The end of the semester and the beginning of final exams is upon us. As we finished up the New Testament in the Eternal City class, I gave the students an opportunity to talk about their experience here in Rome this Fall. We talked about academics, student life, and living in a foreign culture.
I posed the simple question: “Why study in Rome?” I asked them to imagine a student back home who was considering a study abroad experience. What would they say to such a student about being in Rome and studying Theology here? Here’s what some of them said:
“I would highly recommend it to anyone considering studying theology in Rome, as I found that I have learned a tremendous amount regarding the Catholic religion. I feel that I have even learned more than I would in a typical classroom on Providence College’s campus, as our weekly site visits reinforce what we learn, and allow for a further knowledge of the content of the course.” Taylor Morley
“Studying theology in Rome was a huge advantage because what I learned throughout the course all linked up to this ancient city, the center of the Catholic Church.” Caroline Lockyer
“I found theology to become more and more interesting as we were able to witness first hand the archaeology of the early Christians.” Sarah Davis
“Rome makes everything that you learn in the classroom about theology come alive. Rome is the center of Catholicism and New Testament in the Eternal City proves it to you with all of the different sites that you visit once a week.” Hayley White
“Visiting some of the most famous basilicas in the world and experiencing the Papal Audience gave us an opportunity to not only learn, but ground our faith in tangible evidence by seeing it firsthand.” Caroline Carew
“Coming from a Catholic school Rome is a perfect place to study theology, with a Church on every block and taking classes 10 minutes from the Vatican.” Greg Nicolai
“Each and every site visit gives us the opportunity to truly understand Christianity to the fullest, as the evidence is right in front of us.” Devin Flood
“Personally studying theology in Rome has been much more of a memorable experience than I had ever envisioned before coming. I have taken classes at PC at home and they are definitely engaging, but I think that what stuck out most prominently about studying here in Rome is the fact that we got to visit and actually see the places that we were learning about and make connections to those and the readings that we did.” Jenna Winn
“Studying in Rome is unique because you can go to the places where early Christians practiced and have a greater respect for the evolution of the Church over the Centuries.” Nicholas Totagrande
“Studying theology in Rome has been an extremely rewarding experience. Rome contains many magnificent sites and locations that allow students to fully experience the theological and historical significance of this city. Rome is a must for any student looking to further their studies in this subject matter.” Chad Britnell
“Studying theology in Rome removes us from blind faith and makes our religion more grounded in concrete.” Kevin Gleason
“It is worth studying theology in Rome because some of the most important history of early Christians lives on here.” Rose Muldoon
“What better place to study Theology than the Catholic capital of the world?” Matt Matuozzi
“The numerous site visits give valuable background for our faith and you get a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Catholic.” Lauren Politi
“If you want to see theology and history come to life, there is no better place than the eternal city.” Emily DiRenzo
“It is powerful to enter the basilicas and feel the spiritual energy. It’s more interesting to see the churches and walk around them and experience the basilicas versus reading about them in a textbook.” Rainy Paul
“While in a classroom in the U.S., you can only rely on photos and textbooks to give you a sense of what happened thousands of years ago. While studying in Rome, visiting sites weekly allows you to better understand the New and the Old Testaments.” Brynne Murphy
“There are many reasons why Rome is the best place to study abroad… Living right next to Papa Francesco should say it all… The Vatican, the home of the Pope is within walking distance, and each day you can see the thousands of people in crowds going to and from St. Peter’s Square. Where else can you learn about religion and history one day and then go see it in the next few days? There is no better, more beautiful and more religious place to study in the world.” Emileigh Gaeta
The end of the semester and the beginning of final exams is upon us. As we finished up the New... MORE
Our last site visit for the New Testament in the Eternal City course was to the excavations underneath St. Peter’s Basilica. Called the “Scavi San Pietro”, these 20th century archaeological excavations have revealed the ancient Roman cemetery under St. Peter’s Basilica and Square.
Begun in secret in the 1940’s during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII, these excavations were not open to the public until the 1970’s and then only in a very limited way. Today a visit to the “Scavi” is a very exclusive tour in Rome that most people never experience, even if they live here. So, this was a very important site visit!
