Today we met for class at the usual time, in the usual place, before venturing on to the Oratory of the Gonfalone confraternity. The Gonfalone are Rome’s oldest confraternity, established in the 1260s, and dedicated to the Madonna della Misericordia (Virgin of Mercy). The name of the Order, derived from the Italian confalone (meaning banner), refers to the prominent role of procession in the ritual practices of the Order. Confraternities developed in Rome during the tenth century as a congregation of lay men who wish to remain “in the world” (that is to marry, have children and work in their given profession) and yet still live a pious, religious life. The Gonfalone in particular were a flagellant confraternity who, from 1490 to 1539, processed to the Colosseum (from their oratory near the Campo de Fiori) during Holy Week and enacted plays depicting the Passion of Christ. In 1539, the play incited such fervor and violence in the spectators that they stormed out of the Colosseum and stoned to death both the actors who had played as Jews and Pilate’s soldiers in the play, and also Jewish citizens in the area. Paul III reacted swiftly and revoked the Order’s privilege of performing during Holy Week, immediately acting to prevent any further outbreaks. In any case, the Oratorio we visited is in the original location, but redecorated after a fire in 1555. The new altarpiece, surprisingly, does not depict the Misericordia, but the Crucifixion – and by a Spanish painter, Pietro Roviale Spagnuolo (Pedro Rubiales, the Spaniard), no less. The whole oratory was also decorated with 12 large frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Christ in high Mannerist style – one of few remaining examples from the brief period (ending in the late 1570s).
After class, I wandered home, stopped at the grocery store for more yogurt and oranges (two new foodie obsessions) and took a brief nap before our group wine tasting at L’Angolo Divino, right off the Campo. Ordinarily, I would start describing the epic wine tasting – but first, a brief interruption to discuss the meteorological situation in Rome at 16h00 on Monday, 19 April. It was pouring. It had begun by sprinkling delightfully against the bright, sparkling sunlight when I laid down for my nap. I woke up at 15h45 to huge, pregnant raindrops that were crashing to Earth with such force as to splash several feet up into the air and proceed to soak everything. 16h00, the rain lets up – only to be replaced by pieces of hail the size of fresh chickpeas. And then the rain resumed. Now naturally, I have to be at the Campo at 16h25 and it takes approximately 15 minutes to get there, and it is still hailing and raining like you wouldn’t believe. So, I don my Naot sandals, roll up my jeans, grab my umbrella and set out. Fortunately, five or so minutes from the apartment, the sky clears and the only sources of water are now overflowing gutters and flooded storm drains.
Now, the wine tasting. Administered by Massimo at L’Angolo Divino (the Divine Corner), we spent nearly three hours learning about Italian wine: what are the different classifications and why, how to quickly differentiate between regions, the three elements of wine tasting (color, aroma and taste), the four elements of wine tasting (tannins, alcohol, acidity and body) and how to properly test and taste wine. I’ll be honest, it was a wonderful experience but Massimo’s English was difficult to understand at times, and the conversation tended to be very technical.