Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thursday, October 13, 2005

High above and deep below and The bones

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:36 PM
In the morning we went up to St Peter's cupola. Oh, what a site! All 4 of the evangelists right above the center altar were now up close to us and we peeked down into Bernini's horrible canopy.

Tv es Petrvs et Svper Hanc

back of statues above St Peter

Out on the base of the dome we got great views of the piazza and the back of the statues. I've never been above St Peter's before and this was truly a wonderful experience to see Buonarotti's dome so close. After been high up on St Peter's, we went deep down below the Vatican, even lower than the crypt and the Basilica's foundation, the ancient necropolis. The Scavi tour was guided by a priest in-training, a young man from the Penn diocese who was doing his seminary studies in the Vatican. The scavi story started with Nero burning Rome and blaming it on the Christians and subsequently torturing and killing them right here on this hill. Peter was among the ones crucified and his body buried in a shallow grave. We walked on 1600 years old narrow cobblestoned streets with mausoleums on both sides. Later the Christians built a retaining wall and a simple Aedicule with 2 marble columns and a hole so that faithfuls can drop their handkerchieves down to touch the relics. Much later still Constantine built a more elaborate Memorial and subsequent popes added more memorials right on top of Peter's tomb. It was hard to imagine a sky above our heads and painted buildings in this dark underground place. Some mausoleums had nice frescoes and the tombs and sarcophagi (fresh eaters) were nicely decorated, some with roman/greek motifs and one building had egyptian paintings on the walls. Then we finally came upon the graffiti wall and behind it, the remains of the trophy of Gaius or the aedicule, with its 4 feet tall marble column. A hole was cut on the wall that revealed 17 glass boxes and inside them St Peter's bones! Right there the group paused in silence and the young to be priest offered a prayer. A lady in the group cried silently. It touched the core of my heart though I'm no longer a believer. It was a moment to remember and certainly the high point of the entire trip. This tiny place was not only significant to the Catholics but also a highly historical and archeological site. Aside from Israel, where else offered that much? Back up on the grotto we went by John Paul II tomb quickly. My favorite pope!

Later in the afternoon, we wandered across the St Angelo pedestrian only bridge to cross over to the other side of the fiume Teverre (Tiber river) and came upon piazza Navona to admire the fountain of the 4 rivers (Nile, Plata, Danube and Ganges)

the fountain of 4 rivers - Piazza Navona

and at dusk we visited the Pantheon, a first time for the Hippo. Such an awe struck building. Enormous columns and magnificent dome.

the pantheon at night

Around the corner we had a most satisfying meal. After dinner we went to the Spanish Steps in the piazza de Espagna and then to the Trevi fountain and back to our hotel, passing the St Angelo castle at night.

castel Sant'Angelo at night

Piazza di St Pietro was lit with Michelangelo's dome in back lights. Our last night in Rome and what glorious sites we've witnessed and what enjoyable company I had. Surely this time Rome had left more fantastic memories than ever before.


Tommaso said...

I sure do agree with you on the emotional/spiritual nature of the "Scavi" tour beneath the basilica. I am no Christian; much of the theology and morality of the Bible does not ring true for me (despite the best efforts of Augustine of You-know-where to reconcile Catholicism with rationality). And yet as we were clambering around deep beneath the basilica, across the same ground that Peter walked, was an awesome experience


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