Basilica studies

I returned to St. Peter’s today. My third visit. I’m struggling with the idea of the hidden tombs below the floor, buried within Vatican Hill, exposed (but not) to the east (the Niche of the Pallia), centuries of other shrines and altars burying it, encasing it. Rising floor levels. The paradox that the thing that is there (Peter’s bone fragments, body, faith) can’t be seen or experienced. The thing that is there, both there and not there.

Like the “scavi” images from yesterday, I’m seeing these studies as maps. Graphic images to document the place. Because I took the necropolis tour on Monday, I know the relative position of the hidden tombs, where they’re located beneath the floor inside the basilica, and in elevation as one approaches up the Vatican slope. This is my documentation.

I went up into the dome today too, to look down on it.

But I can’t photograph “it.” The story is written: burning curiosity, discovery, mistakes, Popes, holes, inscriptions, the red wall, the missing feet, the coins, the mouse. I was determined to find the surface or the object that would allow me to fix on the place but I’m coming up with nothing.

Then I saw the people. Moving all around me — blocking, gesturing, approaching. “Do this in memory of me” — bodies still activate the puzzle. Desire lines. The perfect paradox. The stand-in for the unknowably sacred: complete obstruction. Film stills from a film that can’t be seen. Title: Anamnesis (here and here).

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