Entry 3: 6/17/11
Cemetery in Lido and Sansepolcro
During my second travel break I visited the Catholic cemetery on the island of Lido, not too far from Venice. We took the water taxi from Venice to Lido and I was getting worried because the sky in front of us looked very dark. After we arrived at the station in Lido finding the cemetery was a piece of cake. We found the cemetery about a mile down the road directly in front of the station. As we were walking next to the water I was glad to see the clouds disappear out of sight. Prior to seeing the cemetery, I had no idea I would want to spend all afternoon there looking at the different graves.
One of the very first things I realized when I was in the cemetery was the amount of flowers. From my observations, in America the only time I see flowers on a grave is right after someone has died. In the cemetery in Lido there was some kind of flower on almost everyone’s grave or marker. Out of the hundreds of graves I saw, I could count on my two hands how many people did not have flowers with their grave. Having flowers at the grave was one of the things I really liked about the cemetery. I saw graves where people had died in the early 1900s and there were flowers at their grave. That concept just goes to show how important the family is to Italian culture. For flowers to still be at their grave, someone in the family still comes to the cemetery to put them there, out of respect. Instead of the artificial flowers you commonly see in American cemeteries there were real flowers at most of the graves. Some of the families had even planted flowers at the head marker. You would never see this in America. Seeing all of these flowers made me want to go home and put flowers at the graves of the loved ones I have lost. Not only do I want to put out flowers, I want there to always be flowers at these graves. I love how much respect the Italians have for their families.
All of the graves also had pictures of the person who had died. These graphics were a part of the marble marker. These pictures were just as much a part of the marker as the nameplates. There was a lot of variety in the pictures. Most of the people who had died in the 80s or earlier had black and white pictures by their name. Many of the more recent deaths had colored pictures on the grave. Some people had two pictures with their name, one of them in their young adulthood and another when they were older and wiser. Many of the earlier deaths had a professional picture, like the pictures professors use for their biographies. Some of the people who had died more recently had real life pictures. They were more realistic. Someone had caught them in living action. I liked these pictures the best. For example, there was a picture where an older lady was planting plants in her garden. This picture made her a real person who probably liked to garden. These pictures told more of a story than the others. Though this is true I still enjoyed looking at the different pictures and trying to figure out what kind of a person they had been. “Did they live a hard life? What kind of personality did they have? Could they make people laugh easily? Did they have a talent that liked to share?” In cemeteries in American the only information you generally get about someone who died is their name, and the dates of when they were born and died. I think it would make our cemeteries more interesting if like Italy, we had pictures of those who had died. I also noticed the electric lights on almost everyone’s grave. Many of the lights were on when I was visiting. It would be a neat experience to walk through the cemetery at night with all of the lights shining in the darkness. Some people may be creeped out by this idea but I think it would be a time worthy experience. I came to the conclusion that the lights were symbolic of their connection to the Catholic Church. I feel this concept goes well with their religion. One major thing I realized was how each head marker was different. Each one had its own personality, like the person. Some were simple and others were elaborate. One of my favorites was a head marker that had a huge stain glass window depicting a rainbow and a dove. I was very struck to see a large stain glass window with a head marker. At some of the graves there was not a complete head stone. They just had a wooden cross put in the ground. This made me think the family did not have very much money and could not afford a nice personalized head stone like many of the others. One other thing that surprised me was the amount of head markers that were by themselves. Because family is such an important aspect of their culture I would have thought I might see parts of the cemetery marked off for certain families. I saw two head markers that were placed together because they were husband and wife. The mausoleums were much more family oriented. Many people in the mausoleums were placed with family. I saw many husband and wife pairs in the mausoleum. Further back in the cemetery I found the different family tombs. There had been rooms built specifically for families. They all had the family name on the outside. Many of the rooms had plants and other trinkets in them. Many of the older family tombs were close to being filled while the newer family tombs had one or two people in them.
The cemetery in Sansepolcro had many of the same characteristics as the Catholic cemetery in Lido. Almost every tomb had flowers and pictures of the person who had died. They all also had the electric flame and each marker was different. One of the neat things about the cemetery in Sansepolcro was the layout. You could see how they had added on to sections of the cemetery. The further in you went the new the graves became. On the way to the back of the cemetery we pasted a small patch of grass that had been dedicated specially for young children and babies. Seeing the pictures of the young children was very sad. A few of the babies had died the same day or within twenty-four hours. These pictures on the head markers were of them after they had died. This was the first time I had been sad looking at the pictures. In the other pictures I had tried to reflect on their life, with these babies there was very little life to reflect on. One other thing I noticed about the Sansepolcro cemetery was the number of people there. I felt like there were a lot of people at the cemetery. It could have been the day or the time I went, but I do not feel like this is the case. I feel like it is normal for the people in Sansepolcro to visit the cemetery. I feel like this is not true for America because I rarely see people in the cemetery when I visit. Many of the people I saw at the cemetery were visiting multiple people. I watched them go from grave to grave and pay their respects. Once last thing I noticed in the cemetery at Sansepolcro was there were multiple ladders around the cemetery. They were there for the public to use when they come to change out the flowers. The ladders made it easy for the families to change out the flowers. I wonder if ladders were more prominent in American if people would stop by more often to change the flowers?