St. Peter was crucified in the Emperor Nero’s stadium or “circus” on the Vatican Hill about 64AD. Next to Nero’s stadium was a cemetery and St. Peter’s body was buried there. At first it was a very simple grave with clay tiles over it for protection from the elements. But in a very short time the early Christians added a more elaborate grave marker which was known as a “trophy”. About 200 AD a Roman priest named Gauis tells us that he “can show anyone the two “trophies” of the Apostles Peter and Paul… One is on the Via Ostia and one is on the Vatican Hill”. Gaius was speaking of the graves of the martyred apostles already as a site of pilgrimage for Christians the world over.
The traditional Christian pilgrimage to Rome to pray at the two tombs of the Apostles became known as the “ad limina apostolorum”. “Ad limina” means literally “to the thresholds of the Apostles”, that is, the thresholds of their tombs. In fact, it became a tradition very early on that all bishops must visit the tombs of the two “princes of the Apostles”, Peter and Paul, to be spiritually connected to the two founders of the Church at Rome.
One of the earliest titles for the Pope is “Successor of Peter and Paul”. And one of the responsibilities of the Pope in Rome is to be a “custodian of the tombs of the Apostles”. That is, the Pope must ensure that access to the tombs is given to pilgrims and that prayer and worship are unhindered at these holy sites.
We were told by our tour guide that Pope Francis is the first Pope to visit the entirety of these excavations under the basilica.
In our New Testament course this semester we have now visited both tombs of the Apostles, and so have completed the “ad limina apostolorum”, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the Basilica of St. Peter. What a great way to end the semester! St. Peter – pray for us!
Our last site visit for the New Testament in the Eternal City course was to the excavations underneath St.... MORE
This week the P.C. in Rome Program was pleased to welcome Ms. Alexandra Agati from the Center for International Studies back home. “Allie” is the “Study Abroad Advisor” in the P.C. office and therefore has had one-on-one contact with every student who has come to Rome. For this reason the students were excited about her visit and eager to share their Rome experiences thus far with her.
Allie graduated from Providence College with a B.A. in English and a minor in Political Science in 2011 and studied abroad at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, during which time she developed an enthusiasm for international education. Upon return, she began working as a Peer Advisor, promoting study abroad and advising students.
The purpose of Allie’s administrative visit was to familiarize herself with the P.C. in Rome program “on the ground” so that she can advise students in Providence effectively and accurately when they inquire about study abroad in the eternal city. While she was here she met with the CEA Rome Team and discussed academics, housing, student life, co-curricular opportunities, and partnerships with Italian universities in Rome.
Although only on a short stay with us, she was able to pack in a host of activities including class observations, meetings with students, faculty, staff, and administration, and even a tour of some student apartments for a true picture of what daily life is like here for a semester abroad.
Allie has a particular responsibility for advising students in the P.C. School of Business and School of Professional Studies, as well as advising all students on short-term study abroad opportunities. And she herself is also a student, currently completing her M.A. in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University.
One evening Allie met with students for an in-depth conversation on their experiences here and asked what they would tell potential students who were considering a semester in Rome. They were able to relate the blessings as well as the challenges of “Italian life” and living in the chaotic, busy, but also beautiful city of Rome.
Administrative visits like this are important because it strengthens the bond with the home campus and helps to ensure effective collaboration between P.C. and CEA. By familiarizing herself with P.C. in Rome, Allie can now bring back a deeper appreciation of how our program, in a unique way, perhaps, from other study abroad experiences, flows from the very heart of the College mission as a Catholic, Dominican institution.
This week the P.C. in Rome Program was pleased to welcome Ms. Alexandra Agati from the Center for International Studies... MORE
This week our New Testament in the Eternal City class visited the famous Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums. Little did we know that we were some of the first visitors to experience the new lighting and climate control that had just been inaugurated in the Chapel.
The Chapel takes its name from the Pope who commissioned its construction in 1475. Pope Sixtus IV wanted a newer and grander space for papal ceremonies and for the conclaves of Cardinals which elect new popes. The design and dimensions of the Sistine Chapel are thought to come from the biblical description in I Kings 6 of King Solomon’s great Temple in Jerusalem.
