Whoa! What an embarrassment of riches, so much so that after awhile you become numb to them. Most of the museums that we’re used to are Spartan and use clean surfaces to highlight whatever they are displaying. Not here. The walls are packed with treasures; the ceiling is painted, or gilded, or carved; and the floors are hundreds of years old mosaics. You don’t know where to look next and through most of the main attractions your carried along by a river of humanity flowing inexorably to the sea, or in this case the Sistine Chapel.
The tributaries were much quieter and it quickly becomes apparent that the tourists that flock to the museum are really only there to see the chapel and maybe Raphael’s rooms. The amazing Egyptian and Etruscan collections are virtually ignored. We didn’t realize that the Vatican Museum has one of the largest collections of ancient Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt. The cuneiform tablets, and images of Sargon where a big hit with all of us, and Piper found it especially cool to find the original sources of some of the images in the ancient history books that she has been studying.
I know that many will find this hard to believe but all of us felt a little let down by the Sistine Chapel. Make no mistake, it is truly awe inspiring to think about the enormous amount of work accomplished by Michelangelo, but we were just numb at that point and didn’t really internalize what we were seeing. There is just too much of it. Lisa dubbed it an inverse Monet – better seen up close than from afar. What I think she meant by that is that to really appreciate the work it would be best to concentrate on the individual panels. Given the time, the noise, and all the people the best you can do is sit and stare for a spell and then just get the heck out of there.