Spirit of Italy - Florence, Oct. 7, 2007

October 12, 2007

Spirit of Italy: Florence – Oct. 7, 2007


Fifty members of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, led by Bishop Beverly Shamana, engaged in Spirit of Italy 2007 – an inaugural event for the Conference as tour members visited 8-13 locales “to be stirred by God’s heart of creativity while building and deepening relationships as the Body of Christ,” in the words of the Bishop. Tour member experienced the art and architecture inspired by the Christian faith of Italy’s world famous artists, including Da Vinci and Michelangelo.


Among those taking part in this “spiritual journey of a lifetime” were Bruce Pettit, a member of the Conference Communications Commission, and Chuck Myer, who served as editor of the Connection. They agreed to file a series of stories about their experiences along the way.


In this entry, Bruce helps us see Michelangelo’s “David” through new eyes.


By Bruce Pettit


This is the city of David – Michelangelo’s magnificent sculpture, “David,” that is. It is breathtaking, depicting the moment of tension just before the shepherd boy steps forward with a slingshot in his left hand and a stone in his right to encounter Goliath.


The Rev. Sue Berges, the pastor of Ely UMC and McGill UMC in far-eastern Nevada who brought four parishioners here, set the scene for us this Sunday morning on the high Piazziale Michelangelo – which offers a panoramic view of the whole city of Florence.


“God gave David what he needed. He was a young person totally trusting God. When he met Goliath, he said, ‘I have God on my side.’” Later in his military career, David mourns when his enemy is slain. His compassion made him a popular leader, said Rev. Berges. The message is, “God gives you what you need so you can do what He needs you to do.” The compassion and strength of David has endeared him to many cultures, Rev. Berges said.


Down into Florence the 51 of us on tour with Bishop Shamana headed to the city center – to the Galleria dell’ Accademia, where the original David has resided for a century. The Galleria dell’ Accademia was founded in the 18th century to gather many works of art for students to imitate.


The David stands 15 feet tall. Our guide, Stefania Iacopozzi, explained that the statue was commissioned by the Florence Cathedral in 1501, and Michelangelo let no one see it until he was finished three years later. But when it was unveiled, the cathedral leaders, though seeing its genius, thought the statue unsuitable for a house of worship.


Not because David was naked. Renaissance artists were imitating the classic traditional depiction of male warriors. Rather, it was unsuitable, thought the cathedral, because the religious nature of David is not depicted. In the tense moment, there is no sense of the intervention of God for strength. “David seems to look to his own strength rather than God’s.” So the statue resided in the political setting for nearly four centuries.


Our group noted that David, a Hebrew boy, was uncircumcised. Stefania said that is because Renaissance artists are not concerned with history. They depicted the Bible with culture with which they were familiar. Another example of such unconcern in the Galleria dell’ Accademia, is the painting by Alessandro Allori of Mary’s annunciation. Commissioned by a noblewoman, it is set in a 16th century bedchamber.


The religious center of Florence is the nearby Piazza Della Signoria – encasing the bell tower, the baptistry, and the cathedral. These are the three principal buildings of many medieval town squares, Stefania told us. The cathedral in Florence is the fourth largest Christian church in the world, she said, after Rome, London, and Milan. Its copper-colored dome – 140 feet in diameter – dominates the Florentine scene. Support for such a massive dome required innovative Renaissance engineering, with an inner dome supporting the outer dome.


The baptistry is an octagonal building. Seven sides represent earthly life – as in the seven days of the week. The eighth side represents eternal life. As the Renaissance discovered more about the science of perspective, the art of the baptistry became a study in artistic relief.