Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shrove Tuesday in, and under, Rome

On Tuesday, I went with the university group to tour various churches in Rome. They were: St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs, Santa Maria della Vittoria, the Capuchin Franciscan Boneyard church, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, St. Agostino, and Chiesa Luigi. We also saw the Spanish Steps, the Embassy of Malta, the Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon. Of the churches, my favorite was Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, with its Gothic ceiling of dark blue set with gold starts. It is a Dominican church, and beneath the alter in a marble tomb lies the body of St. Catherine of Siena. Also there is the body of Blessed Angelico.

In Santa Maria della Vittoria, I saw the famous sculpture of St. Theresa of Avila in ecstasy, by Bernini. It truly is a remarkable work. In St. Louie's, I saw the paintings of Caravaggio. The Capuchin church adjoined a very strange crypt: the bones of hundreds of friars throughout the ages decorated the crypt. There were walls covered with skulls, and chandeliers made out of finger bones. I would rather not describe any more of it- you get the idea. It was a very strange place, and reminded of the Paths of the Dead in Tolkien's stories. The Capuchin church itself, though, was very nice, and we all were able to visit the tomb of St. Justin the Martyr.

Those were the highlights- these churches deserve more attention in my travel writings, but I unfortunately do not have time. After the tour, Liz and I walked back to St. Peter's Square where she joined the line for a tour of the Vatican Museums. I wandered around looking at shops until the time came for my Scavi Tour. The tour takes you under Vatican City to the necropolis, or city of the dead. St. Peter's was built by the emporer Constantine on top of ancient Roman tombs, which we were able to see on the tour. More importantly, we glimpsed the burial site of St. Peter. Archaelogists discovered during excavations in the 1940s that he is buried directly under the main alter of St. Peter's Basilica.

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