Ruane Hall is lovely. The new Business School and Science Building provide our students and faculty state-of-the-art facilities. But there’s nothing quite like a PC-in-Rome classroom. On Friday, October 20th, students in Alexandra Massini’s “Angels and Demons” class and my own “Roman Stoicism” class joined expert guide Livia Galante for a day-trip to nearby Ostia Antica.
About 20 miles southwest of Rome, Ostia was the ancient harbor city of Rome. It’s history, if not as grand, is as complicated and fascinating as that of Rome herself. Used for defense and for trade from Julius Caesar to Augustus, Ostia was nearly double the size of the more famous ‘Pompeii’ archaeological site — and nearly as well preserved, too.
Here the students learn about different kinds of masonry in Ostia. Why learn about a brick? Because the quality of materials and craftsmanship teaches an intimate lesson of the ‘boom and bust’ times of the Ostian economy. Bricks tightly joined together evidence greater wealth than houses or civic buildings featuring more loosely-joined masonry.
With students taking notes on their trusty phones and Ipads, the surrounding Ostian classroom provides tactile and kinesthetic experiences that simply can’t be had anywhere else.
An intimate view into Ancient life around every corner, the latrines are always a big hit with students. Nothing shows the inner workings of a culture more than their private moments!
Ostia was also a prominent site for the Roman Cult of Mithras. Mithraism was the major religion in Rome from the 1st Century BC to the 4th Century AD. Many scholars have demonstrated its vast influence on early Christian rites, imagery, and even holidays. There were seven levels of ‘initiation rites’ associated with the Mithraian mysteries. A ‘Mithraeum’ is where these rites took place. Nearly always underground and depicting the hero Mithras killing a bull, Ostia’s Mithrauem is one of the most distinctive and best preserved.
Apart from the art and archaeological history lesson of Ostia, my own class on Stoicism was also able to make a unique connection with Ostia. Port cities were the major hub of economic transactions. And it’s unfortunately true that the slave trade was among the most significant aspects of the Ancient economy. While Stoicism is better noted as the principle Roman philosophy because of celebrity figures like Cicero, Seneca, and Emperor Marcus Aurelius, two of its most important advocates were the Turkish freed slave Epictetus and a slave whom we know came through Ostia Antica itself: Publius Syrus.
Brought to Italy through Ostia from Syria as a boy during the 80’s BC, we believe Syrus eventually earned his freedom through his wit and obvious intelligence. He came even to defeat Caesar’s own court poet in a literary competition of 46BC. His theatrical skills were also the stuff of legend, though they are unfortunately lost. What remains of Syrus’ writings are his ‘Sententiae’ or pithy little apothegms full of wisdom and advice for living that good Stoic life. Among some of his better gems are:
“Poverty is the lack of many things, but avarice is the lack of all things.”
“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”
“Fortune is like glass—the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken.”
This last quotation suggests one of the overriding concerns of Publius and of the Stoics generally: fortune. Not merely good or bad luck, Fortuna was worshiped, feared, and appeased by the Roman people as a quasi-deity. The entirety of Stoic practical philosophy can be summarized as a resistance to Fortuna, both good fortune and bad fortune. We do this not by becoming richer or more powerful. Instead, we should learn to value only that which stands within our power to control. What alone lies ever in our free control is our ‘prohairesis’ or ability to elect our actions. Even if fortune should prevent those actions being carried out successfully, it is always in our power to ‘aim rightly’ at the targets that are in our power to value.
Publius Syrus, as a slave, obviously had far fewer gifts of fortune than other Stoics like Seneca or Marcus Aurelius, and probably far fewer than everyday Roman citizens. But he considered himself happy and good insofar as he could choose to limit what he valued to the scope of activities and objects he could in fact achieve and acquire. And insofar as everything he valued was within power to achieve, he considered himself freer than even Caesar.
The real opportunity of a study abroad program, it seems to me, is the chance to expand one’s horizons of thinking. By spending time in the cold Mithraeum we get a better sense of what it would have been like to worship as a Roman. By sitting in the bright sun of their amphitheater, we get a better sense than any textbook could tell us what it would have been like to actually experience a Roman theatrical performance. And by walking through both the slave auction and the Temple of Fortuna, our students acquire at least some sense of just what it would have been like to hold one’s philosophical positions, not simply as a set of theorems, but also as a living, breathing, way of life.
