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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Venice and beyond

On our last full day in Venice Lane and Jasper and I took a boat to see San Giorgio Maggiore, a cathedral on its own island. We were particularly taken by the magnificent choir, all hand-carved in walnut in 1598. The workshop of Alberd van der Brulle was credited, as was Gaspare Gatti, but surely several nameless craftsmen were responsible for turning out the perfectly carved columns and figures.

That's the story of Venice. For all the master painters like Verocchio and Giotto there are countless other craftsmen capable of sublime work whose creations live on, even if their names do not. No one (and don't believe Currin), I mean no one, can paint or carve like that in this age. Those skills got been left behind somewhere in the 18th century.

From the choir we found our way to the bell tower, where you can take in an amazing view of Venice and its neighboring islands.

We took the vaporetto to the Redoute stop on the island of Giudecca, a less touristy, more residential part of Venice. After a brief turn through the grocery store near the stop we followed some winding streets to find a few surprises.

And we found a playground!

What a happy coincidence for Jasper -- and he'd so earned his playground time. In case someone, someday, googles "playgrounds in Venice" or the like, walk away from the cathedral past the Cafe Redentore and turn on calle San Giacomo. That will turn to calle de la more, which turns to calle de le Cape, which turns to calle dei Frati, which leads you to a waterfront park with a playground (facing away from Venice). It's much simpler to get there than it sounds. Really.

We returned to Venice proper to see the Ca' Rezzonico, a museum which holds 18th century art. It was refreshing to step out of the Renaissance for a while and see works from another time.

Following that I stepped into the breathtaking Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. There you can see Titian's tomb and his Madonna de ca' Pesaro painting, Donatello's John the Baptist sculpture, an almost sculptural Madonna with Child painting by Bellini, oh it just goes on and on. The Frari is regarded as the greatest repository of art in Venice -- among the churches, anyway.

It was in the Frari that I realized I was missing my glasses. Away I ran, back to the Ca' Rezzonico. Lane stayed with a napping Jasper at a cafe while I tried to find my way, map in hand, regretting how passive I'd been with the navigation earlier. I had to ask about 20 people for directions but I finally found it... closed for the day. It's not for nothing that I've become a pushy New Yorker; I rang the bell and very sweet guard let me in. We poked around the bookstore with no luck. Then he stepped into an office and there they were. Oh I love Venice!

Our last morning we made a brief tour through the Ca' Pesaro, which holds modern works as well as a curious Asian collection. A prince took his young family on a tour through the Orient at the turn of the century, collecting as he went along. His arsenal of weaponry seemed excessive to me, but there were some interesting pieces among the rest of the collection. One was a screen painting of a royal procession -- of little mice. And there was a lovely cabinet inlaid with stones, shells, and butterflies instead of the usual mother-of-pearl.

We were on our way to the train station when what to our wondering eyes should appear but a gondola, and six candy-throwing Santas!

Then we were on the train back to Geneva. Over the past few weeks I had been telling Jasper the story of the Nativity. While in Italy I'd pointed out nativity scenes and when he asked, filled him in on a few highlights of the mission. I told him Jesus taught people how to be nice to each other and then mentioned the water-into-wine story (particularly relevant to our own lives) and the Lazarus story, and then ended by telling him that some mean people didn't like Jesus and killed him. But then, after he was buried, Jesus became alive again and went to live somewhere else (we haven't introduced the concept of heaven yet, heathens that we are).

Jasper disagreed with this narrative. No, he said, I think Jesus killed the bad guys and then buried them and then turned them into water, and then into wine. Then he said, "I wish I had that book." Don't we all.

Later Jasper pretended to receive a package from Fex Ex. He opened it and -- what a surprise! It's Baby Jesus inside! He and Lane fed Baby Jesus mashed-up spaghetti and meatballs.

So there you have it: the Gospel According to St. Jasper. Jesus is a vengeful man born from Fed Ex who recycles his oppressors into wine. I'm going to your church, Jasper.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful post AGAIN! I can hardly believe you've caught your breath after all of that beauty. You truly have superhuman strength.

Anonymous said...

Sign me up! I want to go to the Church of St. Jasper, too!

Mary Ellen said...

I hope the Church of St. Jasper also has the Sacrament of the Candy-Throwing Santas. I like the idea of an ass-kicking Jesus, too.

Anonymous said...

I want to start saving my pennies so I can go back to Venice! I was only there for one day as an 18-year-old. I spent more time eating gelato and getting lost than doing anything quite so fascinating. I love your commentary.

I love that St.Jasper. What a character.