Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Supreme Magic

After the excitement of the Mostra opening, one always experiences a bit of a dip, more releief really that the work is up, stayed on the walls and no-one threw rotten tomatoes at you. So it was a nice weekend but very quiet; I ended up doing my laundry on Saturday.

Sunday though, was a very special day. Rosslynd had heard about an event that happens every year at the Pantheon for Pentecost, when rose petals are thrown down from the oculus into the church. So Rosslynd, Peter, Alice and I set out early on Sunday as we were very keen to experience this.

Even at 9am there were masses of tourists inside the Pantheon and everyone was being turfed out for the preparations for the mass at 10.30am, so we had some time to kill and went to Cafe St Eustachio for coffee and buns..

This cafe is claimed to make probably the best coffee in Rome, I think they could be right...

There was again, the most enormous scrum of people waiting to get into the Pantheon and not for mass (it is a church!) I was actually beginning to wonder if this was a good idea after all.. It took an age for the service to get going and was very interesting to experience a Roman Catholic mass again. The last time had been about 30 years ago at a funeral in Newcastle.

First of all, it really is pure theatre; and it is so clever, as it is a theatre form which is totally inclusive for all levels of society. The Church of England could learn quite a lot from this, as so much of CofE works on excluding whole swathes of different people through their forms of worship (but that's for another time...).

Anyway, what was brilliant (and I mean intelligent brilliant) was that they started off with a marching band which was totally democratic and fun as it was proper oompah and then they sang Ave Maria with the oompah (which made me cry, I get moved at the smallest things) then there was plainsong and straight away you know that you are being messed around with emotionally just through the music.

Then the mass started properly and the setting then was a 16th Century Mass (might have been Palestrina but of that ilk) and intensely beautiful. That's how you get got..

And when I say theatre - I really mean it - check this out, the priest was talking about the Holy Spirit when this happened..

Thank you to Peter for letting me show his video.

Also the other really weird thing is that you find yourself responding (in song and in words) as those responses have been early learnt and ingrained...(for those of you who haven't seen my proposal for this fellowship, I underwent RC catechism at the age of 7..) As anyone knows who goes to Mass, there is a building sequence until the Communion, which is the climax. On this occasion though it continued to build. Everyone knew what was going to happen but I think we all expected something different - I had imagined that the petals would be pink but they weren't

and that they would float down gently and settle on the floor like feathers or snowflakes that is, silently

but as each one landed it made a sharp thwacking sound and not only that, when they landed on you, they were literally slapping you!

And the most surprising thing - at each thwack/slap - molecules were released, so that the whole place became filled with the scent of roses; as well as all that, there was the music. It was all quite overwhelming and intensely beautiful.

Here's a video which Rosslynd made - I thought I had video'd it but discovered that I had forgotten to press the button

Very soon there was a carpet of crimson on the floor

and everyone was laughing and delighting in it all (very like my one experience of going skiing)

I got covered

It was deeply serious but incredible fun all at the same time..huge pomp

If you know the Pantheon, you will know that it is terribly high and the Oculus is much wider than you imagine, approximately 9 meters diameter I think. Anyway it turns out, that it was all done with the help of the fire brigade!

Here's Peter thanking one of them after the service

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