Thursday, April 10 – Day 11
It was a perfect weather-day in Rome today. Meeting our guide, Nora, we left our hotel at 9 a.m. While much of what we saw is based on long-standing traditions of the church, we stood amazed at the enormous churches and structures we encountered. First as St. Peter’s Church in Chains. It is to believed to be the area where Peter was kept in prison while here in Rome (keep in mind that Scripture says nothing about Peter being here in Rome). Regardless, this church originally built in the 5th century AD, and later restored in the 14th century, in this church is Michelangelo’s famous “Moses” sculpting. It took him 40 years because of being in Florence and working on the Sistine chapel simultaneously. Nearby we also got our first peak at the Coliseum, although we will actually visit it tomorrow.
Next was St. John’s Lateran (Latriano) Church. This was the first church built in Europe (324 AD). Built by Constantine, it is believed by tradition that Helena, Constantine’s mother, too the steps from the Judgment Hall (Pretorium) of Pontius Pilate on which Christ was sentenced to death and she brought them back to Rome. Today, people only ascend up these steps on their knees. As a monk, Martin Luther climbed these steps on his knees, trying to merit forgiveness. The church itself is a blend of re-construction from the 13th – 17th centuries AD. Some of the past Popes are buried here. The oldest of 14 Egyptian obelisks brought from Egypt to Rome stand here near the church. It dates to the 16th century BC (to Thutmose III). It was the last one brought from Egypt in the 4th century.
The famous Domitilla Catacombs were next (named after the daughter of Roman Emperor Domitian). There are a total of 66 catacombs (60 Christian and 6 Jewish), most of which date no earlier than the 2nd century AD. This one is the biggest, with 150,000 tombs over an area 11 miles of underground tunnels covering 4 levels. It as a unique experience to see these early “cemeteries.”
Last, we visited St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls.” It is most impressive. While it was destroyed by a fire in 1883, it as soon rebuilt, taking 25 years. It preserves the original early church structure. Again by tradition, Paul is buried here.
We came back to the hotel round 2:30. A few enjoyed a restful afternoon while others explored on their own places like the Piazzia Navona, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. We also walked along the famous “high fashion” street, with name-brand stores (e.g. Gucci, Armani, etc…) selling items for ridiculous amounts. Needless to say, we only “window-shopped.”
We once again ate dinner together at the nearby restaurant. Following another great dinner, some of us walked to Vatican Square to see St. Peter’s Church.
Friday, April 11 – Day 12
We plan to visit the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Church, Fountain of Trevi, the Roman Forum, Titus’ Arch, and the Coliseum.