Siena

True beauty takes your breath away. It makes your heart beat irregularly and your eyes swell with tears. You cannot talk, you can barely think. The only thing you want to do is sit and stare. Your eyes literally lock themselves onto the subject as if she/he/it held your face towards it always, even as you rotate around it, as the earth to the moon. These times of radiant, magnetically attractive beauty are not limited to art by any means (somebody out there with big hazel orbs for eyes knows what I’m talking about), but in so many cases what man has created, not only what nature has provided us, affects the viewer in such a way. The Duomo at Siena was one of those creations

And isn’t that the point of art, to hold the person captive by the all encompassing power of the work? Is that not the sign of something Plato might call the form of art or the form of beauty? And for so many of these works there is an universal appreciation of the beauty; of the attraction and therefore strength which the piece holds over us. It is not limited to “art” people. It can be understood by all and enjoyed by all even if only at the basic level that we all cannot rip ourselves from the passion such pieces invoke in us. In terms of art, this has only happened several times to me, in terms of nature many and it terms of man, once. But she can be discussed in our own private terms in our private thoughts (for honestly no matter how stunning the art of man, the beauty of love will always hold more attractive power), and for now I’ll return to the Duomo.

Honestly, I had no idea what awaited me on my solo day trip to Siena yesterday. I had been forced to take the trip on my own because next Friday, when our class is taking a trip there, I’ll be happily on my way to Madrid to reunite with a certain bear. But, by myself I lacked the guide or, more importantly, the teacher from whom I would find my way through the city and navigate it’s fairly ancient wonders. I knew very little, except that I would be responsible for the Duomo, the Museum del Duomo and the Palazzo Pubblico (which I failed to find). I woke up in the morning, told the Italian teacher that I would no longer attending, something she had noticed previously, and made it to the station by 11:10 when the train departed. I had no map of Siena and no idea of the city since I had never been in my life. But confident in my ability to figure my way as I went I began my adventure.

The train took a by longer than expected with a delay likely caused by the throng of high schoolers who swarmed the train, filling its aisles with loud, hormonal teenagers, each in combat to be the alpha of the group. Actually, quite the interesting experience. Once I arrived in the city of horses (just making that name up, not sure if it is accurate at l), I purchased a map, which turned out to be almost entirely unnecessary except to make me realize that I could not walk to the city center; a bus would be necessary. Any bus would take me to the center, as I found out from the same woman who sold me my map, so I went in search for these buses. The first bus driver was not heading to the city center. He told me to go “in sotto,” which I knew meant underneath, but he pointed sort of over his shoulder towards the other side of the piazza. I wandered over to discover no sort of bus stop in the middle of a pedestrian square. A bit confuddled I almost went back inside to ask once more but figured I could ask once more. While waiting I happened to look across the square and make out a sign that said bus to city center this way (in Italian). I strolled over and laughed. The bus stop was literally underground, “in sotto,” I get it.

I remembered which bus took me in centro, 19, and then proceeded to follow the clear signs towards the campo (around which the yearly horse race is staged) and Duomo. It could not have been more clear to me in which direction I had to travel; thanks map! My first impression of Siena was its age. I felt as if I had been transported from the largely 19th century Florence with ancient buildings mixed in, to a city stuck in the past, one that has felt no need or desire to remodel in nearly 500 years. The campo itself was relatively unimpressive. It was a wide open space with a dirty fountain on one end and the town hall (a massive, fortress looking building) on the other. Cool, old, moving on.

Campo Santo

I headed towards the Duomo which from the outer appearance seemed as just another cathedral, but then I stepped inside and my breath cut short. The floors were not floors, they were marble art. Instead of a simple marble floor as many other cathedrals have, this one was part of the magnificence of the church itself. As much as the rest of the cathedral drew one’s eye upward and sideward, the marble reliefs depicting biblical scenes in what seemed mythic representations, drew one’s eye downward. Nearly every inch of the floor was covered in this fantastic design, while the walls themselves were floor to ceiling filled with extraordinary paintings, frescoes and carvings. My heart began to pound as the overwhelming force of the church overtook me.

Some may call this a spiritual encounter and they would be entirely correct. But for me spiritual is not otherworldly. I did not feel the presence of the power of God, but the power of the potential of man. If man can create such wonders what holds us back from achieving other marvels such as peace or justice? In all honesty that experience of seeing such beauty brought about the hand of man gave me more optimism than almost any other event in my life. Still, I realize the impossibility of the perfection of man, but such brilliance can do nothing but inspire confidence in the animal that is man. That is the power of beauty, that is the power of art; that it defines and extrapolates the deepest emotions of humanity so that the viewer feels that which the artist meant to represent….

The most exciting aspect, and one of the coolest things ever if you ask me, about my day was that I booked a trip to Istanbul!!!! Cannot wait for that!

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