Spending 5 days in Italy was a phenomenal experience. I could write three paragraphs about the Coliseum or the Pantheon alone. It was the collective experience of the three major Italian cities I visited, Rome, Florence, and Venice that was most interesting. In all three places I had the experience of being a Protestant in a Catholic’s world.
From opulent cathedrals to statues of saints and mosaics of Christ and the Virgin Mary, Italy has Catholicism covered. The gold and grandeur drove home for me the power that the church wields, and its historical importance in Europe. Despite growing up in a very different Christian denomination, I have begun to appreciate the role Catholicism played historically in the Christian faith. For a thousand years Christian Emperors and Kings not only defended the faith, but guided art and music through the dark ages, until they emerged triumphant during the Renaissance.
The church patronized great artists whose works are on display in Florence, like Botticelli and Michelangelo. They commissioned cathedrals that stand as the best examples of a multitude architectural styles, like the Byzantine Style embodied in Saint Mark’s in Venice. The Vatican also contributed significantly to maintaining order and stability in Western Europe during the Middle Ages, while Constantinople in the East defended the Christian West from a myriad of invaders for hundreds of years. Without these and many more contributions, Europe and the rest of the world would look very different today.
While I still disagree with some practices of the Catholic Church, I have a renewed respect and gratitude for their tireless effort in defending the Christian Faith, and much of Western Culture as it exists today. I will never forget Italy’s magnificence, nor forget the impact that the Catholic Church has had in shaping that magnificence.