© 2013 Miro Roman

Italian journey

Author: Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Translated: W.H.Auden, Elizabeth Mayer
Written: 1786 – 1788

November 22
On the Feast of St. Cecilia

I must write a few lines to keep alive the memory of this happy day or, at least, make a historical report of what I have been enjoying. The day was cloudless and warm. I went with Tischbein to the square in front of St. Peter’s. We walked up and down until we felt too hot, when we sat in the shadow of the great obelisk- it was just wide enough for two- and ate some grapes we had bought nearby. Then we went into the Sistine Chapel, where the light on the frescoes was at its best.Looking at these marvellous works of Michelangelo’s, our admiration was divided between the Last Judgment and the various paintings on the ceiling. The self-assurance, the virility, the grandeur of conception of this master defy expression. After we had looked at everything over and over again, we left the chapel and entered St. Peter’s. Thanks to the brilliant sunshine outside, every part of the church was visible. Since we were determined to enjoy its magnitude and splendour, we did not, this time, allow our overfastidious taste to put us off and abstained from carping criticism. We enjoyed everything that was enjoyable.
Then we climbed up on to the roof, where one finds a miniature copy of a well-built town with houses, shops, fountains, churches (at least they looked like churches from the outside) and a large
temple- everything in the open air with beautiful walks between. We went into the Cupola and looked out at the Apennines, Mount Soracte, the volcanic hills behind Tivoli, Frascati, Castel Gandolfo, the plain and the sea beyond it. Below us lay the city of Rome in all its length and breadth with its hill-perched palaces, domes, etc. Not a breath of air was stirring, and it was as hot as a greenhouse inside the copper ball. After taking in everything, we descended again and asked to have the doors opened which lead to the cornices of the dome, the tambour and the nave. One can walk all the way round and look down from this height on the whole church. As we were standing on the cornice of the tambour, far below us we could see the Pope walking to make his afternoon devotions. St. Peter, s had not failed us. Then we climbed all the way down, went out into the square and had a frugal but cheerful meal at an inn nearby, after which we went on to the Church of St. Cecilia.
It would take pages to describe the decorations of this church, which was packed with people. One could not see a stone of the structure. The columns were covered with red velvet wound around with ribbons of gold lace, the capitals with embroidered velvet conforming more or less to their shape – so, too, with the cornices and pillars. All the intervening wall space was clothed in brightly coloured hangings, so that the whole church seemed to be one enormous mosaic. More than two hundred candles were burning behind and at the sides of the high altar, so that one whole wall was lined with candles, and the nave was fully illuminated. Facing the high altar, two stands, also covered with velvet, had been erected under the organ loft. The singers stood on one; the orchestra, which never stopped playing, on the other.
Just as there are concertos for violins or other instruments, here they perform concertos for voices: one voice – the soprano, for instance – predominates and sings a solo while, from time to time, the choir joins in and accompanies it, always supported, of course, by the full orchestra. The effect is wonderful. All good days must come to an end and so must these notes. In the evening we got to the opera house, where i Litiganti* was being given, but we were so sated with good things that we passed it by.

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