As with last semester, the PC/CEA Program in Rome has been lucky to work with students from the Pontifical North American College. The purpose of our relationship is to help PC students along the path of their own spiritual journeys, in whatever form those may take. Some of their sponsored activities involve volunteering with local charities in Rome, weekly Bible study, and sometimes just having fun around town — the guys from the ‘PNAC’ seem to know all the best gelato joints in Rome! And one of the opportunities they provide is a day-trip to one of Italy’s many magnificent Holy Sites. Last semester, we venerated the tomb of St. Dominic in Bologna. And this semester, we went to Assisi to visit the Basilica of St. Francis.
Born in 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant, St. Francis’s youth in Assisi was marked by a carefree and notoriously rambunctious lifestyle. When Assisi went to an ill-advised war with Umbrian neighbor Perugia, Francis was captured and imprisoned. Due to his father’s wealth, he was ransomed and returned to Assisi, — with a very different outlook on life. After a dream of God, Francis was led to reflect on his life of material wealth and the meaning of a spiritual life. He spent years in happy poverty reflecting on his relationship with God, with others, and ultimately with himself. At the church of San Damiano, Francis heard Christ speak to him from the cross: “Francis, repair my Church!”
We started the day with a two-hour train ride from Rome to Assisi. The Umbrian town sits high atop Mt. Subasio, and so the train requires a subsequent bus ride up through the winding streets, through a layer of fog, and into a Medieval world of umber-colored buildings.
Our first stop was the Basilica itself. Built in 1228, the year Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX, it is the Mother Church of the Franciscan Order. Students were surprised to learn there are actually two churches on-site, an upper (completed 1253) and lower church (1230). The churches are decorated in Romanesque and Gothic style respectively by some of the best artists of the time, foremost among them Cimabue and his student, the proto-Renaissance master, Giotto. At a still lower level rest the holy remains of St. Francis himself, which were hidden within a crypt to prevent potential relic looters until their rediscovery in 1818.
But what historical details like this can’t prepare students for is the overwhelming feeling of the sacred that pilgrims feel in the presence of St. Francis’s earthly remains. It’s impossible to put into words that inner profundity of the genuinely sacred site.
After some time in quiet reflection, Fr. Brian, Deacon Vince, and Deacon Colin offered us a rare opportunity: a private mass at a small chapel within the Basilica’s ‘Sacra Convento’. Deacon Vince’s homily called us to reflect on the Gospel’s words and Francis’ life within a contemporary context.
After mass, we explored together the city, climbing its steep hills and working up a healthy appetite in preparation for a decidedly non-Franciscan feast!
After lunch, we made stops at the church of San Rufino, who was the first Patron Saint of Assisi before St. Francis, and also the church of St. Clare, which houses her remains.
Our final stop was located in Assisi’s ‘new town’, in the valley of Mt. Subasio: the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels. The basilica was built in the 16th Century in order to contain a sacred site of the Franciscans, the “Porziuncola”. This church-within-a-church was the very one Francis worked on when he heard Christ’s voice say: “Francis, repair my Church!” Francis had been given this poor little 9th century building as a gift from the Benedictines. Taking Christ’s words literally, Francis repaired the physical church before setting off upon his life’s work to repair the spiritual church. Today the Porziuncola serves as a reminder of Francis’ conversion and work especially on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. And it serves to call the millions of Christian pilgrims who visit Assisi each year to continue his work to ‘repair the church’ through their living communion.
As with last semester, the PC/CEA Program in Rome has been lucky to work with students from the Pontifical North American College. The purpose of our relationship is to help PC students along the path of their own spiritual journeys, in whatever form those may take. Some of their sponsored activities involve volunteering with local […]MORE
Guiseppe Verdi once wrote: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” Nowhere is this more true than the Tuscan city of Florence. The home of Dante, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Brunelleschi, Savanarola, Galileo, Botticelli, and Lorenzo ‘the Magnificent’ di Medici — if Rome is the cradle of Western Civilization, then Firenze is its crown.
Along with their university colleagues from around the US, PC students in the CEA Rome program jumped on the speedy ‘Frecciarossa’ train for the 90-minute trip to Florence.
After checking into “Hotel California” (fortunately, not the same one from the Eagles song), students were given a brief orientation to the city and the schedule.
