More from my organist friend Steve, who leads off with a confession:
As I was attaching the pictures, I was surprised to discover that I only took pictures of the organ. Sorry about that. . . ..
The day after Assisi, we had Mass at 8AM. We walked to St. Peter’s, and followed Bishop Finn to the Sacristy. The sacristy here is about the size of a 500-seat church with multiple side-sacristies radiating off it.
One thing that we came to recognize is that the Church in Rome tends to move at it’s own pace. This was pretty clear as I sat waiting at the organ console for someone to bring the key for me to open the instrument and prepare for Mass. The key arrived one minute before the beginning of Mass. Needless to say I played most of the Mass in a state of high anxiety, and did not feel like I was “Praying the music” until the middle of the communion hymn.
Mass was held at what is called “The Altar of the Chair”.
If you look at a picture of the interior of St. peter’s, and look beyond the columns holding up the canopy over the Papal altar, you’ll see the holy Spirit window. The window is not glass, by the way, but translucent alabaster. Anyway, beneath the window is an altar with a massive gold throne mounted above it. The throne serves to house a relic that is purported to be the chair of St. Peter himself.
The organ sat between the Main altar and the chapel of the altar of the chair. I think it serves both the main Basilica, and the chapel behind.
Just to give a sense of perspective . the “chapel” area behind the high altar probably seats over 1,200. The Philadelphia family and friends may be familiar with St. Martin of Tours Church on Oxford Circle. There would be room in this chapel to fit St. Martin‘s inside, and still have room to walk around it.
The organ was in good shape. I was comfortable enough by the closing hymn to find the horizontal trumpet stop, and used it for a verse of the hymn and for a postlude.
After Mass, we got in line and spent the morning in the Vatican museum (with several thousand others . . .) I used the free afternoon to discover how well I could navigate Rome using public transportation, and was actually pretty pleased with myself for not getting lost, and not getting my pocket picked. The picture of the cats in the ruins was taken during this wandering. These ruins sit in a commercial/residential district in the middle of Rome. It is so good that they survived urban redevelopment through the centuries.