Ruane Hall is lovely. The new Business School and Science Building provide our students and faculty state-of-the-art facilities. But there’s nothing quite like a PC-in-Rome classroom. On Friday, October 20th, students in Alexandra Massini’s “Angels and Demons” class and my own “Roman Stoicism” class joined expert guide Livia Galante for a day-trip to nearby Ostia […]MORE
There’s a Roman tradition that says if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, you’re guaranteed to return to Rome. By now, all of us have probably thrown more than one coin there! It’s hard to believe that the Spring 2015 students have been in Rome for nearly four months. Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said. This week is final exam period and our lives are full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects. We’ll enjoy a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic semester and then start packing to go home.
I like to say that “Rome is not a city, it’s a drug!” And all of us have become addicted! Already some of the students are planning a return trip to the eternal city as soon as their bank accounts allow. During our last week of classes, I asked the students what they will miss about Rome. Many of them said this was a difficult question since they would miss so much about our study abroad experience. Sights and sounds, people and places, foods and drinks were all on the list. Here’s what some of them said:
“I will miss having St. Peter’s in my backyard and new adventures to go on every day.” Julia Averna
“I will miss the incredible people I have met in this program and being able to run alongside the Tiber River.” Dan Elfman
“What will I miss? …the pizza and the weather! (I know back in Providence they have yet to reach 70!) Aside from that, the piazzas we would arrive in after walking out of the metro tunnel were all breathtaking every time. ” Rory Garrison
“I will miss the opportunities to explore Europe and experience different cultures. I will also miss the cappuccinos and the food of Italy. I am dreading going back to the American processed food lifestyle, excluding Dunkin donuts and Chipotle!” Maddy McDonald
“After being at CEA Rome for a semester, a few things that I will miss are: the administration, my new friends, Campo De’ Fiori, and spaghetti carbonara.” E.J. Sheehan
“What I’ll miss most about Rome is the friendships I’ve formed and being able to hang out with friends who share and can relate to my experience in Rome. I’ll also miss walking around Rome and passing by the Vatican or the Tiber River every day.” Alexa Lombardo
“One thing I will miss most about Rome is how green the city is. I have never seen an urbanized city that naturally has so much vegetation. Contained within the the tiny crooks of the narrow streets you find lush greenness. On the balconies of the homes there are beautiful plants spilling over onto the streets… On the rooftops are terraces, again, with more beautiful gardens. I guess you can say Italians really love their plants. That was something I noticed within my first days of arrival. Even during the winter it’s still green here — the grass is in tact, the trees still have leaves, and the plants are there in their bounteous splendor.” Kadene Pitter
“I will miss passing by the Vatican lit up at night when I’m going home, the relaxed nature of Italian culture, and traveling to so many incredible places.” Madeleine Veith
“While leaving Rome is bittersweet, I know that once I am home I will miss being able to explore a place that is so steeped in history. Walking to class each day or getting unintentionally lost, I always seem to discover some new crevice of this city, whether it be a church, a gelateria, a café, or a site of historical significance. Even after four months I still feel like there is so much to see, which gives me a reason to come back!” Kathleen McGinty
“I will miss all the new friends that I have made. I am happy to have become close with the PC kids here but I will definitely miss those friends I made that don’t go to PC. I will miss the endless amounts of pizza, pasta and gelato. Definitely will miss living in a different country and right in the center of one the most beautiful places I have seen. And finally I will miss being in different countries every weekend.” Emily Rose
“It’s almost impossible to pick one thing that I will miss from Rome, but I’d probably have to go with the general feeling of novelty and excitement that comes with living in a foreign city. Buying groceries and going for weekday morning runs around the city aren’t things that I ever thought I’d be able to do so casually in Rome!” Katie O’Brien
“It is so cool to think that for the past four months I have lived in a city that is so rich in history, and has a culture that is so different from anything I had been accustomed to my whole life. In addition, I will miss all of the great friends that I have made this semester in Rome, even though I’m sure we will meet up again in the future!” Becky McGuinness
There’s a Roman tradition that says if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, you’re guaranteed to return to Rome. By now, all of us have probably thrown more than one coin there! It’s hard to believe that the Spring 2015 students have been in Rome for nearly four months. Tempus fugit, time flies, […]MORE
While most people at home would immediately think of the P.C. Hockey team’s recent national championship victory in the TD Garden of Boston when they hear of “Friars in the Garden”, this Blog is actually about our recent day trip with CEA to the famous Ninfa Gardens, a beautiful nature reserve south of Rome.
