Jul 20, 2009

The lost photos - and a lost place

For the girl who snaps and snaps like there is no tomorrow, nothing can be more distressing than a broken camera mid holiday. But then again my Canon IXUS was almost five years old, and in all fairness, I had really put it through its paces. It fizzled and froze and steamed in protest at all the overworking, three weeks into my trip to Rome. Unfortunately, it also fizzled the day after a very long bus trip around Lazio...so long that that one day, I had decided it was too late to upload my photos. I didn't even go through and review any of them. Figuring that changing the CF card and/or battery would fix the snapped snapper, you can imagine my dismay to see "DATA CORRUPTED" in tiny text on the tiny (5 years old, remember) LCD screen. And, following on from this heartbreak, I'm sure you can also imagine my delight upon discovering that Michael's Camera World could indeed extract the precious images from sad old Mr Ixus. Ahhh, it was an oldie, but it sure did take a good photo and the days shots are no exception. Rome roadtrip #3's itinerary doesn't sound that interesting - just some villas and a monastery, so what - but when you combine the day's wild WILD weather with the eerieness which resulted from us being the only visitors at each respective destination, well, let's just say 'atmospheric' does not do it justic at all. Particularly moving was the monastery of San Benedetto in Subiaco (Italy that is, not the suburb of Perth). The entire monastery complex is clinging to a remote mountain cliff and was built around the cave that Saint Benedict lived in as a hermit for three years before establishing a monastic community. San Benedetto was last on our itinerary, and we arrived just as the late winter afternoon was turning into night. The monastery itself was deserted, and from the minute you step inside, there is a feeling of having also stepped back in time, or more accurately to a place where the concept of time doesn't really exist (the twenty first century certainly doesn't exist at San Benedetto). Every wall and ceiling has been frescoed by the monks who have lived in the monastery over the past 1500 years. As we progressed further into the Lower Church, the sense of being in a sacred space increased, and at the heart of the complex, in sacro specco, the remains of the cave St Benedict lived in, I felt an overwhelming sense of smallness against the grand scale of a) time and b) the world itself. I am aware of how prosaic and exaggerated this all sounds, and maybe writing this is discrediting me as an academic a little. But nonetheless, this is how it felt to be in such a sacred space, so far removed from modern secular life. It was quite possibly the highlight of the whole trip (yes, the highlight of an art-trip was a monastery, as strange as that may seem), and I consider myself lucky to have had such an opportunity.

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