You can't walk more than a few feet in Rome without running into another church - each more beautifully decorated than the last. But there is nothing the least bit "spiritual" about the effect. On the contrary: the overwhelming impression with which a guy like me comes away is that here, in Rome, the gospel's message of other-worldly austerity was quickly forgotten, and absorbed into a sort of neo-pagan competition for status among the great wealthy and powerful families: the Borgia, the Medici, the Barberini, the Farnese, the Pamphilj, and so on and so forth.
"Faith" has here become merely a vehicle for worldly display. All the symbols of humility and piety are grossly abused, in pursuit of...well, what, exactly?
There was one point where I almost got angry: in the magnificent Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where a colossal statue of Pius IX kneels before a reliquary said to contain a fragment of the manger...
Why, I asked myself, is this statue of Pius IX *colossal?*