It was the 450th anniversary of the death of Michelangelo, who painted the Genesis story of creation on the ceiling and the Last Judgement behind the papal altar, which marked the occasion for the Vatican Museum to install a brand new air conditioning system and 7,000 new LED lights which will hopefully preserve the Renaissance artist’s masterpiece for generations to come.
When the old lighting and air filtering and conditioning systems were installed two decades ago,the annual number of visitors to the museums and chapel was under 2 million. Today it hosts almost 6 million visitors a year, with more than 20,000 people a day entering during the peak pilgrim and tourist season.
The Vatican says the Sistine Chapel’s precious frescoes were starting to turn white from the air pollution caused by so many visitors passing through each day. Officials first noticed the whitening patina in 2010 and immediately launched an investigation. While the exact origin still unknown, it seems that the powdery patina — which covers some frescoes like cracked sugar icing — was believed to be calcium carbonate and calcium bicarbonate deposits. It was easily removed during the installation of the new climate control system. The hope is that this new technology would prevent potential damage from rising levels of carbon dioxide and humidity brought on by crowds.
The purpose of our site visit to the Sistine Chapel was, in part, to explore connections between the frescoes and the theology of the New Testament that we have been studying. We compared the various ways that Jesus is depicted in the Chapel. These “Christologies” included Jesus as the new Adam, Jesus as the new Jonah, Jesus as Judge, and Jesus as the new Moses.
And since we have devoted a good part of our study to the legacy of Peter and Paul in Rome, it was fitting to visit where the “successor of Peter and Paul”, the pope, is elected. The papal conclaves are held in the Chapel and the new pope makes his first appearance there before he comes out onto the balcony to greet the people.
Viva il Papa!
This week our New Testament in the Eternal City class visited the famous Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums. Little... MORE
Recently our provider, Cultural Experiences Abroad, had an official visit by a team of evaluators from the University of New Haven. Although CEA hosts academic programs at over 20 locations globally, it is actually the University of New Haven that oversees and accredits the courses offered in all of those places.
It just so happened that the Dean of International Studies at P.C., Dr. Adrian Beaulieu, was invited to serve as part of the UNH accreditation team. Dr. Beaulieu was asked because of his vast experience in the “world of study abroad”. Also, he has an obvious connection to CEA through our PC/ CEA Theology Religious Studies Center in Rome.
Now in its fourth year, our Center provides Theology classes for P.C. students as well as any other students who come to Rome through CEA. Our Theology courses are the only classes in Rome not transcripted by UNH. Theology/ Religious Studies students receive their transcripts directly from Providence College.
Every five years a rigorous process of accreditation takes place. CEA prepares a self-study report to submit to the administration at UNH. This summer our CEA Rome Team submitted a report of over 90 pages outlining just about everything that happens at their global campus here in the eternal city.
During their visit, the evaluators participated in the entire life of the global campus for three days. They sat in on classes, interviewed students, and consulted faculty and staff about the work of CEA in Rome.
They also visited student apartments and learned about the life of American students here. The point was to immerse themselves in the daily activities of the students, faculty, staff, and administration and get a feel for the “ethos” of the program. This “up close” experience, as well as the self study report, gives the accreditation team plenty of perspective to be able to evaluate CEA in Rome.
But it certainly was not all work and no play for the UNH team! They enjoyed an aperitif and dinner with faculty one evening. And another evening they participated in a site tour visit of the Jewish Ghetto which ended with dinner at a famous kosher restaurant.
Because of our partnership with CEA, this visit was important for Providence College too. Like CEA, we’re interested in maintaining high standards, being proactive about student needs, and thinking creatively about enhancing the experience for future students who come to Rome. All in all, it was a learning experience for everyone and helped to forge an even stronger bond between CEA and P.C.
Recently our provider, Cultural Experiences Abroad, had an official visit by a team of evaluators from the University of... MORE
“So much of the Old Testament is found in the New, so much of the New Testament stems from the Old, and together they compose the beautiful story of God’s salvation history. The first book of the New Testament, the Gospel according to Matthew, proves this point in words, while St. John Lateran uses images to convey the same message.” Hannah King
Recently our New Testament in the Eternal City class made a visit to the basilica of St. John Lateran. We were studying Matthew’s gospel which includes a theology of the Church that is founded on Peter and the Apostles. Matthew also stresses the Church’s connection to the Old Testament and Judaism in general. This view of salvation history sees the Church as the “new Israel” and Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and theology.
