My plan is to immerse myself in this place, past and present. I'm limiting my reading exclusively to books about the city or written by Florentines. In particular, I hope to read Dante's "Divine Comedy" in its entirety, some Machiavelli, some Vasari, a little Boccaccio, study the Savonarolan moment (1494-98), and, of course, read up on the Council of 1439. For light reading, I've brought along a few of Magdalen Nabb's police procedurals, all of them set in the modern day city. I'm probably overloading my plate, but hey, there won't be a test at the end, so I can drop and add as I please. Some of my ruminations will inevitably end up here, but I hope for the most part to keep this a lighter record of sights and sounds. (I can hear my family breathing a collective sigh of relief.) Beginning with my next entry, I'll be posting pics and vids. Meanwhile, let me go take some...
Friday, October 17, 2008
You may ask yourself, "Well, how did he get there?"
One of the great blessings of my past few years as Chancellor has been the opportunity to accompany, for three of the past five autumns, a group of Orthodox Christian young adults on pilgrimage to Constantinople and elsewhere. On the first such pilgrimage, the Young Adult Department of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese arranged that we visit several sites of spiritual significance throughout Greece before traveling to Constantinople for two days. Two years later, I led another group, first to Rome for three days, then to Constantinople (New Rome) for another three. Last year, the group began in Constantinople before traveling to three cities in Italy with special ties to it: Ravenna, the administrative capital of the Byzantine Empire after the fall of Rome to the barbarians in the 5th century, and site of some of the greatest monuments of Byzantine architecture and art anywhere, some of it exactly contemporaneous with the Great Church of Haghia Sophia; Venice, where some of Constantinople's greatest art was brought back as booty following its conquest by Crusaders in 1204; and Florence, site of the last serious attempt at union between the Orthodox and Roman Catholics in 1439. Our group used Florence as its base during our time in Italy. We spent one full day here, then travelled by train or coach to the other cities during the remaining days, returning to Florence at night. I knew from the first morning that I would have to return. Everywhere I looked demanded my attention and exposed by ignorance. In the weeks, even months, following our return to the States from that trip, it would not be an exaggeration to say that, whenever my mind wandered, it wandered back to Florence. This will be an attempt to explain this place to myself and anyone else who might be interested.