Even Rocky, our amazing art history professor, could not make Pisa that interesting. I’ve been there before and knew that which awaited us, but I feel bad for the rest of the group who expected something awesome, some mythical place stuck in time where a Medieval disaster turned into today’s wonder. Well, unfortunately Pisa is, to put it bluntly, a shithole. Unless you cannot bear to live without seeing one of man’s most impressive failures then avoid Pisa.
But if you do desire to see one of the world’s greatest mistakes then look at it, take some stupid picture and head towards the Campsanto (Holy Field) where the Pisani buried their dead for hundreds of years. In the hallowed grounds rests the remains of one of the most impressive pieces of post-black death art that I have seen. I say pieces because the fresco was damaged by a bomb during World War II when the Allies attacked the Germans who had encamped themselves in the beautiful graveyard.
This fresco depicts the utter hopelessness, depression, ingratitude, pessimism and despair of those who survived the devastation of the Black Death. With around 1/3 of the European population dying it’s easy to understand how the survivors could view themselves as doomed. In a world that predated scientific thought(outside of the Muslim and Eastern worlds) it’s hard not to imagine myself believing that Revelations had finally come true; that somehow we, as humanity, had sinned and God was executing his vengeance. The frescoes, done by an unknown painter, portray in horridly painful imagery the punishments for those who cross invoke the ire of God.
Interestingly the hell of this fresco is based on Dante’s depiction of Hell, which is really nothing more than a reiteration(though beautifully and more in-depth) of the Greek interpretation of the afterlife. In essence, it’s not of Christian creation at all meaning that those who feared the punishments of God in 9 unimaginable rings of torture were actually envisioning a Pagan version of Hell.
Another fresco, done by the same author, shows the emotional discomfort of those who were witness to the worst calamity in human history. The painter has an intimate relationship with death as he paints the same body in three successive coffins in three successive stages of decay. People’s faces in the fresco show the torture of trying to evade the sickness while Death wields his terminating scythe across the image. Death is inevitable, even for those who run. The only salvation is in God who will judge your worthiness in the afterlife.
Whether or not one has the inclination to believe in such stories these frescoes accurately portray human emotion making them powerful. Honestly Pisa might be worth the trip just to see them(and there are no lines since everybody is obsessed with that damn leaning tower!).
After Pisa I did nothing. The other two guys are in Rome and the rest of the girls did not want to travel with me outside of the city for dinner. We planned on going to Assisi Saturday so I had an early night.
I woke up at the specified time of 6:45(our train left at 8:02) to the knock of Abby who informed me that it was supposed to thunderstorm in Assisi and that we were no longer going. I went back to sleep, which only began the fail of a day which was yesterday.
I’m not going to bog you down with the details, but suffice it to say that I spent a majority of my day unnecessarily going to and fro places trying to accomplish chores. I gave up around 4 and lazed around my room until dinner.
Let me try to end this on an interesting, more though provoking note…
I’ve noticed that speaking a foreign language is all about confidence. On days where I don’t trust myself to speak, or days where I mess up a lot, I find it’s harder for me to formulate sensical sentences. But on days where I wake up thinking in Italian, I find that the words flow out of my mouth. It’s interesting how big of a role confidence plays in our lives; without it it’s hard to succeed. No mattered how talented or prepared one might be, without the self-assurance to accomplish whatever it is that you have set out to do is impossible.
Confidence, though, is a hard lesson to learn. Even with the knowledge that life requires one to be happy with himself it is often difficult, if not impossible, to gain that assurance. We find it easier to wallow in self pity or to not take risks because security is comforting. Confidence often necessitates that one takes a leap of faith; that he do something new and bold, something daring and adventurous. This in itself is scary, and it’s the fear that one overcomes with confidence. The fear of failure, the fear of making mistake, the fear of not performing; these are the tensions that hold us back from confidence. But if one stays in these self-recurring cycles of displeasure he will never have the ability to fully enjoy life or to entirely gain his true person.
In life so it is in speech, and this I must remember. Until I discuss Assisi my faithful readers…