Rome Pilgrimage Day 2: Christian Rome
by Steve Ray on October 12, 2007
Videos moved to my Pilgrimage website here
After a nice breakfast at the Michelangelo, we boarded the bus to visit four churches, two of which are members of the four ancient and elite Patriarchal basilicas in Rome.
Our first stop was St. Mary Major. This church is a treasure trove of art, relics, chapels and sacred history. It is a stunningly beautiful and magnificent church. At 8:30 AM Fr. Fr. Bob Roggenbuck celebrated a private Mass for us in the Cesi Chapel. The Mass was celebrated for Fr. Gerald Gawronski who was unable to come with us do to a mass found in his right lung (my blog is keeping updated on is condition).
Before Mass our Roman guide Liz gave us a great introduction to Christian Rome and the churches we would be visiting. After Mass we began a full day touring Christian Rome. We explored St. Major and saw the wood from the crib of Jesus in Bethlehem. The church also contains the bones of St. Jerome and St. Matthew.
After exploring St. Mary Major Church we drove to the Mother Church of the whole world, St. John in Lateran. In the apse of this church is placed the Chair of Peter—the Cathredra, that represents the teaching authority of Peter and his successors. Above the high altar are reliquaries containing the skulls of Peter and Paul.
This is one of the oldest churches in the world, if not the oldest or first built. You will see how gorgeous it is in the video. It is full of statues, frescos, paintings and archaeology that exude biblical and theological truth. Hours would not be enough to see it all.
Next we drove to the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusaleme (Holy Cross of Jerusalem) where some of Christianity's most important relics are housed, including a piece of the True Cross, a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, a nail from the cross, a the finger of St. Thomas, wood from the Good Thief’s Cross, the sign that was attached to the Cross and more.
Across the street (well, almost) we visited the Church of Scala Sancta (the Holy Steps) climbed by Christ in Jerusalem. These steps were part of the Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem, where Jesus was tried by Pilate. Queen Helena brought them to Rome along with dirt from Jerusalem.
We dropped off our bags, purses and anything large back at the hotel because we had a very special tour coming up next. It was the Scavi Tour going under the Church of St. Peter’s Basilica to see the tomb and bones of St. Peter. VERY FEW people get to take this tour since only 15 people maximum can navigate the narrow passageways at a time.
It is very limited. We broke into two groups which each spent about one hour under the ground in the ancient burial site over which the church was built. The whole history of the area was explained beautifully and we ended up seeing the tomb of St. Peter and some of his bones. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures or videos.
Our guides were wonderful and fully Catholic, excited about what they were showing us. We took some time to pray at the end. After this tour our group scattered to enjoy their free afternoon and evening. Some went to eat, some to sleep, others went exploring or shopping. Tomorrow we head for the Catacombs.
Ah, how great to be Catholics!!