We started with a 2-hour city walking tour from the resident art history instructor at our sister institution, CEA Florence. Among the first highlights was the Cathedral of Santa Maria del fiore, better known as the ‘Duomo’. Begun in the late 1200s by Arnolfo di Cambio, its magisterial dome was finished by Filippo Brunelleschi only in 1436! But even after two hundred years of work, the church wasn’t finished: the famously colorful facade was only added in the 19th Century.
The group continued on through the winding streets, regaled with tales covering the Medieval birth of the city, its height during the reign of the Medici, and even the contemporary manifestation of the mafia.
As always with Florence, the highlight is art. While much of Florence’s beauty is contained within the walls of museums like the Bargello, the Uffizi, and the Accademia, students were surprised to learn that a number of masterpieces were open to the elements. At the side of the Palazzo Vecchio stands the Loggia dei Lanzi, which houses chief works by Giambologna and Cellini. And although a few students snapped shots of the statue outside the palace itself, they would have to wait for the real thing!
Of course, not all art is painting or sculpture. It can be argued that Italy’s greatest artist was its Florentine poet: the author of the Divina Comedia, Dante Alighieri. Scholars are relatively certain the church which still stands there today was the very one where Dante met the love of his life, Beatrice.
Less certain, however, is whether Dante ever lived in the building now known as the ‘Casa di Dante’. More likely, this Medieval building was preserved from the 19th Century on the grounds of a rather spurious claim to being the home of the poet. Similar house museums can be found in Florence for Michaelangelo, Cellini, and Galileo.
The last stop on the walking tour was maybe the most picturesque: the Ponte Vecchio. The double-storied bridge serves today as it did in the Renaissance: both as a scenic storefront of gold and jewelry merchants and the epicenter of youthful Italian romance. As our guide related, the bridge was very nearly destroyed by bombers in World War II. With every other crossing of the Arno river already destroyed, the legend at least goes that a German commander named Gerhard Wolf resisted orders to destroy the bridge, on the grounds that he could not destroy something so beautiful as the Ponte Vecchio.
After the walking tour, students were free to explore Florence on their own. From my conversations with them afterward, I think they made the most of the famous Tuscan cuisine: stewed boar pasta, ribolita soup, panzanella salad, bistecca alla fiorentina — and one brave student even ventured into true ‘foodie’ territory with a lampredotto sandwich! For the uninitiated, lampredotto is the fourth stomach of a cow…
The next morning brought somewhat more palatable delights. After breakfast, the group had their appointment with Michelangelo’s masterpiece: the David. So different from the Old Testament’s tale of the frightened young boy about to fight the giant Goliath, Michelangelo portrayed his figure as a man possessed of tranquil but penetratingly focused confidence, both mind and muscle tensed in readiness. As the story goes, David’s gaze was originally positioned to look toward the south. The message for his Renaissance was clear: Florence was the David to the Goliath of Rome. Though smaller, they were prepared to stand tall for their way of life. And in the end, little Florence conquered the cultural world.
One last meal after the museum, and it was soon time again for the train ride home. Once more, Providence College and CEA Rome reveals what incredible beauty and diversity our world’s culture has to offer.
Guiseppe Verdi once wrote: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” Nowhere is this more true than the Tuscan city of Florence. The home of Dante, Boccaccio, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Brunelleschi, Savanarola, Galileo, Botticelli, and Lorenzo ‘the Magnificent’ di Medici — if Rome is the cradle of Western Civilization, then Firenze is […]MORE
The Spring Semester in Rome 2018 has begun, but not without its share of hiccups! While students were excitedly packing their Spring and Summer clothes for balmy Rome, mother nature had other plans back in Providence!
Approximately 20 students here at CEA this semester were significantly delayed by snowy weather on the east coast, forcing many to stay overnight in airports. Delays were so bad that it took one student until Saturday to join us — five days after their scheduled arrival! Even a week later, some students remained without their luggage.
Of course, the team at CEA did everything possible to rearrange transportation and offer whatever special accommodations were possible on a case by case basis. Fortunately, once PC students checked into their new homes and could begin to enjoy Rome’s 50-degree winters, things began to improve!
