We enter the cloister of Santi Quattro Coronati. I lounge in a rectangular garden centered by a fountain. This morning is really cold and windy. Luckily I find a spot to bask under the sun in. It warms me up but blinds me at the same time. Most of the class sits in shadows so. As I gaze around, I have a lot of difficulties seeing them and I wonder if they are looking back at me. Everyone puts effort into being as quiet as possible. People start to get up and move around. This adds to the noise because of the crunch of rocks beneath their feet. My heart quickens momentarily as an abrupt bell rings the nun to open the door. I’m now sitting in the shady side of the garden. It is noticeably cooler, but I can see much more. The fountain has two lion faces per side on the panel and their chins are being tickled by the reflected water below.
I love the numerous columns and arches. The architecture is simple but bold and leaves distinct shadows for the photographer inside me, to admire. The loudest sound I can hear is a single trickling coming from four spouts. I have trouble hearing four different streams of water; the most I can discern is two. As I walk by the fountain each flow of water hits the placid pool below and creates a dozen bubbles. The strangest thing catches my attention. The bubbles look cubic not spherical. I inch nearer to see them close-up. After a few seconds, I realize the reflection of the building looks like a rectangular block which made those bubbles look straight-edged as well.
As I enter Santa Maria della Pace, my first impression is the level of noise in this cloister. I hear murmuring echoing into the space from all sides. The sound of a synthetic out-of-date cell phone momentarily overrides the whispering. I glance around at the white columns and down at the cobblestone floor. It is black with four white lines converging to the center to make a large X. I look for somewhere to sit. I suppose the ground padded by Mark’s Italiadea book, will have to do. Hopefully my white skirt makes it through the experience. As I bend down to take a seat, a whiff of putrid sewer-stink enters my nose. There isn’t much to see or put in the small space. I wait a while, hoping for the quiet serene silence to come. It never does.
The atmospheres of these two cloisters have extreme differences. Santi Quattro Coronati uses the senses to impart the sacredness of their space and the peace associated with the church. The silence enhanced hearing. The sight of attractive architecture, a fountain, and well-maintained plants and paths pleased the eyes. And, fresh air from the open space let my nose inhale freely. On the other hand, the cloister at Santa Maria della Pace left me unsatisfied and annoyed. Hearing the sounds of others distracted me. The plain architecture with no central feature left my eyes bored with the space. And, smelling the sewage from nearby grates wrinkled my nose. I prefer the cloister of Santi Quattro Coronati much more. I feel empowered because the cloister alludes to a sanctuary. Contrastingly, Santa Maria della Pace’s cloister seemed like a muted down street. The magic of Santi Quattro Coronati lingers in my memory as a haven for the silent and a place I will revisit.