Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Motorino Sightseeing

Yesterday I took the day to go sight-seeing (no I wasn't skipping class!  They don't start till next week!)  Sightseeing can take alot out of you especially in Rome where you have to walk everywhere.  Instead of walking, I decided to rent a motorino (relatively cheap) and proceeded to see the sights.  Now some of you might say, "but isn't driving in Italy crazy???"  The answer is simply, Yes, but if you join into the craziness it is more like dancing . . . literally.  Cars, busses and motorini do a sort of dance through the streets of Rome, every once in a while there is a traffic light that is sort of like musical chairs - the music stops and everyone has to find a place to park for a second.  And find places they do (usually though, the motorini get to inch their way forward in between cars and busses to get to the front of the line.  Then when the light changes you would have thought it was a pistol start at a Track and Field meet!
But anyway, I had a motorino the last year that I was here before so it was like, well, like riding a bike - I just picked up right where I had left off.

I rode to some of my old hang-outs, like the top of the Gianiculum Hill where I took this picture:

And yes, I was wearing a helmet!

That's St. John Lateran behind me.

This is what it looked like from my perspective:

Anyway, the advantage of riding a motorino is that you can really see the whole city in one day.  I started by just cruising around the Vatican then I went over towards the Forum and Colloseum.  I went up the Esquiline Hill to Visit St. Mary Major and St. Peter in Chains.  It was too dark inside St. Mary Major to get any good pictures but it is a truly beautiful church.  I will have to post more on that later.  

Here is a picture of the relics of St. Peter's chains in the church of the same name:

The Wikipedia entry for St. Peter in Chains:
"Also known as the Basilica Eudoxiana, it was first built in 432-440 to house the relic of the chains that boundSaint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. According to legend, when the Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III) gifted the chains to Pope Leo I, while he compared them to the chains of St. Peter's final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together. The chains are kept in a reliquary under the main altar in the basilica."

Here is the famous statue of Moses by Michelangelo located in one of the transepts:

It was built as part of the funeral monument for Pope Julius II.

After that, I went for a drive to St. Paul outside the walls where I was on Sunday with the Pope.  see the previous post on that St. Paul outside the Wall

It is located out on the via Ostiense (the road that goes to Ostia, i.e. the mouth of the Tiber River (Os, oris, noun meaning mouth))  After a little stop at St. Paul's burial place (the basilica itself) I drove out to Le Tre Fontane, the three fountains, which is the place where Paul was martyred for the faith.  It is a beautiful place with a trappist abbey attached to it.  The church is named 'three fountains' from the legend that when Paul was beheaded his head bounced three times down the hill and everytime it hit the ground a miraculous spring welled up from the ground!  Here is the entrance to the Church:

You can see the old Roman pavement which has been preserved for 2000 years!  

The Romans were excellent engineers!

After 'Le Tre Fontane' I went over to the Catacombs of St. Sebastian.  Here is a beautiful statue carved of St. Sebastian depicting his arrow pierced body:

St. Sebastian

According to his legend, Sebastian was born at Narbonne, Gaul. He became a soldier in the Roman army at Rome in about 283, and encouraged Marcellian and Marcus, undersentence of death, to remain firm in their faith. Sebastian made numerous converts: among them were the master of the rolls, Nicostratus, who was in charge of prisoners and his wife, Zoe, a deaf mute whom he cured; the jailer Claudius; Chromatius, Prefect of Rome, whom he cured of gout; and Chromatius' son, Tiburtius. Chromatius set the prisoners free, freed his slaves, and resigned as prefect.

Sebastian was named captain in the praetorian guards by Emperor Diocletian, as did Emperor Maximian when Diocletian went to the East. Neither knew that Sebastian was a Christian. When it was discovered during Maximian's persecution of the Christians that Sebastian was indeed a Christian, he was ordered executed. He was shot with arrows and left for dead, but when the widow of St. Castulus went to recover his body, she found he was still alive and nursed him back to health. Soon after, Sebastian intercepted the Emperor, denounced him for his cruelty to Christians, and was beaten to death on the Emperor's orders.

Saint Sebastian was venerated at Milan as early as the time of St. Ambrose and was buried on the Appian Way. He is patron of archers, athletes, and soldiers, and is appealed to for protection against plagues.

After St. Sebastian I had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Cecilia Matella.  Then I was off to St. John Lateran which is actually the cathedral of Rome (not St. Peter's which is merely the 'papal chapel' :)  In the Baldichino (the little thingy above the altar) are the heads of both Peter and Paul.  The altar is believed to be the one on which Peter celebrated the mass as he broke bread with the Christians of Rome.

After St. John Lateran I tried to stop into Santa Croce where the relics of the Cross of Christ are kept but they had a concert going on inside.  So I passed on to St. Lawrence outside the walls.  The church was still closed from their afternoon closure so I hopped on over to the Campo Verano.  

According to ancient Roman tradition, the Campo Verano, the main cemetery, lies outside the city walls on the Via Tiburtina (the road to Tivoli).  The North American College has a mausoleum there and it contains the mortal remains of Frank Parater, a seminarian from Richmond, Virginia whose cause is up for canonization.  Our mausoleum is the tall one in the center:

After a walk through the city of the dead I went back to see about St. Lawrence. 

St. Lawrence martyr

Feastday: August 10

Saint Lawrence was one of seven deacons who were in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping, "Father, where are you going without your deacon?" he said. "I am not leaving you, my son," answered the Pope. "in three days you will follow me." Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels to have more to give away.

The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: "This is the Church's treasure!"

In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. "Turn me over," he said to the judge. "I'm done on this side!" And just before he died, he said, "It's cooked enough now." Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith might spread all over the world. After that, he went to receive the martyr's reward. Saint Lawrence's feast day is August 10th.

Here is a picture of the outside of the Church:

Now the folks back at St. Jude will be interested in this.  I noticed the banner on the far right pillar.  I went up to investigate and it blew my mind.  The good people of St. Jude in Chattanooga have been preparing all year to celebrate their 5oth anniversary (the parish was founded in 1958)  I hope that it will be a spectacular celebration, but that great milestone limps in comparison to the jubilee that St. Lawrence is celebrating this year.  The Church was found in the year 258, that means they are celebrating their 1750th anniversary!!!!  Wow!  

After St. Lawrence, I took a nice ride through town and then up the tiber for the Piazza del Popolo and then decided to call it a day!

So you can see from the length of this post that the motorino is a very fine way to see Rome without getting too tuckered out.  If I were to have used public transport and or personal transport (feet) there is no way I could have covered all that territory in one day perhaps even in two . . .  But as it is, I had a good day to remind me of the many saints and sinners (read here taxi drivers who cut you off ;) who have graced this beautiful eternal city!

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