More than 30 PC students joined colleagues from around the US to form CEA’s largest class ever: 100 total students! As with last semester, the program began with a three-day orientation. From an introduction to the staff doctor and advice from the local police, to the rules of their apartments in the lovely Prati district, to the opportunities offered by CEA for excursions and social activities, students came to learn the ropes and what magnificent experiences awaited them in the Eternal City.
After morning information sessions, students typically spent afternoons in walking tours of either the immediate area surrounding CEA or else on an introductory walk through the historical city center.
Trusty guide Stewart took one of our groups on a two hour amble to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, into the Pantheon, past Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, and all the way to Piazza Navona. For our jet-lagged students, the sheer number of amazing historical sites was the best medicine!
So we’re up and running for another exciting semester! What wonderful experiences await us here this semester?
The Spring Semester in Rome 2018 has begun, but not without its share of hiccups! While students were excitedly packing their Spring and Summer clothes for balmy Rome, mother nature had other plans back in Providence! Approximately 20 students here at CEA this semester were significantly delayed by snowy weather on the east coast, forcing […]MORE
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
All of our day trips and Friday 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” and “The History of the Culture of Food and Wine in Italy” classes offered to P.C. students this semester by CEA. 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. His 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si, is a breakthrough in papal teaching concerning the common care of creation. In numerous speeches and press conferences the Pope has emphasized the moral dimensions of protecting the environment. Both the Environmental Ethics class and the Italian Food and Wine Culture class have considered this important document of Pope Francis.
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 next week, it also gave us a chance to think about Genesis and the human responsibility of the stewardship of creation.
Last week the Providence College in Rome program had an academic excursion to the famous Ninfa Gardens, a beautiful nature reserve south of Rome. All of our day trips and Friday 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, […]MORE
“The intricate design and archaeology of San Clemente reveals invaluable information and background about the New Testament.” Ashlee Robinson
One of the things we are learning in our New Testament in the Eternal City course is that archaeology is imperative for the study of the New Testament. There is no chance of understanding Jesus, Peter, Paul, Mary, or the early Christians without understanding their world. And there is no way to reconstruct their world without archaeology. In fact, archaeology is so important in Rome, that the Vatican has an office devoted solely to its study called The Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology.
How can the study of archaeology help us to understand the New Testament? This is the question we asked during our recent site visit to the Basilica of San Clemente. Our Scripture course includes not only classroom lectures, but also on site visits to particular places in Rome that are significant for Christian history, theology, and spirituality.
By tradition, St. Clement (92-101 AD) was a bishop in Rome who gave his life as a martyr for Christ. Fourth-century accounts speak of his forced labor in the mines during exile to the Crimea in the reign of the emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) and his missionary work there which prompted the Romans to bind him to an anchor and throw him into the Black Sea. His relics were recovered and are under the main altar of the church.
According to the oldest list of Roman bishops, he was the third successor to St Peter in Rome (after Linus and Cletus). The First Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, known as the “Roman Canon”, mentions St. Clement in the list of bishops and saints of Rome through whose merits and prayers the faithful seek help and protection. The church in Rome dedicated to him is said to be built over a first century house which belonged to his family.
The church of San Clemente is like a “layered cake” of archaeological wonder. The present basilica is from the 12th century, but underneath is a 5th century basilica and below that is a first century house, warehouse, and Mithraic temple. These sites were excavated beginning in the 19th century under the guidance of an Irish Dominican priest, Fr. Mullooly, who was prior of San Clemente. Indeed, the Irish Dominicans have been the custodians of San Clemente since the 17th century. In this way, Providence College has a kind of “connection” with San Clemente since they are both Dominican institutions.
Archaeological artifacts can profoundly affect our understanding of the New Testament’s message. And visiting some of the most important archaeological sites in Rome this semester will teach us much about the lives and beliefs of the early Christians.
