When I was 17 I was lucky enough to spend 22 days in Europe. I went with a group of students & a teacher from my school, but it wasn't a school trip. This teacher goes to Europe every summer, & every other year he takes a group of students.
In those 22 days I visited Englad, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria & Germany. I have a shit-ton of pictures from the trip, but unfortunately those were my pre-digital camera days & I don't own a scanner. Since I can't share a picture, I'll share one of my favorite European stories.
First, you need to know that I'm an Art History buff. I took Art History classes for 3 years in high school. I was good at it; really, really good at it. My love of art has never gone away.
The trip I took to Europe was during the summer after my 2nd year of Art History. One of our scheduled stops was the Academia in Florence, Italy. That is where Michelangelo's David is on display. This is the David. I think most people are familiar with it, even if they don't care about it. I was so excited to see it & was just sure that I was going to burst into tears when I did.
Well, there were no waterworks. Don't get me wrong, it's amazing. It's more amazing than I could have ever imagined. I had an emotional response, just not the one I expected.
A few days later we were at the Vatican, another scheduled stop. There is so much amazing art at the Vatican that I didn't have time to think about one particular thing I would see. The exterior of the building itself is a work of art, & religious or not, anyone would be in awe when they saw it. One of the stops I did want to make at the Vatican was another of Michelangelo's great works: La Pieta.
For those of you that don't know, La Pieta (the Pity) has been done over & over throughout art history. It's the image of Christ with Mary immediately after he was taken off the cross. I had seen pictures of Michelangelo's sculpture, as well as the other depictions, more times than I can count. I wasn't expecting any fireworks, especially after having seen David. I was so wrong.
Walking into the Vatican is like being in New York for the first time. It is enormous, & you can't help but look up & try to take it all in. The main room is cavernous, & there is something incredible everywhere you look.
Just as I'm getting my bearings, a friend of mine says, "There she is."
I turned to my right &, shoved in the corner aside of the entrance, is the La Pieta. In hindsight, I think I it caught me off guard because I sort of expected it to be somewhere prominently displayed. But I suppose that, in the Vatican, everything needs to be prominently displayed & you just run out of room after a while.
The point of this story is, that when I saw it for the first time I immediately burst into tears. I'm not talking watery eyes, either. I'm talking loudly, openly sobbing - right there, in the middle of the Vatican with a crowd of people from all over the world.
It was totally, breathtakingly beautiful. Not to mention the back story. If nothing else, this is the image of a mother cradling her adult son on her lap like a baby after he was murdered. That is probably enough to make you cry, but knowing the story makes it more intense. It also reminded me that Michelangelo lost his own mother when he was very young & what a tribute to motherhood this was.
One of the chaperones on our trip was an Art teacher. She was crying too, even though she had seen it in person many times before. She said something to me that's always stayed with me, "No one who hasn't seen it for themselves will ever understand." After being there myself, I think it's absolutely right.
Image from Swagbucks.com