All of our day trips and excursions have as their goal some sort of Italian cultural immersion. But this outing could have even been dubbed an “environmental immersion”. The Ninfa Gardens, declared a protected natural monument in 2000, include ruins of a medieval town, an English-style romantic garden, a 17th century hortus conclusus, a river, and a lake. The best time for viewing is the Spring with an extravaganza of blooming plants, flowers, and trees.
This day trip was part of the curriculum of the popular “Environmental Ethics” class offered to P.C. students to fulfill their ethics core requirement. Not a bad homework assignment! Ninfa combines history, architecture, and nature. One of the internationally famous aspects of the Gardens is its micro-climate and rare eco-system due to its location between the two contrasting geological formations of the Pontine plain and the Lepini hills. It faces south and has at least four natural springs feeding the gardens with pure spring water and keeping the atmosphere temperate.
It is well known that Pope Francis has made environmental awareness part of his pontificate. He has spoken about it in numerous speeches and press conferences, emphasizing the moral dimensions of protecting the environment. Indeed, the Vatican will sponsor a one day conference entitled: “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity” next week here in Rome. The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will open the conference which will be attended by the economist Jeffrey Sachs, other world and religious leaders, and of course, many scientists. The conference is in anticipation of Pope Francis’ forth-coming encyclical on global warming and the environment, set to be released this summer.
Our tour of the Ninfa Gardens complex not only provided a wonderful Spring day experience of sights, sounds (over 150 types of birds!), and smells (so many flowers in bloom!), in anticipation of Earth Day this week, it also gave us a chance to think about Genesis and the human responsibility of the stewardship of creation.
While most people at home would immediately think of the P.C. Hockey team’s recent national championship victory in the TD Garden of Boston when they hear of “Friars in the Garden”, this Blog is actually about our recent day trip with CEA to the famous Ninfa Gardens, a beautiful nature reserve south of Rome. All of […]MORE
The Spring 2015 P.C. in Rome program is fast approaching its end. As we say in Rome – tempus fugit – time flies! Although there is a tinge of melancholy in the air because we know we’ll be leaving Rome in a few weeks, we are grateful for our time here and the experiences we’ve had.
As usual, the core course, New Testament in the Eternal City, has used Rome as its “classroom” and has provided us with many adventures during our weekly site visits. Our other Theology course, The Catholic Church and Major World Religions, has also used site visits, guests speakers, and lectures to unpack the reality of inter-religious dialogue that is so crucial in today’s world.
As we approach our final exam period and make a list of things we still need to see and do before departure, I asked the students to share their thoughts about their experience with PC/CEA in Rome. I asked them to imagine speaking to a student back home in Providence who might be considering studying abroad next year. What would they say to him or her about being in Rome?
