November 7, 2014 – Aquileia

John is writing the first part of the blog today. Slow internet response makes the writing and uploading of pictures very time consuming. So he’s writing a bunch of stuff and then mailing it to me. All I have to do is paste it in and upload pictures. And, of course, write this lengthy explanantion.

John writes-
Ten years ago, we visited Aquilea. It was summer and really hot. Today it’s not hot but it’s threatening rain. We plan to see and do many of the same things we did ten years ago. If the rain holds off, that is.

First we go to the Patriarchal Basilica. It’s been built and rebuilt many times since its beginnings immediately after 313 AD, with significant parts remaining from each era. The main church is really all about the fourth-century mosaic floor. We walk on raised transparent walkways over portraits of men and women in Roman dress, all kinds of land sea creatures. and allegorical scenes.

Patriarchal church in Aquileia
Patriarchal church in Aquileia

Overview of interior
Overview of interior

There’s one of a rooster (symbol of Christianity, the “Light of the World”) battling a tortoise (symbol of Evil, name in Greek means “Lives in Darkness”).

Good and evil about to battle it out
Good and evil about to battle it out

Then there’s Christ as a young shepherd tending his Mystic Flock of all sorts of animals.

The good Shepherd
The good Shepherd

We also see a large fishing scene that includes episodes from the story of Jonah, symbolizing death, resurrection and ascent to heaven.

Fishing scene
Fishing scene

The altar area is blocked by scaffolding, but we can see off to the side a relief of Christ flanked by Peter and St. Thomas (presumably Becket) of Canterbury. (They all seem to have large ears.)

Manny, Moe and Jack
Manny, Moe and Jack

After the floor, we go down into the Crypt of Frescoes, which tells the story of the martyrs of Aquileia, most notably saints Fortunatus and Ermagora. These frescoes were painted in the 11th or 12th century, and include scenes of the crusades on the lower panels.

Into the crypt
Into the crypt

We’re able to go into another crypt, which includes excavations showing the floor of the original 1st-2nd century Roman house on which the church was built, the early 4th century floor one meter higher,a later 4th century floor a meter higher than that, and the foundation for the 11th century bell tower another meter or so above that.

An earlier rendition of the tortoise and the rooster in the excavation crypt
An earlier rendition of the tortoise and the rooster in the excavation crypt

We finish the complex with a visit to the baptistry which has been converted to a museum.

The peacock which symbolizes resurrection from the Baptistry
The peacock which symbolizes resurrection from the Baptistry

Mary writes –

After we finish at the cathedral we stop by the Paleo-Christian museum. We saw this the last time we were here but now we have ten years worth of knowledge about early Christian art. But it’s closed. Only open on Thursdays. Bummer.

Closed Paleo-Christian Museum
Closed Paleo-Christian Museum

Time for lunch anyway. We head over to All’Anfora, a pizzeria and restaurant that we ate in the last time we were here. Our last foray had us ordering a pepperoni pizza only to find out when it arrived at our table that pepperoni means peppers in Italian. It was a very delicious pizza with peppers but not what we were expecting at all.

I order a cheese pizza and John orders a pizza not listed on the menu. “Possible pizza con salsicci e cipollini?” he asks. “Oh, si, si.”

We are presented with two giant pizzas. Way too much. But the crust is so yeasty, so elastic, and has great char. It is hard to not to eat too much. This is like the pizza of my youth.

John and friends with a sausage and onion pizza
John and friends with a sausage and onion pizza

After lunch we spend some time in the National Archaeological Museum. Most of their exhibits come from the Roman funereal sites around Aquileia. Aquileia was the 7th largest city in the known Roman world. So there are lots of relics.
Funereal sculpted head looking a lot like a young Abe Lincoln
Funereal sculpted head looking a lot like a young Abe Lincoln

John didn't get the memo that toga was not optional
John didn’t get the memo that toga was not optional

John says the guy on the left is signalling slider while I think it's a Wall St. tip to buy two
John says the guy on the left is signalling slider while I think it’s a Wall St. tip to buy two

It is getting dark and time to go back to the hotel. There’s no chance that we are eating dinner tonight. In fact, I think we’ve only been out to dinner one or two times since we started our vacation. Lunch takes care of dinner too!

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