Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Last Full Day in Rome -- Day Seven

We started out our last day in Rome by taking Bishop Allen Shin and his wife Clara Mun up to the "keyhole" -- the same one we found the day before. 
We also took some time and went into the Church at the Monastery -- definitely worth the second walk up the hill! Here is a picture of the statue outside the front of the church -- it is of St. Benedict.

Steve and I bid the Shin's "see you later" and we headed down the hill to walk to the Coliseum. We were so glad we had purchased our tickets the day before -- the line to purchase tickets for the Coliseum was almost around 1/2 of the Coliseum! The line to ENTER the Coliseum if you had purchased tickets was MUCH shorter -- we were very grateful for that. 

When we finally got in (it took about 10 minutes of making our way slowly up the queue of people), it was a SEA of people on the inside. Climbing the stairs there was a challenge for me -- the height of the stairs was a bit much for my short legs, especially given the current state of one knee (which I injured right before I left for this trip) and my cane. I made it though!

We spent about 1 1/2 hours walking around the Coliseum -- much of that time was making our way through the crowds. During my chemo treatment I have bad memories of being anxious in crowds. It's subsided greatly, but is still there a little -- so being around that many people, being "squished in" to places just to see was quite disconcerting!

It is interesting the reactions people have to being there. There was part of me that was very uneasy in the space -- thinking of people being hurt, or people or animals being mistreated in some way. I said a prayer for those who may have been injured or lost their lives there.

We headed out and got some lunch -- it was at a little place on a small side street not far from the Coliseum. We knew we had to head back to catch our tour with the Shins and the Hodges-Copples in the afternoon, so we were hurrying! It didn't stop us from having yet another pizza -- this time it was a vegetarian pizza!
We also had an encounter of the close kind with the Italian Postal System. Needless to say, it was neither fruitful nor helpful -- we will have to mail our Rome postcards from Paris!

We caught up with our friends and were picked up at our hotel and driven to the "meeting point" to start our last tour in Rome -- a tour of the catacombs, the Church of St. Mary Maggiore (a formal tour, we had done this "on our own" a few days earlier if you will remember, and St. John Lateran and the Holy Steps.

We started out at the Catacombs and met our guide, a Salesian Priest from Australia. He brought us to a room and gave us an overview of the history of the catacombs. This is just one of many catacombs in the area -- and over 500,000 people were buried here.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the catacombs. We walked through long narrow corridors where many bodies had been buried. Many of the graves were ransacked in earlier centuries -- what you see on the wall behind the priest are fragments from some of the grave coverings. Inside we saw whole walls filled with these fragments -- marble, terracota, etc. -- they were broken through, left in ruins, and the graves were ransacked.

A good number of Popes and martyrs were buried there, including St. Cecilia. Many of the bodies of the Popes had been moved to other areas, including St. Cecilia. This was a most excellent tour, and very well worth every moment. The priest shared with us that they kept digging deeper when they needed more graves -- so that's why some are very high in the walls. They kept digging down, lifting the dirt up and out through shafts. It is 15 Centigrade with high humidity all year round in there.

The Romans respected the dead, and so for the most part left the catacombs alone, which left the Christians able to worship secretly down there. It didn't stop the Romans, however, if they suspected something was going on, from going down, pulling people out trying and exectuing them on the spot.

We said goodbye to our Salisian friend and got back on the Appian Way back to within the walls of Rome. 

We headed to St. John Lateran with our guide. She was quite knowledgable, and informative.

For example, just as with St. Peter's Basilica, the Basilica of St. John Lateran has a Holy Door -- when the special Jubilee year of Mercy is begun the Pope will open that door as well, and the indulgences offered for that year apply there as well. We learned the same is true at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. On the other side of this door is a wall with a cross on it -- it will be broken open (the seal broken) when the year of Mercy begins in December.

The inside of the church is beautiful! Here is the Pope's chair in this Basilica. 

Among the treasures near this church is the Holy Steps, which according to tradition, Jesus walked up to go before Pontius Pilate. Helena, the mother of Constantine, brought these back from the Holy Land. Please devotionally pray on these, going up the stairs on their knees.

We headed over to St. Mary Maggiore, which we had toured a few days before on our own. We were so happy to have a guide this time -- we found out so much more informaiton. Just as with St. Peter's Basilica and the Basilica of St. John Lateran, this Basilica also has a Holy Door. Again, there are four in Rome -- all will be opened this year.

We then took a tour of the inside of the church. Not only does it have an interesting history, but what is found within it is historically significant (or at least should/could be). Among the treasures housed in this Basilica is a reliquary containing what Helena, the mother of Constantine was told was part (all?) of the cradle that Jesus was put in.

In addition, the famous artist Bernini is buried there. 

We got back into the bus and were dropped off by the Spanish steps.

We took what seemed like a long-ish walk to get there, but we found it. It was closed off so you couldn't walk on them but we got to take a picture and be in this very busy plaza. 

It was a very long day, but so gratifying. To walk in the steps of history not only fed my heart but it fed my soul. I feel as though I have a new strata to preach in and from. I also have a burning desire to read Roman history in depth!

We ended our last night in Rome at a restaurant very near to the hotel. We are tired but energized -- how can you not be in this most beautiful city? A city where mission and ministry is happening to address the needs of those who are there today, especially by our own Episcopal Church, when history is surrounding you?

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