TRAVEL

Looking Up

I am standing  in the Saint Francis Xavier chapel in the right transept of the Gesù, aka: first "baroque" church, 1584 and Jesuit HQ.  To be honest, I have never found the chapel very interesting aside from the arm of the saint showcased in gilded splendor as the chapel's centerpiece. The painting in the altarpiece is painstakingly dark and its subject matter ~Death of St. Francis Xavier~ seemed to be a rehash of the typical saint story: missionary work, fever and death, depicted as deceased saint with angels above.  The transept was designed by Pietro da Cortona which should alone merit ten minutes of inspection but the chapel's gilded decoration has always been a bit too heavy for my head.  In other words, I usually do not give this vault the time of day.

I look up.   No, I do not have a change of heart.  Nor am I blown away by Giovanni Andrea Carlone's beautiful frescoes.  The gilding is far too distracting for my mind. Instead, I am looking for a crab upon the suggestion of a friend who stumbled across the St. Francis Xavier tale.

Legend: while sailing the straights of Malacca and caught in a tempest, Francis prayed to God but dropped his crucifix into the sea.  When Francis and crew finally reached land, a crab appeared holding the lost crucifix to Francis who blessed the animal thus creating a new and rare breed of cross-marked decapods.   I spot him in the vault (can you?)-  suffice to say, a crab appearance in high art makes me chuckle.

St. Francis Xavier eventually became the patron saint of sailors and sadly, this morning becomes the day of the  Costa Concordia's evacuation and capsize.  Over the next two weeks, I  peruse newspapers hoping to find news that lost passengers are found, environmental ruin will be avoided and proper blame/punishment/aid is instituted.  And more and more, I read about disaster tourism- a kind of travel rubbernecking where tourists pose for photos while emergency units scramble to help.  Human nature?