giovedì 16 luglio 2009

Spooky Churches

It’s hardly a secret that Rome has some great churches.

In fact, Ernest Bevan thought they had too many, and not enough hospitals, when he visited Rome in the fifties. Well maybe they have a few more hospitals now, but they certainly aren’t as photogenic as the churches.

I have my favourites which I like to pop into to fire off a few photographs.

Santa Maria Maddalena in the eponymous piazza is one of them. The only rococco church in Rome apparently, though it looks pretty baroque to me. Another is Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte, (Saint Mary of Prayer and Death) in Via Giulia, which is on one of my Photosleuth Tours’ routes. A pretty spooky church, and with a name like that it couldn't be otherwise.

The present baroque church was built in 1737 replacing an earlier XVl century one. It was run by a fraternity that collected the dead bodies of unknown people found in the countryside to give them a Christian burial. An essential requisite if you wanted to go to heaven!

Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte, Via Giulia.

Above and below: Saint Mary Magdelene, near the Pantheon.

Skulls and other symbols, such as hour glasses, a favourite way of reminding all God fearing folk that time marches inexorably forward and that we're all mortal, adorn the façade and the interior, and on either side of the main door two macabre engravings remind passers by of their mortality. The one on the right depicts death sitting comfortably on a bench with an hourglass in hand patiently waiting for a sick man to die.

Death waits patiently for some poor soul to breathe his last. Almost like gathering fallen apples! The inscription says “Alms for the poor dead that are found in the country.”

Rarely open except for Saturday evening and Sunday masses, so I was surprised to find it open one day in the week and nipped inside and took these photos. Inside it’s very dark so I used an ISO rating of 1600, and still had to shoot at 1/15 of a second.

Although there’s a lot of gold in the ornamentation the atmosphere is pretty sombre so I converted some of the images to black and white. I just love the way the balustrades curve around forming serried layers going right up to the dome.

The organ in Santa Maria de Morte
It seems like The Phantom of the Opera could appear at any moment.

The blood red cross of the Camillian Fathers, an order that cares for the sick, in the west window is projected onto the wall of one of the side altars by the afternoon sun in the church of Saint Mary Magdalene.