Santa Maria Sopra Minerva


santa maria sopra minerva


Marble is stone, haunted.

Quiet as the columns of the vault

I removed my hat, in solemn reticence;

I felt the daylight hush as I approached

The unkissed interior of the basilica.

My warmth was ushered out by a deathly hand,

And marble is song, echoed.


A lady in blue, with child, asked me to leave

Or cross my heart and hope to die.

How still and pale was her command.

I turned to leave, my footfalls skipped like stones

And I’m the echo, haunted.



This is T. S. Eliot all over, in form and theme. But it’s predominantly about a Catholic mindset which haunts me still. You could say that I am a recovering Catholic. I can’t enter a basilica without feeling a quiet guilt, a sense of repentance, and a divine presence. 

Whilst travelling in Italy as a student I was drawn to the inspired, dreamlike churches much like a moth to a flame, or a convict to the scene of the crime. The awe and majesty, all that opulence and artistic design, was tempered by something intimate and cold. 


6 thoughts on “Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

  1. Your venture into Catholicism seems to be held like a scar you wish you never had… But think of how it may have shaped you as a person… Perhaps even set you up for adopting new mindsets. I’m a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are, which means you can look back on all of your experiences and find positivity within them.

    To almost quote one of my commenters metaphors, imagine yourself as a snowball on the top of a mountain. As you roll down, you grow, picking up entirely new pieces if snow that expand on the piece before. In this way, each experience is as necessary, and as beautiful as the next.

    That said, I love this poem. The structure, the imagery… Very well done. You posess a rare talent that I wish I held myself, you bugger! Keep it up!

    • Cheers Gary: really appreciate it.

      I am actually really grateful for that strange Christian past of mine. It has informed my philosophy, my art, my aesthetic, my relationships, my worldview. It’s beautiful in its own way. I appreciate its flaws just as fully as its virtues, though.

      I’ll try to write a response to the Theme Exchange in the next day or two, things have been hectic this weekend but I will get there soon!

  2. Dear James I keep coming back to this poem, as it enhances my so recent time in Rome and the majesty of this basilica. Lovely to read aloud. Would sound gracious in Italian?

    Marmo e pietra, ammaliente. Silenzioso come le colonne delle volte Mi sono tolto il cappello, in reticenza solenne; Avvcinando l’interiore sbacciante della basilica Sentivo la luce del giorno diventare sommessa. Il mio calore era uscito da un mano mortale, E marmo e cantare. rieccheggiava.

    Well, a first attempt, which alerted me even more to the subtlties of the the language. More later. Much love, Gran


    Sent from my iPad

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