Then we were led around by our guide to look at this statue and that picture (and, interestingly, none of the pictures you see in the church are paintings, but rather mosaics, that look like paintings), and eventually I did my usual wandering off on my own. You’re drawn ineluctably toward the colossal dark bronze canopy that looms over the main alter, directly under the dome. In a way, the canopy doesn’t seem to go with the rest of the décor, which is heavy on the white marble, the gold, the classical paintings (i.e. mosaics), the colored marble on the floor, in the niches that contain all those statues. To me the canopy looks positively oriental, like a Chinese pagoda.
Like the inner domes of the Duomo in Florence, and the one in Siena, this one is beautiful, with panels of painted saints and other religious folk curving up the dome, separated by narrow stripes of gold stars against a dark blue background. I’d learned by this time that the “stars of heaven” are a favorite theme of church ceilings. And of course, as always, there’s the cupola at the top of the dome, with a hole giving you a view into “heaven” beyond.