We've been walking most of the day. After all, we're not here long and there's some things that have to be seen. Like the Coliseum, for example, what with it being just over the road and everything. We got there early and were inside when there were only a few people there. It was a cool, clear morning and we were both soon shivering. Partly from the weather, but mostly because walking around that ingenious piece of engineering for more than a few minutes the purpose of the place becomes oppressive. This intricate and wonderfully constructed object is very large, very complicated gallows. It's the place where an oppressive empire executed thousands upon thousands of people. Criminals, prisoners of war, people of unpopular faiths, political enemies of the emperor and people who happened to belong to enemy nations all died here in ways designed to prolong their pain and to provide a spectacle for the masses who assembled, free of charge, to watch. There was no mealy mouthed passing of the buck here; no "I was only following orders". The emperor himself oversaw the planning of the "games" and their operation. Not that he was unpopular for doing it. One display is of objects the crowd dropped and left behind over the centuries: chicken bones, dice, needles, pips from fruit: the detritus of countless families who made of day of it, and packed a lunch for the kids before heading off to the circus. Poignantly a large cross has been erected in the spot where so many of our spiritual ancestors, women, children and men lost their lives. We are glad we saw it but glad that we saw other things in the course of the day.
More uplifting was to stand in the Sistine chapel, albeit in company with about two thousand others, and look upward at that ceiling. It is so familiar and there it was, with God in the middle of it, reaching out for Adam. God is on his cloud and he is straining forward, so far he is almost falling out of the sky. The angels struggle to keep him safely in place. His arm is taut with exertion as he reaches for Adam, his gaze directly at the man he has made. Adam by contrast rests on his back, glancing at his maker out of the corner of his eye. One hand is languidly flicked up to God, and just fails to make contact. Every fibre in God's being; all his body language and posture screams "Adam! Here I am! I love you!" Adams response is "Whatever..." It seems to picture the sort of humanity which can be enough inspired by God to paint a ceiling which will last for 500 years, or a building which will last for 2000, but still be ensnared enough in his animal ancestry to use his ingenuity for the torture of innocents.