When we exit from the amazing Vatican corridors to enter out into the Cortile della Pigna (Courtyard of the Pine), the sunlight stings our eyes at first, the sunshine so delicious we instinctively turn our faces to bask in its gently warming rays.
Facing into the courtyard are a range of façades, all with varying architectural influence. But our eyes are immediately drawn to something shining, brilliant in both senses of the word, in the centre of the square.
It is the sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro that catches the eye, and maintains our attention, perched in the centre of the Vatican piazza. A bronze globe, cut out to revel an inner sphere, with jagged mechanical teeth-like innards, this amazing Vatican artwork, in all its greatness somehow manages to humble us. It reminds us that for all our advancement in the world, we are still hosts upon this planet that is greater than us, stronger than us. A world whose mechanisms we can never fully understand, and can never even come close to controlling.
Our great Vatican tour guide takes us around the square, explaining many fascinating details about the wonderful courtyard artworks and architectural styles. But it is the central sphere that pulls us in, as if equipped with its own gravity.
The guide takes us to the Arnaldo Pomodoro statue and explains a little about its place here, before doing something amazing. He goes up to the statue and with a bit of muscle, pushes the sphere so it spins on its axis*!
The microcosmic sphere orbits, flicking sunlight as it turns and turns. We stand silent, awed into a reflective state by this magical experience here in the Vatican.
Today marks what would have been the 81st birthday of Arnaldo’s brother and fellow-artist Giò Pomodoro, and so we wanted to pay homage to Giò and Arnaldo, two of Italy’s greatest modern-day sculptors. (Pomodoro, incidentally, means ‘tomato’ in Italian.)
Where Michelangelo sought perfection in recreating the human form, Giò and Arnaldo Pomodoro sought to create more abstract art, nearing it’s own perfect beauty based on geometric forms. And in fact, both Pomodoro brothers are considered to be among the 20th century’s greatest sculptors of abstract art.
Testament to the greatness of the Pomodoro brothers is the presence of this work by Arnaldo in the Vatican. In the Vatican, you find one of the (if not the) world’s greatest collections of art, displayed in a holy location that is one of the must-see locations for all visitors to Italy.
Inside the Vatican are works by the who’s-who of artists throughout history, including by Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titan, Nicolas Poussin and Giotto. Then there is of course, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, with the space between the fingers of Adam and God being so eloquently described by our high-school art teacher as being the most important space in the history of art, a notation so precise that after all this time and much further study, it has never been forgotten.
Here in the context of the Vatican that has forged history, controlled politics, battled wars in its name, and accumulated one of the world’s greatest and most fascinating collections of artworks in history, somehow this work by Arnaldo Pomodoro reminds us that nature (or in the context of the Vatican, God) is greater than any man-made thing. Whilst the history of what is today’s Vatican dates back to only a few centuries A.D., but some of the artworks being much much older, it is still but a speck in time in the context of the history of the world itself.
And this makes our time in the Vatican all the more amazing, to see what humans have created in the relatively short amount of time in which they have been upon this sphere, this globe whose inner mechanics, yes, are greater than us but upon which we nonetheless manage to found such amazing architecture, create such wonderful art, and form and follow such intriguing social and religious organisations.
The Vatican offers us an insight into much of this, an amazing display of the greatness of man, and yet also his frailty.
Regardless of your belief, your passion for art and architecture, or your interest in scholarly history, visiting the Vatican and exploring this must-see sight in Italy is one of the best things to do not only in Italy, but in history itself.
Giò Pomodoro’s stone and bronze works can be seen in Ales in Sardegna, Frankfurt (where his Goliath statue reigns large), in Torino, Tel Aviv, Genova and beyond. In Florence, there is Giò Pomodoro’s “Sole per Galileo Galilei” (Sun for Galileo Galilei) in Piazza Poggi in the Lungarno Serristori area (across the Arno river from Florence’s historical city centre). Standing around 9 meters in hight, Giò Pomodoro created this bronze sun to pay homage to Galileo with its fascinating contrast of shadow and light.
Arnaldo Pomodoro’s works can be found in Milano, Copenaghen, Brisbane, Dublin, Moscow, California, Los Angeles and beyond.
Join our guided small-group, skip-the-line tour of the Vatican to you can see more classic artworks in the Vatican Museum with a great tour guide, and enjoy skip-the-line Vatican entry too.
To explore Rome’s amazing historical city centre packed with great historical must-see sites such as The Coliseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Vatican and much more, we have small-group Rome guided tours with a great tour guide.
For a guided city walk of Florence, we have the Original Florence Walk, a great guided tour of Florence with an expert tour guide, including visits to two of Florence’s oldest buildings, and tells fascinating stories about their amazing history. Many other must-see sights in Florence are also covered in this guided city walk tour.
To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence (and Tuscany), Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more. You can also email us on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
* Our expert Vatican tour guide has been granted special permission by the Vatican to do this. If you do not have such permission, expect to have a whole new Vatican experience with the Swiss Guards who may seem nice enough in their striped bloomers for a uniform, but really, you do not want to mess with them so we advise, please do not try this for yourself!