We were able to study some of Matthew’s theological themes contained in the structure, mosaics, statuary, and paintings of the Basilica of the Lateran. Reading the “text” of the basilica the students discovered a salvation history similar to the one in Matthew’s gospel. Along the central nave leading to the main altar are statues of the 12 apostles, over which are base reliefs of alternating scenes from the Old Testament and the New Testament. Above these are oval portraits of the 12 Old Testament prophets. This artistic schema is not only beautiful and impressive, but tells the story of Jesus the Messiah, much as Matthew does, with his stress on Old Testament fulfillment.
Here are some excerpts from the students’ weekly essays:
“Both Matthew’s gospel in the New Testament and the St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome frequently reference the Old Testament, showing God working in human history to bring about our salvation.” Rose Muldoon
“In order to understand both St. John Lateran and the Gospel of Matthew one must be well versed in the Jewish scriptures. Therefore when one looks at the reliefs in St. John Lateran one can very much relate to the Jewish converts to Christianity who used their previous understanding of God in the Old Testament to foster a new relationship with Him and the Church.. by viewing the Basilica through the lens of Mathew’s Gospel one can further understand his or her own faith as well as understand Mathew’s Jewish-Christian audience.” Nick Totagrande
“The Basilica of St. John Lateran contains theological evidence and references that connect directly to the Old and New Testament, linking to the message Matthew preaches in order to fulfill the needs of the Jewish-Christians, proving that Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah leading all the way back to Israel.” Jenna Winn
“So much of the Old Testament is found in the New, so much of the New Testament stems from the... MORE
“I thought this was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in Rome thus far. Seeing the pope and hearing him speak was very exciting and truly made me proud to be a Catholic. I thought it was interesting how they had speakers from all different languages and especially liked when they announced Providence College!” Lauren Politi
“This morning was truly a morning I will never forget…” Caroline Lockyer
“The papal audience was one of my greatest experiences of studying abroad so far. To have all of these people here to pray together is just truly amazing. Papa Francesco rocks!” Matt Matuozzi
Last week the P.C. in Rome program went to the weekly Wednesday papal audience with Pope Francis. I contacted Bishop Tobin’s office in Providence at the beginning of the semester for help in obtaining tickets for the students and myself.The crowd numbered over 50,000 according to the Vatican news later that day. We were thrilled to hear “Providence College” formally welcomed during the introduction when various pilgrim groups and visiting dignitaries were introduced at the beginning of the Audience. (Thanks Bishop Tobin!) Go Friars!We gave the Pope a Providence College baseball cap as he passed by us on the “Pope mobile”. It’s a thrill to know that it will now be part of the papal archive of gifts.Pope Francis has recently been using his talks at the weekly audience to offer some catechesis on the Church. The talk he gave to us was about ecumenism and relationships with other Christians. He urged that Catholics realize that all Christians are on a journey together, towards full unity, in spite of our historic and theological differences. He asked us to pray for Christian unity, while adhering to the truth, on the way to reconciliation and communion.I asked the students to share their photos and their impressions of the experience.“I loved the papal audience. Although I’m not very religious, I liked how pope Francis spoke about dialogue between people regardless of their backgrounds, religions, and differences. He is definitely an amazing and inspiring man for both religious and non-religious followers.” Danielle Cady“The Pope Mobile being a Mercedes made it even cooler.” Kevin Gleason“Being a part of an experience of people gathered from all over the world and sitting to watch and listen to the Pope was something I won’t forget.” Emily DiRenzo“First of all, the ceremony was beautiful, and it was amazing to see how excited everyone got when the pope came out. His kindness is visible in his mannerisms and the comfort that he brought among that gigantic crowd… I really enjoyed the announcements and the fact that they said Providence College, hopefully the blessing spreads back to campus!” Jenna Winn“I found the Papal Audience to be a great experience, and I am really glad that I participated in it. I am shocked at how close Pope Francis actually came to us.” Katherine Morley
