[student, Rome Sketchbook course, Spring 2013]
As the semester has gone on, I've noticed a pattern in the places we've visited. Many of the figures represented hold and have placed with them various objects or even animals according to their position or social status within either the Church or other organizations such as the military or government.
I've started to realize that, after some research, writers such as the four Evangelists are shown holding scrolls of their works or books and pens, sometimes even the animal that symbolizes them. This was seen mostly with different sculptures of Luke at Saint Paul's Basilica. Saint Paul holds a sword, which was the intsrument of his death by beheading. Clearly, weapons of various sorts, whether it be a sword or a large club, have different meanings behind why they have been symbols alongside certain people.
Though seen at Saint Paul's Basilica as indicating the beheading of Saint Paul, swords have very different symbolisms from statue to statue. In the Centrale Montemartini museum I found a sculpture of a military figure, possibly a high ranking officer of the Roman army, represented as Mars, holding a sword. He had himself represented in a certain way in order to have people relate him to the glory of war, very different to the significance of Paul's sword. At the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore there is a statue of King Phillip IV of Spain, represented as a warrior with a sword in one hand and a sceptre in the other, and a helmet at his feet. Within Santa Maria Maggiore, figures have many different symbols representing religion, such as giant crosses, high status hats and chalices. There are multiple statues of figures holding religious symbols. There is a statue of Faith holding the instruments of the Eucharist, Clement IX's Papal tiara and a cross. She is one of the few women I've found holding religious objects within a church. In San Giovanni in Laterano there are many men holding crosses or have objects with crosses on them, such as Saint Thomas and Saint Phillip. Church members vary which objects they want to be represented with according to what they are most known for.
A common religious image in Roman Catholic churches is the series of the Stations of the Cross, which represent the events of the Passion of Christ. Comparably to the Stations of the Cross, the Bridge of Angels also interprets Christ's last hours with 10 sculptures of angels all holding different objects representing moments of Christ's suffering.
Within the Basilica of Sant'Agnese fouri le Mura we see multiple representations and variations of symbols in the hands of certain figures or associated with them. The history of Saint Agnes is that she was a pure virgin dedicated to Christ, but was burned when she refused to marry a nobleman. In the apse of the basilica she has a halo above her head, holding a scroll of sorts, and at her feet two burning flames symbolizing her martyrdom. Either side of her are two Popes, one being the original builder of the church, holding a book in his hands. I thought that it was most likely to be the Bible, as a symbol of his dedication to faith, contrary to most figures represented with scrolls or books which represent their intellect. On the other side of Saint Agnes is another Pope holding a model of the church we see today. So as we see it, in this basilica, there are non-traditional representations of saints and Popes, holding non-traditional objects. Although these seem significant enough for them to want to be remembered with. In a chapel to the right of the apse is a painting of Saint Emerentia. She is holding stones in her right hand, representing her death by stoning, and a palm branch in her left hand symbolizing victory as a martyr. As seen through the many symbolic objects accompanying each statue, we can conclude that, depending on the person and place, they all have very different meanings. Each object or symbol is a prop for the person being remembered, as they want to be represented, usually in their most glorious moment. As the semester comes to a close, I realize that I could not explain each and every drawing I made, with a large variety of symbols, because each and every one has a specific importance with what lies at their feet or in their hands. Whether the symbol be a symbol of war, victory, religion, or intellect, each varies across sculptures, paintings amnd mosaics, in order to have a specific nobleman, warrior or saint be remembered with an object of their interest and importance.