It is hard to explain the degree to which being speechless, not able to speak the language of the place, filled me with a strange kind of shame. Language itself has always been both my inspiration and my favored tool of war. Stripped of these weapons, I found myself ducking my head, as I stumbled over the phrases necessary to the buying of daily bread. What saved me was the visual drama of the city. I was quickly one among the multitudes of verbally dexterous, but non-Italian speaking travelers to have been struck dumb by the skies and stones of Rome.
I had always loved architecture; it had been a compelling reason for my rapid and desperate choice of Italy as an escape destination. On first seeing Borromini’s broken façade at the Oratorio adjacent to Chiesa Nuova, I suddenly felt a tremendous sense of relief that my flight could offer real solace.
What I found so moving was the sculptural longing–evident in the undulating surfaces of the disrupted classical façade—radically new, yet still evocative of its origins in the land of shattered Roman pillars and capitals, where mangled marble heads and torsos lie scattered about the city.