Every good student of Latin roots knows that "necro" means dead, and "polis" means city. I made sure my 7th graders knew that!
The well-heeled of Milano collaborated to produce a truly magnificent necropolis. My traveling companions were not of the same "Let's pitch tents and camp here for a few nights!" mind that I was, but they did give me 40 minutes. To each his own...
On a brisk January day, we had the place to ourselves--that is if you don't count the thousands of lingering ghosts...
Think opulence. Think loved ones left behind grieving. "Oh, if only we could erect a 4 million lire monument to Cousin Guido! Perhaps we would assure his place in the eternities! At least it will make US look better, right?"
So the family meets with a sculptor. They discuss the many merits of Cousin Guido. Certainly he deserves the best. An idea sprouts in the sculptor's head as he simultaneously measures, tabulates and quietly ka chings...
Lest my cynicism overtake my artistic self, I hasten to add that I was enraptured by the sculptures. Enraptured. They were so touching.
but occasionally a surviving loved one and the sculptor were spot on.
to poignantly moving
to pensively fierce and captivating, they spoke to me, one and all.
"My name is Carlotta Rosina Bertotti. My husband Rotelli and I met on a park bench after Mass one spring day. He moved me into the house of his mother, and she taught me to make perfect ravioli. Eventually Rotelli and I moved out, but we continued to grow the family bakery into a substantial fortune and brought seven children into that home--all raised on that ravioli. I was so so tired. Now I am lying here resting. Rotelli is at my feet."
"I am Maria. I was a child bride actually--my married life began at 16. The years before that event are so vague and fading. Was I ever a child? Now I lie here remembering--the children, the sickness, the hours spent praying in church. What did it really mean after all?"
"When you walk by me, what do you see? A woman? A daughter? A friend? I never knew the love or touch of a man. I married Christ as a young girl of eighteen. My life as a nun took me to India and China and back to Italy. When I chose to leave the order, the scandal was almost unbearable. The monument you see before you is the result of my father who, as a last act of compassion, forgave me as I lay on my deathbed, dying of the fever."
"You look upon me, visitor, with perhaps pity. You are alive, and you contemplate me here--a permanent resident of this city of the dead. I too walked in your shoes, and you as well shall one day gaze out from the inside of a tomb."
I enjoyed my solitary saunter through this park.
It was a pleasant continuation from our morning at the Last Supper.
Forty minutes just whetted my appetite.
I could have used another hour