The Art of Faith
It’s almost impossible to avoid churches in Italy. They’re everywhere. They’re art; they’re landmarks; they’re history. They’re an intrinsic part of the culture.
It’s no secret that Italy has countless beautiful churches. Sweeping marble floors, tiled mosaic walls, elaborate tabernacles, golden trimmings, intricate frescoes, monolithic sculptures, grand spaces, open courtyards. They contain so many minute details, you could spend a lifetime studying them. And although this post features several churches, it isn’t quite about architectural design.
If you know what it’s like to walk into an awe-inspiring church, you may be familiar with that feeling of solemnity and humility…and perhaps of being compelled to pray. If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, then you already know I’m in this weird life stage where I feel like I’m stumbling around a dark room trying to find some life direction. Comfortingly, it helps to talk to some greater being who doesn’t tire of listening to you running through the same arguments and doubts, who doesn’t get exasperated with your flighty self, and whose omniscience doesn’t need a thorough explication of your perpetually flip-floppy thoughts.
I grew up in a religious family. As I saw more of the world and gained different perspectives, however, I struggled with some aspects of religion. Although I’ve never lost my faith, it has often taken the beat-up backseat at the far end of the party bus. In Italy, however, religion is inescapable – especially in Rome, where churches comprise a significant portion of tourist locales and Vatican City is just a few metro stops away. Additionally, there are many religious institutions near the city center, so it’s very common to come across members of various religious orders. You may even befriend a few.
I’ve walked into countless churches over the past few months. Grandiose, humble, ancient, elaborate, big, small, round, expansive, crowded, quiet. Lazio, Veneto, Toscana, and Campania. Sometimes, I walk in seeking art. Sometimes, I walk in seeking faith. Almost always, I walk out with a newfound sense of calm and assurance. Although churches are big tourist attractions in Italy, I wonder if it’s really just art I’m finding. Art, or faith? Art and faith? The art of faith?
Churches here are ubiquitous. After visiting more than I can keep track of, I find I’m a lot more at peace with everything. I’m sitting silently in a pew when I realize I’m now much more relaxed about what life will bring. What comes…comes, right? I’ll deal with it like I always have: one day at a time. Always with a smile. Always ready for unexpected possibilities. Ever brimming with optimism.