Day 11 – Sunday, November 9
It as a great first full day in Rome, with sunny skies and temps around 65. With the energetic and humorous Gabriela guiding us, we left about 8 a.m. for our first stop, St. Peter’s in Chains church. Built originally in the 5th century AD, but later in the 15-16th century AD, this is where, according to mere tradition, the chains that once bound Peter both in Jerusalem and in Rome that ‘mysteriously melted together” are on display. Within the church, we also saw Michelangelo “Moses” sculpting.
Close by is the famous Coliseum. Started in 69 AD by Vespasian, and totally finished in 96 AD by Domitian (yet inaugurated in 80 AD duing the reign of Titus), this massive amphitheater was quite amazing to see. We walked around in it before walking from here to the Roman Forum. We passed the Arches of Constantine and Titus (complete with a relief of the Jewish Menorah from the Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed in 70 AD). In the Forum we saw the ruins of the Temple of Saturn, Vesta, Vespasian, and Titus (Roman emperors were considered gods themselves).
Leaving the Forum, we boarded the bus and headed to lunch. From here we visited the Di San Callisto catacombs (named after a Pope from the early 3d century). This is only one of 60 catacombs, or underground cemetaries used by the Romans in the first number of centuries. Thee are up to 20 kilometers of pathways spanning 4 levels deep, with nearly a total of 500,000 actual tombs discovered.
Our last stop of the day was the “St. Paul Outside the Walls” basilica. Built initially in 329 AD to commemorate Paul’s burial place, it was later expanded in the 11th century. While it burned in the 1800s, it was re-built in 1854. All 266 Popes are remembered here with their own relief that surrounds the sanctuary. We ended the day with a 30 minute worship time of singing and Scripture.
Day 12 – Monday, November 10
We plan to visit the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Church, St. John Church in Chains, and Trevi Fountain among other things.