“The Papal audience was so much more than I had expected! My absolute favorite part was when he was kissing and blessing the babies it was very touching.” Camille Dottore“As the Pope drove past us in his “Pope mobile” I was extremely excited but also shocked because I didn’t realize that he would be that close to us. I was very impressed at the number of people at the audience. Overall, it was amazing to be at the Papal Audience and to see first hand how many people truly praise Pope Francis. This is a day I will never forget.” Devin Flood
“Seeing the pope today was something I’ll never forget, his charisma and compassion were evident just by him driving by in his pope mobile and his interaction with the crowd. From the kids to the old Italian ladies sitting behind us, there was a lot of love for Pope Francis in St. Peters Square.” Greg Nicolai
“I am so glad that I had the opportunity to witness the papal audience this morning, it was truly an experience I will never forget. Not only was there a great deal of excitement built up to seeing Pope Francis, but being able to witness the ceremony afterwards was great as well.” Hannah Struever
“The Papal Audience was amazing! It was so powerful and spiritual but felt like a concert at the same time, everyone saw Papa Francesco as a celebrity!” Caroline Carew
“I thought this was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in Rome thus far. Seeing the pope and hearing... MORE
“After studying Mark’s gospel and visiting the Catacombs of Priscilla, the main connection and overbearing Christian theme between the two becomes the resurrection and human salvation.” – Gregory Nicolai
During our recent study of St. Mark’s gospel, we visited the Catacombs of St. Priscilla. Because of the great number of martyrs buried there and the fact that it is mentioned in the most ancient documents of Christian topography and liturgy, it is called the “regina catacumbarum” or the Queen of the Catacombs”.
There are over 50 catacomb complexes underneath Rome stretching for nearly three hundred miles. Many of them have ancient Christian inscriptions and decorations. Although there are several Christian catacombs that are open to the public, I chose Santa Priscilla because of the richness of the artwork and inscriptions. It has the oldest image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the so-called “Greek Chapel” is an absolute treasure trove of frescoes depicting biblical images from the Old and New Testaments.
Contrary to popular Christian imagination, the early Christians never lived in the catacombs. In fact, it would have been dangerous even to pray publicly there as a group since it could have led to discovery and arrest during the days of the Roman persecution of the Church. The catacombs were a place of burial and remembrance. The fresoes and inscriptions are testimony to the faith of the early Christians and their hope of resurrection. The tombs of the martyrs take pride of place and are usually richly decorated.
During our tour, the students were able to connect many of the motifs of the frescoes and inscriptions with theological and spiritual themes from our New Testament course.
“Since this Gospel was written at the time of Christian persecution by the Romans, there needed to be an emphasis on the new life that came from death and that Jesus secured that new life for us…This assurance of rebirth in Mark’s Gospel clearly had an effect on the early Christians because on their inscriptions in the catacombs they would write the death date of the deceased. The date symbolizes the birth date of their new life with Christ.” – Kevin Gleason
“The art in the Catacombs reflects the paradox and Christian belief in an afterlife. It also replicates Mark’s story that you must die and understand suffering before you can truly live. These paintings show that life and eternal happiness is beyond the grave, which ties in with the paradox of the Catacombs that you can find such life and beauty in an area of death.” – Rainy Paul
“In Mark’s Gospel, the cross is a central symbol that is present throughout and in order to be a Christian one must take up their own cross, which connects to the sufferings of the Christians in Rome during a time of persecution…In the catacombs, the centrality of the cross is represented by the symbol of suffering and death, which is everywhere because many of the the Christians who were buried there were martyrs who fought for their faith.” Hayley White
“Christians view the cross as a sign of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for the gift of salvation and correspondingly at the catacombs the cross symbolized salvation. The Christian belief of afterlife is the idea of life after death; in the catacombs of Priscilla, a place of burial and death, the artwork represents life, which could be symbolism for afterlife.” – Hannah Struever
“After studying Mark’s gospel and visiting the Catacombs of Priscilla, the main connection and overbearing Christian theme between the two... MORE
This week we were pleased to welcome Mr. Matt Maurano to our Rome center. Matt is the Assistant Dean of Admissions at Providence College and was in town on a recruiting trip. Matt is an alum of the College himself – Class of 2006. This is his first trip to Rome and he took the time to visit us and give a brief presentation on the work of P.C. Admissions abroad.
