Dear Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza:
I couldn’t wait to see you for the first time. I studied you in class that spring and learned to love geometry in architecture because of you. You seemed larger than life when I was learning about you halfway across the globe. I had plans – plans to study abroad in Italy, which meant I could actually see you in person. I was excited to see the Vatican and the Coliseum, but not as much as I wanted to see you!
I remember when I tried to visit you the first time. Most churches in Rome are open to the public during the day and I often slipped away from my school to visit a historic church or two during the siesta. However, I found locked doors upon my first visit. With a little online research, I learned you were open selected Sunday mornings. My weekend getaways to Florence, Venice, and Torino had to be scheduled in a way that I could still visit you.
Sunday, June 4th, 2006 was the day. After obsessing about you to my fellow classmates, I easily convinced a few friends to join me on my visit. I could hardly contain my excitement!
I walked inside the large wood doors and instantly looked up. I knew what I’d find and seeing it for the first time rendered me speechless. The white ceiling covered in raised reliefs allowed the architecture to shine. No murals or colored paint was necessary. The light pouring in from the windows bounced off the ceiling. I craned my neck to see every single detail. My photos could never do you justice. I took a few snapshots to remember this perfect space.
After a minute, I sat down in a pew in silence, trying to soak in every detail. I remember your wooden pews were simple, in two short rows, facing a non-memorable altar. Your ceiling was the real star of the show. As I think back now, nine years later, memories of your curved walls and ornamental ceiling will stay with me forever.
You taught me that great architecture can last the test of time. You inspired me even though you are over four centuries old. You taught me that great architecture should be preserved for future generations to understand the ways the built environment influenced culture of its time. Although I am not sure I will ever return to see your walls, I take comfort in knowing they will be there, long after I am gone.