I had been dreading the visit to the cemetery because in America I have associated cemeteries with places of sadness. I was surprise at the amount of interest I had when I went to visit. The cemetery is a place of sadness but I feel like the Italians see it more as a place of respect and I like this perception better. In the future I would like to see more flowers in American cemeteries as a symbol of family and respect.
Entry 2: 6/12/11
Playing in the Street for Fabrizio
On Sunday, the Meredith Chamber Ensemble played in the street for Fabrizio. Fabrizio is a nice Italian man who owns a café across the street from the Palazzo. He and his wife work all hours of the day to keep the café in business. In his café he has an assortment of America license plates, including one from North Carolina. His café has been popular with former Meredith students, so he likes to get to know the new students when they come to town. This summer he found out about the Meredith Chamber Ensemble and asked us to play in front of his café. This was a concert we had not planned on playing when we arrived to Sansepolcro and we were honored to play.
I was very excited to play in front of Fabrizio’s café. He has been nothing but nice to us since the first time we walked down the main street in Sansepolcro. Fabrizio and his wife work day and night in the café to bring home money to support their son. I was glad we were playing in front of his café because it brought attention to his business for the length of our concert. I do not think Sansepolcro has very much string music in its culture. The first week we were here we saw a concert put on by students in local music school and they all played woodwind instruments. Since I have been here I have not seen or heard any form of string music. We had two major factors working in our favor, one, we are American and two we are mostly a string ensemble. We were supposed to play at 5:00 in the evening but we were running on Italian time. When we arrived at Fabrizio’s café the seating inside and outside was full. We had planned on using some of his chairs so we had to run back to the Palazzo to get chairs. Playing at around 5:00 was a good plan because there were lots of people out in the streets. It had been about an hour after the time of rest in the town and people were out and about. We set up shop right beside Fabrizio’s café in front of two doors. After we started to play I realized we were playing in front of someone’s house. I am pretty sure it was a home for elderly women because there were six or seven elderly women who walked out periodically during our concert. When they walked out of their door they looked surprised but did not seem mad or irritated. I was really expecting one of them to give us a look of disgust, similar to what you might see in America. Throughout their lives you could tell they had learned to be flexible.
Playing in front of Fabrizio’s café was the most informal concert we had given the entire time we had been in Sansepolcro. We just played most everything in our folder we had worked on since we had been here. At first I felt a little strange playing in the middle of the street. “What if a car needed to get by? Was this illegal in Sansepolcro?” At home my parents have tried multiple times to get me to play out in the street just for fun. I always would shy away and refuse to play. I was too embarrassed to play in the street at home. “What if people did not want to hear me play? What if they did not like the kind of music I was playing? What if people did not like my playing? What if there was another musician listening to me?” I would always come up with, “what if ” excuses. Playing in the street in Sansepolcro at first felt wrong and I started asking myself the same, “what if” questions I would at home, but as we started to play and more people stopped to watch I forgot about my previous excuses. The longer we played the more comfortable I became with the idea of playing in the middle of the street.
I was really surprised at the number of people who stopped to listen to us play. Not long after we arrived in Sansepolcro we played a shorter version of the same concert and not very many people stopped to listen. They would just look at us funny almost like, “What are you doing here?” and keep on walking. This time a number of people stopped and watched. At first there were not very many people standing in front watching us but when I turned around in my seat there was a whole large group standing behind us clapping. To see all of these people put a huge smile on my face. I noticed there was a wide variety in age of people who had stopped to listen. The older generation and the younger generation were both in attendance. Is made me feel quite special because from my IDS class I learned about some of the differences in the older and younger generation. For example, the older generation is more likely to attend Mass than the younger generation. I feel the younger generation is slowly trying to change some of the old ways so therefore they do not always agree on things. This is not just true for Italy. Many other countries are going through the same thing with their older and younger generation. There were also lots of families there with their children who were mesmerized by the instruments. Young children are always so curious. This is one reason why I want to teach young children how to play music. I love how each child responds to an instrument differently. Some will not come close to you with an instrument and others with walk right up to you and start trying to play with the instrument. In between pieces sometimes we would try and talk to one of the children and see if they wanted to see the instruments. I was sad to see none of the children had the courage to come up and see the instruments. Even though they did not want to come and see the instruments at least their ears were exposed to our music.
I realized as we were playing in the street that this concert had been the most fun for me since we had been there. I even enjoyed playing in front of Fabrizo’s café better than our concert on Tuesday in the gorgeous church. I believe part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was that the performance was so informal. During the school year I play in so many formal concerts it was a nice change of pace. I also liked the audience we played for. I have always enjoyed sharing my talent with others and especially those who do not have any connection to music. After a performance like that I feel like I had done a good deed for the community. I felt like on Sunday I performed a wonderful act of service to a community I will always have a unique connection with. Thank you Fabrizo for giving us this opportunity.