During an informal “pizza and soda pop” reception, he told us about his responsibilities in international recruiting and where he will travel on behalf of the College. Italy, Switzerland, and England are on his itinerary over the next two weeks.
Fresh from hosting “A Day in Friartown” on the home campus, Matt told us about the activities of the Student Admission Ambassadors who work in his office. In fact, three of our P.C.- in- Rome alumni are Ambassadors and he encouraged the current students to apply next Spring. He said that their study abroad experience would be a great asset to the work of recruiting “future Friars”.
Matt asked the students about their decisions to study abroad and why they chose Rome as their destination. They told him about the wonderful experience they are having and the places they have already seen in just five weeks.
At the end the students were asking him about life on campus back home. They were curious about any changes that might have been made during the summer construction projects and any future plans that have been made to enhance the campus environment. While a few students later admitted that his remarks made them “a little homesick”, all agreed that being in Rome was exactly where they wanted to be this semester.
Matt Maurano’s visit made us all feel closer to the home campus and connected to the wider community of Providence College. He also gave us some perspective of how fortunate we all are to be in Rome and to be able to bring the “Friar school spirit” wherever we go.
This week we were pleased to welcome Mr. Matt Maurano to our Rome center. Matt is the Assistant Dean of... MORE
One of the advantages of studying the New Testament in Rome is being able to have an “up close and personal” experience of the ancient Roman Empire through the architectural and artistic remains of it that can be found throughout the city. Walking into the Pantheon, climbing the stairs inside the Colosseum, or trekking through the Roman Forum are all ways to experience the Roman context of early Christianity.
Recently we visited the famous Roman Forum. The format of our course, The New Testament in the Eternal City, includes not only classroom lectures but also site visits each week. More than simply “fun field trips”, these site visits are an integral part of the academic component of our study abroad program. Each week the site is to be integrated with the content of the classroom lecture. And while we’re on site, there is even more academic input from me and the occasional guide who leads us. So, pens, notebooks and course texts are not left behind! Instead, the site itself becomes both our classroom and the focus of our study – our “text”.
Our lecture was on the Roman context of early Christianity and our trip to the Roman Forum gave us a feel for what it was like to live, work, shop, participate in politics, and pray in ancient Rome. The basilicas, government buildings, temples, and areas of commerce included in the Forum helped us to understand how it functioned as the political, religious, and social center of ancient Rome.
“Just as the Bible, specifically the 4 gospels, gives us the most insight into Jesus’ life, the Roman Forum also gives us the most insight into the life of the Ancient Romans, revealing not only their political and social life, but also their religious values and ideals.” – Danielle Cady
“It is interesting to see the archaeological remains of the Roman Forum, an example of the Roman Empire’s strength and organization. This society had no room for Christianity; a belief system that directly contradicted their pagan worship.” -Carly Lockyer
“… one of the most interesting arches in the Forum is the “Arch of Constantine”. Although this arch represents victory for Constantine, it is also a tangible object that marks one of the most important moments in Christianity, as Constantine declared Christianity as the religion throughout all of Rome at this time and fought his battle with “divine inspiration” – Devin Flood
“Comparable to the literary sources used to write the Gospels, the Arch of Constantine was built using “sources” from other pieces of Roman history while still incorporating new and innovative procedures to make this one of the most well preserved ruins in the Forum”. – Caroline Carew
“…the Arch of Titus… was constructed in honor of the victories of Titus and Vespasian in the Judean War, which ended in the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Interestingly enough, Jesus predicts this destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in the synoptic Gospel of Mark.” – Lauren Politi
“The Arch of Titus located at the entrance of the forum depicts the attack of Jerusalem. The imagery on this arch shows a triumphal procession bringing the war booty from Jerusalem, which includes the altar of Solomon’s Temple decorated with trumpets, and the seven-branched golden candlestick or menorah.” – Taylor Morley
Friends, Romans, Countrymen – Friars!
One of the advantages of studying the New Testament in Rome is being able to have an “up close... MORE