Vacation Vatican Marginalia (Mmm… Marginalia #78)

I’m still on vacation in Italy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pop in with a little Monday Medieval Marginalia for you all.  OK, make that a special Friday* edition of Monday Medieval Marginalia.**  Yesterday we touristed the hell out of the Vatican, which is a roiling sea of guided tour groups this time of year bumping into the art and each other as if having tacitly agreed to help demonstrate Brownian motion to people hiding on the ceiling.  At the head of each jostling, meandering group is a guide holding aloft an umbrella, or a colored scarf, or a plastic rose, or a fern, or (most often by in my recent experience) just a dirty faded rag on a stick.  And that reminded me of this gem from the lower margin of a MS held at the British Library (MS Royal 10 E IV):

And we’re walking, walking, walking, stop!***  Now, look here, you can see the Pope’s medicine cabinet.  Pope Lando had this built originally for to take a bath inside, but it turned out too small and Sixtus the Second had it made into a place for medicines because he was incontinent.  Now you are to follow the head, yes?  We’re walking, walking, walking, walking, and stop! Helloooo, my group, look where the head is!  This is where you are to be, follow the severed head on the pole.  Yes, we are all here.  Now, you see.  You see this is where the Michelangelo painted for the Pope a much fancier medicine cabinet.  The figure on the left, eh, in the blue, you see, yes, the bottle of mouthwash, that is Michelangelo self-portrait!

And so on.

*Friday was the plan, then I hit my hotel’s overly-restrictive firewall which I finally realized how to get around.  (Hooray for .edu VPNs!)
**Late is the new on time.
***I realize the people in this image are on horseback.  Clearly, when medievals visited the Vatican as part of their one-week package tour of historical Rome they rode their horses.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • flipsockgrrl

    Patronising my local burger takeaway's drive-through service whilst on horseback is perfectly acceptable, so I don't see why the Vatican would take exception to a mounted tour group.

  • Sheryl

    I remember my tour of the Vatican. A lot of it was under restoration, and what wasn't was closed off for some meeting or other. So my tour was more along the lines of, "Walking, walking, stop! Beyond these closed doors is some fantastic architecture, but the room is being used by beings far more important than you, so just fantasize, peons. Walking, walking, stop! That scaffolding is obscuring some lovely art being cleaned/restored/etc. to be even better; don't you wish that you had saved this trip for any time other than now? And here, you don't get to see…"

  • Scott Marlowe

    I forget what our tour guide was holding, but it was no way near as interesting as a severed head.

    @Sheryl We had much the same experience, but not at the Vatican. Many other places, though. It seems they are in a perpetual state of restoration. Someday, they'll finish, but then they'll just have to start over.

  • lilburne

    I'm sure you need a bit of swooning with a severed head. Ok not quite Medieval (Amiens 1531) but Gothic nonetheless.

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