Rome, A Character Study: The Lonely Nun

1 (esp. of a person’s tastes) including a wide variety of things; all-embracing. Universal.
2 (Catholic) of the Roman Catholic faith.
• of or including all Christians.
• of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church.

I took photos of two individuals while in Rome this past February, 2012. Instead of simply throwing my photos from my trip online without context, I decided to grab a handful of photos and examine them closely. I wanted to discuss these two individuals at length, and why I decided to take photos of them when I did. Here is the first part: my lonely nun.

I always like a good photo of a nun or two while in Rome, and the reason should be a bit obvious, but I found this lone nun a fascinating photo opportunity.

I was waiting in line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica and climb the duomo with my gf, when I spotted the lone nun above walking through the piazza. The thing is, she looks so alone amongst all those young Italians just hanging out, or the multitude of tourists snapping photos or waiting in line. But I needed to give that more thought.

The last time I was in Rome (2003-04) my friend hosted a guided tour of St. Peter’s, and from him I learned that the surrounding columns are shaped so as to mimic the metaphorical, all-embracing arms of the Catholic Church. Thinking upon this, I wanted to reconsider my first evaluation of this nun’s loneliness. She was alone, but it was a rough judgment to say lonely. How could a nun possibly feel lonely in Rome? Much less in the Piazza San Pietro. The reason I took these photos is because her singularity caught my eye, but was it not also because I thought there was some aesthetic dissonance in her walking alone? I recalled the first definition, listed above, of Catholic from my GRE vocabulary building exercises (I know, silly) and at first I thought her singularity amongst the many was some sort of soulful incongruity; as though it was not a personal assault on her as singular individual (everyone needs time alone), but a representation of what Catholic was supposed to be, e.g. all-encompassing. And I thought there was some dissonance with this image.

But I now think I am missing the point of all-encompassing. I am not a Catholic. I was raised Protestant, and I respect each individual and their religion. But I imagine that Catholicism, thought of as all-encompassing, is something that does not leave someone even if they are alone. That’s the point, right? God, Catholicism, Belief, these thoughts do not leave the faithful. In other words: that nun was not alone. Nor is she. I don’t believe I was in error in my first approach, nor for my initial reason for taking the photos, but I was ignorant of what this person may feel, think, and believe. I was ignorant that she was, at that very moment, in the arms of her God, and therefore, never alone.

What do you think? Have an opinion on this aesthetic dissonance or the representation?


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