripa. Bernini is well known for his Roman masterpieces: fountains in the Piazzas Navona and Barberini, the baldechino and colonnaded piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica, his magnificent sculpture of Saint Teresa in Ecstasy in the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria (an almost daily Roman stop for me.) This quiet and subtle memorial rests in a small niche to the left of San Francesco’s altar, lit naturally from a small window hidden above. Yet another wonderful example of how Bernini could make marble ripple with a soft, liquid expressiveness, evidenced as much in the suffering facial expression as in the billowing expanses of fabric. Ludovica is considered a “blessed person” in Roman Catholicism, known for her religious ecstasies and her alleged gift of levitation. Beatified in 1671, her canonization and sainthood are still pending.

1 comment:

  1. Among the lesser known Italian Blessed Persons is Porcolazzi Fonzada (1430), a poor hod carrier from the village of Buca di Beppo renowned for his ability to ingest massive quantities of wine and subsequently cause damp spots to miraculously appear on his clothing. Widely revered for his mystical talents and borne by a surge of popular approval, 'Porco' quickly received Beatification, however his Canonization hit a snag when a local moneylender revealed Fonzada had solicited him with a proposal to open a chain of wine bars and themed restaurants.