Thursday, September 17, 2009

Satan at the Stoop

Last Sunday was the second time I had stopped in at San Paolo fuori le Mura (St Paul Outside the Walls). It was an unscheduled visit because originally the plan had been to spend the afternoon at the Museo di Civita Romano in the EUR. The area was built with the intention of celebrating 30 years on fascism with a grand exposition but left incomplete because of the war. The buildings are Fascist architecture at its most grandiose - colonnades, broad flights of stairs and monumental decorations. The whole area is saved from sterility by the greenery and surrounding - unkempt - park lands. And we had plenty of time to wander around because as we discovered the Museo closes at 1330 on a Sunday and we arrived at 1300 - duh! name one other museum that closes on a Sunday afternoon?

Since it's on the subway line back into town a quick decision was made to combat the sterility of the buildings of the EUR with a baroque break at San Paolo. I won't go into the story of the Basilica as I've already written about it here. But as always a return visit to anything here is more than worthwhile, you always see something you've missed on a previous visit.
Such as this elaborate Holy Water Stoop outside the Chapel of Saint Benedict. As an innocent child reaches to dip his hand in the stoop Satan recoils from the blessed water.
The child is fairly generic for the period, though he has particularly muscular legs for one so young.
But it is the Satan that fascinated me - he could almost be a satyr or faun from antiquity. The musculature is that of a young athlete or a sculpted angel.
But he is a fallen angel. A tail curves around his lower body, his feet and hands are claws and his lush curls are parted by horns - all sadly blunted by time.
And though he cowers before the stoop there is no trace of anguish or revulsion and from certain angles he looks almost Pan like. The face bears no trace of Satanic evil and is rather handsome in a Roman way.

It is not a major work and is considered so unimportant that I could find nothing in any of the published information or online to reveal who sculpted this or when. Still I found the concept and execution more interesting than some of the more noted adornments that surrounded it.

For a virtual tour of San Paolo fuori le Mura go here.

18 settembre - Santa Sofia


Anonymous said...

Loved it Will. The link to the virtual tour is spectacular. It got sent on to all the people who were on the choir tour in 2006. Now I'm trying to find virtual tours of other churches we visited by visiting the Vatican home website.


David said...

I love San Paolo fuori le Mura, and especially the cloister, but don't you think the EUR skyscraper is rather striking? It makes a superb set for some of those Alan Cummings scenes in Titus, Julie Taymor's hard-hitting film.

Anonymous said...

Hi Will this is Fr Vince from Florida...Love St Paul Outside the Walls...I have celebrated Mass in the St Benedict Chapel


hmm, is it just me...or do he not look like a young george w bush?...
ok..maybe not..