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Icons and Threads

Ok, so I’m just back from a little break in Florence, a deeply Catholic city with over 100 churches. Whilst I’m not Catholic or in fact at all religious, it was easy to get swept along with its iconography. As well as the many religious works of art in the Uffizi gallery and the Accademia, it is almost impossible to not curiously pop your head into one of the numerous churches, if only to escape the summer heat for a few quiet, contemplative moments, only to be struck by its beauty and majesty. We witnessed (from the outside) a diaconal ordination at the Church of Santi Michele e Gaetano which looked to be a joyous occasion, full of goodness and love, and a surprisingly cool vibe with sunglasses, Panama’s, cigarettes and I’m pretty sure there was champagne once the official photos had been taken. We were standing in an upmarket part of the city, next to the Hermès store with Gucci and Ferragamo just along the way, no poverty here, yet the somehow, acceptably, the balance was tipped by this jolly crowd of the newly ordained with their promise of celibacy, prayer and obedience, their path set with palpable relief.

Photo from Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest

But back to the reason we were in Florence…to see iconic paintings and sculptures until now only read about in history books. To stand in front of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and La Primavera, Caravaggio’s Medusa, Giotto’s Madonna Enthroned, and Michelangelo’s David, are moments I will never forget. It’s almost impossible to believe that these masterpieces are the real thing and not replicas, for so long they have been set to memory on the pages of a book. Perhaps I should not be surprised that so many people want to remember the time they saw an iconic piece of art by taking a selfie with it, personally, I don’t get it. I’m not the main event in this scenario so I should not be in the photo, right? My daughter and I sat chatting amiably for a significant amount of time on the curved bench behind Michelangelo’s David, ear wigging the conversations of the passing crowd and likely photo bombing the selfies by virtue of just sitting and observing this magnificent yet ever so slightly out of proportion fellow, particularly his right hand! We wondered just how many poses one woman was going to take with herself and the sculpture, every shot a tilt of her head or a leg angled slightly to the left or right, just when we thought she’d moved on, she was back, amazonian and pouting. It amused us! Perhaps his symbol of courage and physical power meant something more to her than a post on Instagram. Perhaps the fact that he has on occasion courted controversy for his nudity? His stance, ready to slay Goliath is admittedly a bit louche! Nevertheless, to sit with this sculpture and enter the world of the reportedly autistic Michelangelo was fascinating to us, and so many others. It suggests we have witnessed something very special indeed.

Over the weekend whilst thinking of our wonderful little escape last week, and now coming back to reality and the workload, I discovered yet another procrastination tool in Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform Threads. Right up my street surely? It’s called Threads after all?! Naturally I joined up because it was made all too easy via Instagram (whilst posting my non selfie reel of Michelangelo’s David) I find Elon Musk’s Twitter a truly hateful place where keyboard warriors say whatever the hell they like, and if you dare to retaliate or defend yourself in any way then you are slammed or cancelled or whatever…I have no clue?! I am only interested in the good, kind, helpful and hopeful people of this world, so Threads had better live up to this ethic or I’m out. The Threads v Twitter thing did get me thinking about followers though. Those we follow, why we follow, who we are prepared to listen to, and to engage with? And then back to the Florentine renaissance paintings of Jesus and his apostle’s. Who would be the 12 people whose words I engage with on social media? The people that make me laugh, that make me think differently, that encourage me to carry on being creative, that are the creatives whose passion is infectious, the people who observe life’s idiosyncrasies, and those that care about preserving nature in their own quiet yet impassioned way. They aren’t necessarily ‘celebrities’ but they do, I think, have an integrity which can’t be faked. They are the real deal, like the paintings and sculptures of Florence, however, for a few of the better known, there will always be those people who will dive in for a selfie with them…and there goes the head, tilted, knee at a right angle, filters on!!!

Who pops up on your social newsfeed and why?? I’d love to know!

I’ve realised while thinking about this, that there are many people who post on social media that are my dear friends, who I see in person as well as on their newsfeed…so here are a few you may have heard of, and whose newsfeeds pop up with regularity on my various accounts:

Reverend Richard Coles…always at the top of my list and not because he’s a reverend.

Anita Rani

John Bishop

Keith Brymer Jones

Patrick Grant

Alan Titchmarsh

Grayson Perry

Richard E Grant

For a more informed account of David:

Here's a snapshot of last week...note; there is one selfie but absolutely no icon!!!


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Pat Addy
Pat Addy
Jul 11, 2023

Thank you for such a thoughtful, unapologetic, personal tour of Florence. I almost feel I’ve been there and seen the wonderful icons and statue of David myself, other than in books of course. Yes, you’re right, there’s a lot of unkindness, even cruelty in this world but important we strive to find the reverse and practice it ourselves. I often question if I could have been kinder to folk in my daily life, with regret it’s sometimes too late. When your path seems a little rocky, close your eyes, and imagine you’re taking a short walk with the wisest person you know, it’s surprisingly cathartic.

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