Sunday, May 13, 2012

Christmas in Italy: Our Last Day!

Our last day in Rome!  Luckily, our flight to Istanbul (and then to Adana) didn't leave until 4 PM, so we could explore more of Rome until around 1:30 PM!  

Dan was prepared to make the most of our time.

Our first stop was the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli (The Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven). This church was built over a Roman Temple to Juno on Capitoline Hill (site of the ancient acropolis of Rome).  Capitoline Hill is huge and very steep.  There were MANY stairs to the church...Dan picked Peter up and in Rocky Balboa fashion ran up the stairs to the top!

The interior of the church was beautiful...

One of the very special parts of this church was that it held the relics of St. Helena (mother of the Roman Emperor, Constantine).  St. Helena is another special Saint for us.  For an All Saints Day parish event in 2011, Sarah dressed as St. Helena.  To visit the final resting place of this holy empress of Rome, who was key to the Church's success in toppling paganism and cementing its primacy as the religion of the Roman Empire, was very amazing. (The night before we had visited the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem which was built over her personal chapel and palace.)

Sarah at the Tomb of St. Helena

Another one of the parts of this church that we really thought was amazing was the Latin words "Providentia Dei," meaning (God's Providence) over the altar.  We felt that "God's Providence" was a theme for our Trip to Italy.  We were very blessed to go on this trip...we almost had to cancel our whole Italy trip the day before we left because Dan was needed last minute at work.  We put the situation in God's hands and trusted in His Providence and graciously, He allowed everything to work out and we were able to truly was a miracle.

We climbed down the Capitoline Hill and walked over to the Il Gesu Church.  This is the mother church of the Jesuit Order.  In this beautiful church is the right arm of St. Francis Xavier which it is said baptized 300,000 people in his lifetime.  Also inside the church was the tomb of the founder of the Jesuit Order, St. Ignatius Loyola.

St. Francis Xavier's right arm

The tomb of St. Ignatius Loyola

Not far from the Il Gesu Church is the Largo di Torre Argentina, an open area in the middle of Rome where ruins of 4 ancient temples were found.  In addition to these ruins, remains of the curia of the Theater of Pompey was found.  This chamber was where Brutus assassinated Julius Caesar by stabbing him in the back!  Dan kept on quoting "Et tu, Brute?" as we walked around this famous spot.  As we looked at the quiet ruins, we tried to take ourselves back in time and imagine the shock, noise, and commotion of the Romans as they ran from this spot announcing the death of the great conqueror and dictator!

From this spot, we crossed the Tiber River and tried once again to visit the Basilica of San Bartolomeo di Isola (St. Bartholomew of the Island).  This time it was open and we got to pay our respects to another one of Christ's Apostles:  St. Bartholomew!

St. Bartholomew's bones are in the sarcophagus under the main altar

After visiting St. Bartholomew we jetted over to see the Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (a neighborhood of Rome).  Here we visited the beautiful basilica containing the tomb of the famous St. Cecilia, patroness of musicians.

St. Cecilia was a beautiful young Christian woman of ancient Rome who was arrested for her beliefs.  Roman authorities tried to smother her in the steam room of her house.  She sang beautiful songs of praise to God as her captors awaited her death.  When she would not die, a soldier attempted to behead her.  He tried three times and was unable to behead her.  Cecilia would survive another three days before expiring on 16 September.

The Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is built over the ruins of her house.

The front gate to St. Cecilia's Basilica

The courtyard of St. Cecilia's

A statue of St. Cecilia as her incorrupt body appeared when it was disinterred in the 1500s.  She still had 3 chop marks on her neck.

After visiting St. Cecilia quickly, we had ONE LAST STOP on our quest through Italy:  the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.  This church is an Eastern Catholic church--followers of this type of Catholic Christianity are still in communion with the Roman/Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, but have different traditions.  We walked inside the ancient church and saw an impressive sight:  relics of THE St. Valentine!

The Beaudoin's with St. Valentine!

Another famous sight at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin is the "Mouth of Truth."  A legend states that this ancient drain cover will bite the hand of a liar who puts their hand in its mouth!  The line to go up to it was extremely long and we had to be at the metro stop in 10 minutes to get to our hotel and take our taxi to the airport, so we had to pass!--at least we got a picture...just another reason to come back to Rome!

We made it to the metro and walked down the streets of the Eternal City one last time before hopping in our taxi to the airport.  Our pilgrimage to Italy had been an amazing journey.  
We were very blessed to have been given such a gift from our Lord!

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