In other words, “why study theology in Rome”? Here’s what some of them said:
“Studying theology in Rome is a great experience since we were able to connect with the New Testament on a physical level when we visited some of the most important sites of early Christianity.” – Stephen Beck“I would encourage any PC student to pursue their theology cores in Rome simply because of the fact you’re in Rome. Our classes aren’t just sitting in a lecture hall, we actually go once a week to see some of the most ancient sites in the world where Christianity began. It’s not an experience you can find anywhere else and it’s incredibly rewarding.” – Katie O’Brien
“As an accounting major with a rigorous business course load, I saved many of my core requirements, including my two theology classes, for my semester abroad, and I would recommend to anyone considering studying abroad in Rome to do the same. Seeing how the themes of the New Testament are manifested in churches and other historical sites throughout Rome has given me a deeper understanding of my faith that I will carry with me through the rest of my life.” – Kathleen McGinty
“Taking Theology in Rome has been a lot more enjoyable than I can imagine it to be at PC in a class room. As an accounting major I struggled in CIV and pushed off my theology requirements for this point exactly. We have site visits once a week, so we are out of the classroom exploring the city. Personally I wouldn’t have gone to nearly as many of the churches and places we got to go, but I was so happy I had the opportunity to do so. I highly recommend filing these requirements abroad!” – Emily Rose“Rome is the ultimate place to study theology. The city is our classroom and the guided site visits make the readings and lectures come to life in an incredible way. ” -Julia Averna
“Rome – full of religious history making it an ideal location to learn about theology. Being able to connect the city to theology classes makes for a rich and fulfilling educational experience.” – Maddy McDonald“Studying theology in Rome is incredible because you get to go on field trips during class time every week which are often very relevant to the course material and history of the Church. It’s a unique opportunity to learn, grow, and fulfill Core Requirements through this interactive and memorable experience. ” -Madeleine Veith“Studying theology in Rome has been such an amazing experience as everything we learn about in the classroom we are able to see in person. The correlation between the New Testament and the awesome site visits allows us to make connections that we never would have seen if not studying in Rome. Though I have taken theology classes at PC before, this has been my favorite by far as everything is so relevant to our daily lives here in the eternal city.” -Katherine Mahder“Why study Theology in Rome? Because the environment is extremely conducive to learning theology. Physically being surrounded by ancient structures that relate to the course material instantly make this class uniquely beneficial and memorable. ” – Dan ElfmanGo Friars!
The Spring 2015 P.C. in Rome program is fast approaching its end. As we say in Rome – tempus fugit – time flies! Although there is a tinge of melancholy in the air because we know we’ll be leaving Rome in a few weeks, we are grateful for our time here and the experiences we’ve […]MORE
“Seeing Pope Francis in such close proximity today at the Papal Audience has been one of the most exciting experiences during my semester abroad so far. The media always speaks about his compassion, and you could really see that today as he took the time to greet visitors from all over the world during his ride in the pope mobile around St. Peter’s Square.” – Kathleen McGinty
Recently the P.C. in Rome program attended a Wednesday Papal Audience. There were close to 40,000 people on hand to see Pope Francis, who was celebrating the two year anniversary of his election. Each semester I register Providence College in Rome as an official pilgrimage group so that we are recognized at the Audience we attend. And so 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.
“I really enjoyed my time at the Papal Audience yesterday morning. I thought the coolest part about it was all the babies that would be passed from hand to hand through the body guards so he would kiss them on the head and bless them. I really liked him driving by. It was unreal how close we were to him! I also thought it was interesting how everything was repeated so many different times by all the different languages. And it was also really cool to hear PC announced!” -Emily Rose
Attending a Wednesday Audience is a very unique experience. Although open to all, you do need a ticket if you want a seat. Tickets are free, but you must show up very early to get inside the Square since it’s open seating. The Audience begins with the Pope riding in his “Popemobile” around the Square to be close to the people. Pope Francis has the custom of making several passes through the Square so that as many people as possible can see him up close.
“I thought the papal audience was such a great experience. I am personally not Catholic, but being a Christian I could still appreciate and feel how powerful this experience was. It hit me while I was there that I will probably never see the Pope this “up close and personal” again.” -Becky McGuinness
The Audience consists of prayers, Bible readings, a short talk by the Pope, and then greetings and blessings to all who are present, in several languages. At the final Blessing, the Pope also blesses any medals, rosaries, or other mementos that those present have brought for his Blessing.
Pope Francis has recently been using his talks at the weekly audience to offer some catechesis on the family. The talk he gave us was about the role of grandparents and the elderly in the Christian community. He remarked that in our culture, it is not uncommon for the elderly to be “put aside” or neglected. He urged us to see our elders in the faith as providing a rich spiritual resource of wisdom, prayer, and even leadership.