Entry 1: 6/10/11
Yesterday during IDS we went and visited Sansepolcro’s Museo Civico. The Museo Civico can be found in the center of town and takes up the entire Palazzo dei Conservatori. One of the main attractions in the Museo Civico is the art by Piero della Francesca. Piero della Francesca was born in Sansepolcro and worked here during his life. Because family was important to him, like most Italian families, Francesca would always arrived back in Sansepolcro after commission (Museo Civico). Although Francesca is the main attraction in the Museo Civico there are lots of other history rich artifacts from Sansepolcro to see in the museum.
I enjoyed our visit to the Museo Civico. I found the Museo Civico to be a nice balance of an art museum and a history museum. In the very first room we went into I learned about the beginnings of Sansepolcro and saw some of the art that depicted this story. It is thought that Sansepolcro was founded by two pilgrims would had returned from the Holy Land, Arcano and Egidio in around 1000. Arcano and Egidio had brought back a piece of Christ’s tomb and built a small chapel for this piece of the tomb. They named this small chapel the Holy Sepulchre. Sansepolcro grew from this small chapel into the town we know today (Sansepolcro Citta D’ Arte E D’Autore). In this first room my favorite paintings were of Arcano and Egidio. They each had their own picture but if you looked closely in the painting you could see the skyline of a town in the background of both of them. I am assuming that the town in the background is Sansepolcro. I thought this added piece of detail added a nice touch. I liked how the town was not easy to spot in the painting. The focus was obviously of Arcano and Egidio, in their respective paintings, but the founding of this city was important in their life so it was incorporated.
In the following rooms were the paintings of Piero della Francesca. The next room held The Polyptych of the Misericordia. In this room The Polyptych of the Misericordia was no longer in its original frame. There were originally twenty-three panels in The Polyptych of the Misericordia. The Museo Civico did a good job of trying to piece together all twenty-three panels. Each panel was set up approximately where it would have gone and there were multiple signs showing what the original layout looked liked. In the center was the painting of Madonna holding out here blue cloak. Under her blue cloak were people who had been faithful. I believe the opening of her cloak was representing her willingness to be welcoming. In this painting Madonna was much larger and taller than the others under her cloak. She was painted as the focal point in this painting. Supposedly one of the people under the cloak is Francesca. Although Madonna’s cloak is inviting I feel like her facial expression says something different, if anything at all. I noticed Francesca painted Madonna’s face without very much emotion. It looks as if the expression on her face was an afterthought, as if he almost forgot to paint her face. Her cloak is very interesting because it shows depth in the painting. Before Francesca a view would not usually find depth in the paintings of this time period. Around the time he started to add depth to his paintings it became a more common thing to see. By adding depth it makes the paintings look more realistic. I also noticed many of the backgrounds of the twenty-three panels were painted with gold. The color scheme of The Polyptych of the Misericordia was focused around the colors gold, red and blue. These were the three main colors used in The Polyptych of the Misericordia.
One of Francesca’s most famous works is The Resurrection. Sansepolcro uses The Resurrection as their claim to fame. It depicts the risen Christ after he has been crucified on the cross. At first I was amazed at the state of the painting. It seemed to be in great condition. I was surprised at how vibrant the colors still were. I thought it was neat how the colors behind Christ were tones of gray and lights blues so that Christ would stand out more in the painting. Francesca succeeded in making Christ stand out more in the painting. While I was looking at the painting I noticed the mountains painted in the background. They were barely visible, but I was able to pick them out. Two things bothered me about this painting. One of which involved the men lying underneath Christ. I was bothered by the fact that I could not tell if they were dead or sleeping. They could have passed either way. Of the four lying underneath Christ there was only one that I was sure of his emotion. The man in the green was weeping. The other major issue I had was once again the emotion on Christ’s face. There seemed to be no particular emotion depicted in his face. I would have thought in a moment as great as this you would want Christ to have a distinctive emotion in his face. The painting overall was wonderful but I was disappointed in the lack of emotion, specifically in faces. This could be said for almost every work in the Museo Civico. S. Giuliano was one of the only works I saw that had a good amount of emotion in his face.
Downstairs in the Museo Civico there was some history from Sansepolcro. There robes from former priests, a large variety of keys and locks, and other artifacts from Sansepolcro. I was fascinated by all of the different keys and locks from the town. Many of the locks were ornate and the corresponding key was just as ornate. In particular I liked looking at the different keys. Today in America keys from a distance all look pretty much the same and use a notch system. The keys from Sansepolcro were different. They all had a different design on them to keep their house safe. I was quite intrigued at how detailed some of the keys were. There were also two out of display that I got to use as if they were still on a door. Being able to use two of the keys made the experience even more enriching.
Overall I was very impressed with the Museo Civico and the works of Piero della Francesca. I wish there was more emotion on his character’s faces but the usage of depth was amazing. There were not many artists at this time that was using depth in their art. This in and of its self is mind-boggling. It was also nice to obtain some background and history about Sansepolcro through some of their important artifacts.
Museo Civico – Pamphlet from the Museo Civico
Sansepolcro Citta D’ Arte E D’Autore – Pamphlet from the Museo Civico