“What struck me most about the papal audience was the emphasis that Pope Francis put on the influence that the elderly have on the young. I, personally, have been influenced greatly by my grandparents and they have instilled in me a great sense of faith through their own. I feel it is extremely important for the elderly to properly advise the young because their advice is invaluable. Prayer, as Pope Francis said, is vital for them to understand how to do so.” – Jack Gallo“The papal audience was such an amazing experience. I truthfully didn’t know what to expect before I got there. When the Pope came out in his “pope mobile” it was so wonderful to see that he went around the whole entire crowd so that he would be able to greet everyone that came out to see him, bless some of the objects people handed him, and kiss the babies that he saw in the crowd.” – Caitlin Lehane“Seeing the Pope, so close and in person, was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. Knowing that he lives so close to us and that his “house” is in our neighborhood made that experience unreal. I never thought that I would be able to be so close to the Pope before and I am so blessed that I was able to see him today!” – Kat MahderGO FRIARS!
“Seeing Pope Francis in such close proximity today at the Papal Audience has been one of the most exciting experiences during my semester abroad so far. The media always speaks about his compassion, and you could really see that today as he took the time to greet visitors from all over the world during his […]MORE
Providence College was founded in 1917 by the Dominican Order. The Dominican Tradition has its origin in the life and ministry of St. Dominic de Guzman (1172 – 1221), the son of a Spanish noble, who founded one of the largest religious Orders in the Catholic Church. His charismatic vision of a way of responding to the needs of the Church in the thirteenth century led to the establishment of the Order of Preachers –popularly known as the Dominicans.
The PC in Rome program is rooted in and flows from the Catholic and Dominican mission of the College. The students are able to experience, in very tangible ways, the Dominican “ethos” and “narrative” while studying here in Rome.
One way this happens is by visiting the world headquarters of the Dominican Order at Santa Sabina.
Santa Sabina basilica is the Mother Church of the Dominican Order and is located on top of one of the seven hills of Rome – the Aventine Hill.
This semester our tour was led by Fr. Dominic Izzo, O.P. Fr. Izzo is a Rhode Island native, a P.C. grad, and former Provincial of the east coast province of Dominicans back home, the Province of St. Joseph.
Currently, Fr. Izzo serves on the General Council of the Order and works closely with the Master General. His position is known as “Socius”.
Santa Sabina is a 5th century early Christian basilica built over the family home of St. Sabina. In the first century, the Aventine was the site of an affluent patrician neighborhood. It is thought that Sabina was the patroness of a “house church” which means that Christians met at her home for prayer, worship, and celebration of the Eucharist.
While explaining the art and architecture of this beautiful church, Fr. Izzo also wove in the story of Dominic, his foundation of the Order, and his experiences while living in Rome.
After exploring the basilica, we went inside the residence or “convent” of the Dominicans. This is where the cell of St. Dominic is located. Transformed into a chapel, this room of Dominic made a deep impression on the students. We said a prayer there together asking for Dominic’s help and inspiration.
Besides St. Dominic, there are other famous Dominicans who have lived at Santa Sabina. A plaque on the wall listing former residents offers a veritable “Who’s Who” of Dominican history. St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope St. Pius V all lived here at one time or another. We also saw St. Pius V’s cell, which has been turned into a chapel as well.
I think it’s important for our students to get a sense of the international character of the Dominican Order, its history, legacy, and mission in the Church today. Experiences like our tour of Santa Sabina should provide that. After all, a Friar is more than just a basketball mascot!
Providence College was founded in 1917 by the Dominican Order. The Dominican Tradition has its origin in the life and ministry of St. Dominic de Guzman (1172 – 1221), the son of a Spanish noble, who founded one of the largest religious Orders in the Catholic Church. His charismatic vision of a way of […]MORE
During their semester stay for Study Abroad in Rome, the students are obviously immersed in “all things Italian”. While there might be many similarities between Italy and the U.S., the truth is that daily life here can be very different from daily life at home. Things we take for granted might not even cross the minds of Italians. Conversely, what they consider “normal” is often “strange” or “surprising” for Americans.
Matthew Tinsley, a Theology Major and Finance Minor from Worcester, Massachusetts, has written a guest blog on the coffee culture of Italy. Matt confesses to be a “coffee-oholic” at home. And here he has noticed several differences in the way Italian understand, consume, and celebrate their most preferred beverage. His reflections are below.
On a typical morning here in Rome, at around 9:00 A.M., I leave my apartment on Via Cola di Rienzo and head for class. I stop in a “bar” (café) along the way, stand at the counter, and order my coffee: “Prendo un caffè, per favore.” At a typical bar in the city you’ll find businessmen, construction workers, lawyers, policemen—people of all professions patiently standing together, enjoying simple conversation and waiting for their coffees. After finishing my espresso, I wave to the workers and continue on with my day. This is the coffee culture here in Rome. It is relaxed, conversational, and it is very much a part of the Roman daily routine.
When I think back to my experiences ordering coffee in New England, I picture this: A long and discouraging line of F-150s, covered in snow and sand, sitting at the Drive-Thru of a Dunkin Donuts. While this is hardly the only way to get coffee in the U.S., let us consider how this image contrasts from the coffee culture here in Rome.
How is the coffee itself different? The translation of “coffee” from English to Italian is “caffè,” yet each word refers to a different beverage. When Romans order caffè, they are really ordering a small cup of espresso. If I wanted the type of coffee that you would typically find at American diners, Dunkin’ Donuts, Honey Dew and so on, then I would have to specify, “caffè Americano”.
There are many, many ways to take your coffee here. A caffè lungo is an espresso with added water, whereas a caffè ristretto is a stronger, more concentrated espresso. There is the macchiato, which is coffee with milk, and it is served caldo, or freddo, hot or cold. One may order a caffè shakerato, which involves putting coffee and ice cubes in a shaker and serving it in a cocktail glass. After dinner, one might enjoy a caffè corretto, or coffee with added liquor, (typically Grappa or Sambuca). There is also the caffè marocchino, which consists of coffee mixed with chocolate powder. As you can imagine, the list goes on.
Indeed, there are many different types of coffee here in Italy, but in fairness, the same can be said of the U.S. How else could the coffee culture be different in Rome than in the States? I submit that the way people drink coffee here is much different. For example, Italians do not have an easy phrase for taking coffee “To-Go”; you would have to say, “caffè da portare via,” or literally “to take away.”
I have yet to see a major and dominant chain coffee company in Rome, let alone a “Drive-Thru” option for motorists. Romans prefer taking their time while drinking coffee; they’ll often enjoy a cup while standing at the cafe countertop, reading the newspaper or simply exchanging small-talk with the bartenders. If someone is eating or drinking while walking down the street, it is likely that that person is not Italian.
I have enjoyed observing the differences between the coffee culture in Italy and the U.S. I think this experience has given me a glimpse into the broader cultural traits of each country as a whole.
During their semester stay for Study Abroad in Rome, the students are obviously immersed in “all things Italian”. While there might be many similarities between Italy and the U.S., the truth is that daily life here can be very different from daily life at home. Things we take for granted might not even cross […]MORE
The record breaking snowfall in New England – measured now in feet rather than inches – has made international news. Here in the Eternal City, we have certainly not had weather like that this Winter. However, we did recently visit a place in Rome where it snowed in August!
According to a medieval legend, the Basilica of St. Mary Major was actually built because the Virgin Mary appeared to Pope Liberius (352-366AD) in a dream and told him to build a church dedicated to her where the snow would fall that night. The snow Mary promised did appear on the Esquiline hill on August 5th, which is now the liturgical feast of our “Lady of the Snows”. As the legend goes, the Pope drew in the snow with his staff where the basilica would stand.
After a lecture on the Gospel of Luke, we toured the basilica which is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Luke’s theology of Mary in his Gospel is highly developed, casting her as a model of discipleship. Actually built in the 5th century, in honor of the title “Mother of God”, conferred on Mary at the Council of Ephesus in 431AD, this church is the oldest one dedicated to Mary in the West.
“In the 5th century, the declaration at the Council of Ephesus stated that the Virgin was the Mother of God (Theotokos). This pivotal moment in Christian history started the movement to create churches to honor Mary, who is both the Mother of God and of all Christian people.” – Madeleine Veith
“The site visit to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major fits perfectly with the theme of Luke’s Gospel. This basilica was built in honor of Mary, the Mother of God, and is a testimony to the essential role of Mary in God’s plan of salvation history.” – EJ Sheehan
Since medieval times, Romans have believed that the relics of the Manger of Bethlehem or even the whole Grotto itself was transferred into this basilica. The relics are kept under the main altar. On Christmas morning, a procession of the Santa Culla, the Holy Crib, is held in the basilica.
“Beneath the most sacred part of the Basilica is what is believed to be wooden remnants of the actual crib of Jesus. One might look at this as the womb of the Basilica, which holds a piece of the sacrality of baby Jesus; as one would think of Mary’s own womb holding baby Jesus for nine months.” – Kadene Pitter
“Another attention grabber in the basilica is what some like to believe to be a part of the Holy Crib, or manger, of Jesus. This is interesting, because Luke’s Gospel has a Birth Christology, so Jesus would become the Messiah at his manger.” – Tim O’Connor
The walls of the central nave and the triumphal arch at the end of this nave are decorated with mosaics from the time of Sixtus III (432-440AD), making them the oldest mosaic cycle in Rome.
This mosaic salvation history cycle is completed by the scenes of the Incarnation and the infancy of Christ on the triumphal arch.
The apse is decorated with the central scene of the “Coronation of the Virgin”. She shares the throne with Christ who crowns her as queen of the cosmos.
“The Basilica of St. Mary Major is itself a testament to Mary’s great faith. In the apse mosaic, in which Mary is seated with Jesus on the same throne, she gestures with her hands towards Jesus, signifying that He is the “main attraction” and that it’s not about her.” – Stephen Beck
St. Mary Major also contains an ancient icon of Mary known as the Salus populi Romani, which hangs in a side chapel built by Pope Paul V. This Byzantine-style icon is from the ninth century, but pious Medieval Romans believed it was painted by the evangelist St. Luke. Mary is represented holding Jesus, who is dressed in a golden tunic and holds a scroll. The hands of Mary are crossed in front of her child. One hand exposes two fingers, which is a sign of the two natures of the person of Christ, who is both human and divine.
Pope Francis has a special devotion to this image of Mary who is the “help and salvation of the Roman people”. The morning after his election as Pope, he made a special visit to pray in this chapel. And now every time he travels, he prays there beforehand to ask her intercession on his journey. Upon his return to Rome, he goes to thank her and usually leaves flowers from the place he has been.
The record breaking snowfall in New England – measured now in feet rather than inches – has made international news. Here in the Eternal City, we have certainly not had weather like that this Winter. However, we did recently visit a place in Rome where it snowed in August! According to a medieval legend, […]MORE
Last week CEA arranged a trip to Umbria for us. We visited the town of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis and St. Clare, co-founders of the Franciscan Order.
On the bus ride up to Assisi, I was able to give a brief talk about St. Francis and his remarkable life. We discussed his family life, his dramatic conversion, and his mission to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and the forgotten. I told them about his trip to meet the Sultan on a mission of peace and his efforts to heal divisions and reconcile enemies. Finally, we discussed some of the “iconic scenes” of his life which live on in the history and spirituality of the Franciscans.
As a true reformer, Francis challenged the Church of his day to conform itself more closely to the Gospel of Christ and the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount. We also discussed the choice of the name “Francis” by our current Pope. Upon reflection, we realized that perhaps we are witnessing in our own day another “Francis revolution” with the preaching and example of Papa Francesco.
The basilica of St. Francis was the highlight for most of us. We were able to decipher many of the frescoes that portrayed biblical stories and then had the challenge of understanding the stories of Francis’ life in their context.
Using our New Testament in the Eternal City course as a backdrop, we could more easily understand the stories of the life of Francis and the birth of the Franciscan Order.
There is a story – some would day legend – that St. Francis and St. Dominic actually met and became friends. Their meeting and fraternal charity towards one another is to be a corrective to any rivalry or “unholy competition” between the two religious Orders of Franciscans and Dominicans. Their encounter has been portrayed in painting, stained glass, and sculpture by both religious families. (In fact, there is a stained glass window in St. Dominic’s Chapel on campus that depicts it.)
More than just a way to escape from the “big city life” of Rome, these cultural trips in our study abroad experience expose students to Italian culture, art, architecture, food, and history. The sights and sounds of Assisi and the Umbrian countryside made a lasting impression on everyone who went.
The fresh air, beautiful sights, good food, and camaraderie reminded us how special the study abroad experience is. Assisi is known as the “City of Peace”. And it did not disappoint!
Last week CEA arranged a trip to Umbria for us. We visited the town of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis and St. Clare, co-founders of the Franciscan Order. On the bus ride up to Assisi, I was able to give a brief talk about St. Francis and his remarkable life. We discussed his family […]MORE
P.C. students who come to Rome to study abroad find out very quickly how serious the Italians are about food. It’s practically their religion! Enjoying Italian cuisine, learning to dine in courses, and even trying out popular Italian recipes are all a part of the cultural experience of Italy. Our students eventually realize that “eating is more than just eating” for the Italians. I asked the students if they would like to share their experience of food and study abroad. Miguel Bermudez, a Business Management major with a Spanish minor, from Houston, Texas, took up the challenge. His reflection is below:
Food in Italy
As we all know, the food in Italy is pretty bomb. There is no doubt about that. Yes it is true, that the gelato and pizza are delicious- but you would be surprised at how much skinnier Italians are compared to Americans considering how amazing their food is. With that being said, Italian breakfasts are so different. Unlike an American breakfast, Italians usually have a cappuccino with a croissant for breakfast and that’s about it (no eggs or bacon, sadly). With that being said, you get hooked on their cappuccinos considering that they taste so good and only cost 1 euro!
As for lunch, you assimilate to having pizza and pasta almost every day. There are “pizzerias”, as they are known here in Italy, almost everywhere you go! Think of Starbucks in D.C. and Dunkin’ Donuts in Rhode Island (if you’ve ever visited) and multiply it times ten to get a good estimate of how many pizzerias there are in Italy.
One of the cool activities that CEA offers here in Rome is a pasta making class. About 20 of us signed up for it and found out just how interesting and easy it is to make pasta. Most of us know how to cook pasta but we all definitely learned how to make pasta. In this case, we cooked a fettuccine type of pasta. The ingredients include an egg and about one pint of flour. You crack the egg, mix it with the flour, and stir it until you have a nice, soft ball of dough. After a few minutes of trying to get the ball as smooth as possible, you then flatten it out with the rolling pin. Lastly, you slice the dough into long and thick strips of fettuccine and cook it how you would normally cook pasta at home.
As delicious, amazing, and outstanding as the Italian food can be, I cannot be away from Mexican food for that long. I am of Mexican descent and was raised eating my mother’s and family’s one of a kind Mexican dishes. If you ever tell me that Taco Bell is the best Mexican food that you have ever had and that Chipotle is your life, I will possibly cut you. Being in Rome, there is one Mexican restaurant named La Cucaracha (The Cockroach) that has the best reviews online and by word-of-mouth. It might be a horrible name for a restaurant once translated into English but it actually fits very appropriately. The reason is because la cucaracha is a Mexican folk song that arose during the Mexican Revolution and to this day is very well-known among other Latin American countries as well. If you are familiar with the group of Mexican musicians known as mariachi then you will realize that this folk song is a classic that is always played. This restaurant is so busy that you have to call ahead of time to make a reservation if you go there for dinner!
My roommates and I decided to make a reservation and check it out. The restaurant is located on Via Mocenigo, 10, 00192, which is only a short 15 minute walk from our apartment. To my huge surprise, we were seated, served, and done eating in about 30 minutes. What I liked about their menu was that it was divided into Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican food. I ordered green enchiladas from the authentic side of the menu while one of my roommates ordered Tex-Mex enchiladas. What I will say is that the plates were a bit pricey compared to the small servings that are given. An average plate costs about 12-14 euros while their delicious margaritas (that Dr. Hagstrom said to “stay away” from!) cost 8 euros.
But even though we paid more than what we ate, the food was still amazing! The workers are nice and they give student discounts. (They are from the same city that my parents are from: Acapulco, Guerrero!) I would recommend this restaurant to all the Mexican food lovers and I would definitely recommend bringing a hot Italian date here if you ever have trouble thinking of a place to take them!
Go Foodie Friars!
P.C. students who come to Rome to study abroad find out very quickly how serious the Italians are about food. It’s practically their religion! Enjoying Italian cuisine, learning to dine in courses, and even trying out popular Italian recipes are all a part of the cultural experience of Italy. Our students eventually realize that “eating […]MORE