Here are a few quotes from the papers the students wrote after our site visit:
“This excavation, along with many in Rome, has helped to give insight into the meaning of aspects of scripture … Therefore, these discoveries are not just for mere curiosity but are important to understanding the Catholic faith in its truest form.” Matt Griffin
“Our first site visit to San Clemente emphasized the points of revelation, historical context, and the importance of the written word that we had discussed in our first class.” Grace King
“Having San Clemente be our first site visit seemed to be very appropriate in understanding the purpose of the New Testament. Its history is more than just an interesting tour—for Christians, it still holds relevance today.” Evan Juliano
“The intricate design and archaeology of San Clemente reveals invaluable information and background about the New Testament.” Ashlee Robinson One of the things we are learning in our New Testament in the Eternal City course is that archaeology is imperative for the study of the New Testament. There is no chance of understanding Jesus, Peter, […]MORE
“…Of course studying in Ireland, Paris, or London would be an amazing experience, but Rome is the only place to fully grasp the entirety of what the Church really means and what faith really entails.” Rachel Reilly
“Studying in Rome has exposed me to the roots of the religion I live and practice everyday. Living and studying in the place that is heart of Christianity, my faith has flourished… Rome has proved that as a theology student it is a lot more interesting to be the neighbor of Pope Francis than to sit in Siena hall at 8:30 in the morning!” Kathryn McDougal
“Why study theology in Rome? When you enter a church in Rome you are filled with the feeling of amazement as you now have a deeper and richer understanding of the history behind the church and the New Testament.” Colleen Toomey
The Fall 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 soon, we are grateful for our time here and the experiences we’ve had. 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! 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.
As we 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 reflect on their time here in Rome and their experience of studying Theology. What they would say to a student back home who is considering studying abroad next year? What advice might they give to someone who was considering spending a semester in the Eternal City? Is there any reason why Rome should be the preferred place for studying Theology?
Here’s what some of them said:“The answer to the question “why study theology in Rome?” is simple: because there is no better place to do it!…Having the Vatican as my neighbor and visiting new Basilicas every week has been an incredible experience that I didn’t even know I would have…There is no better place to learn, understand, and appreciate the foundations of our religion than in Rome. It’s that simple!” Kristen Sheridan
“It is an amazing opportunity to get out of the classroom and see famous Roman monuments and Basilicas that tie into the theology we are learning in the New Testament. Nothing can compare to seeing these connections first hand!” Brittany Aylmer
“It is a truly humbling experience to walk through an amazing Roman church with family and friends and having the ability to explain the theological themes presented in the artwork and images. Not only do you learn about the Church as a whole, but you learn about yourself, your inner personality, values, and beliefs.” Jordyn D’Esposito
“Rome is an ideal place to study theology because it is the center of the Catholic Church, and theological landmarks and ideas can be found throughout the entire city. Rome is not only rich in theology, but in general history as well, which makes it a perfect place to study.” Tori Strain
“The real question should be why not study abroad in Rome? There is no other place to be able to truly unravel the mystery of Christ. Not only do I feel closer with my Catholic religion, but also I feel as if from this experience I am able to go on and positively spread the word about what I’ve learned. Needless to say there is no place like Rome, my new home.” Jenna Zolla
“I have grown up a practicing Catholic my whole life and I have learned more in these past 3 months about my religion than any other theological setting I have ever been a part of in my life… I have never felt better informed about the history of my faith until studying it in Rome… learning about theology in Rome is unlike any other theological experience because you get to see everything first hand which makes everything you learn in the classroom come to light right in front of your eyes.” Claire Beatty
“…to actually physically see these famous Basilicas that hold magnificent mosaics, architecture, and history makes a tremendous difference when learning about them. Actually seeing many theological sites that are so important to the world, helps you grasp why and how they are there…This is why you should study Theology in Rome – especially Rome because it has so much history to offer.” Elizabeth Kirby
“Studying Theology in Rome is like meeting the saints and great theologians. They are brought to life through knowledge and they are given a face and context in Rome. Your textbook is the city, and the pages are endless and more beautiful than the last.” Ana Gadoury
“I have been given the opportunity to see the New Testament through the eyes of an early Christian Believer. And its absolutely fascinating. To be able to go into the Catacombs, and see the symbolism, the artwork, of the early Church. To hear the stories, and see them come alive through the mosaics in churches like San Clemente. To walk around St. Peters and know that the obelisk I was gazing at was the same one St. Peter gazed at as he was been crucified upside down. And as weird as it may sound, I know that the spirit of the early Christian Church is still within this Holy City: flowing and moving, inspiring, and serving as a great testimony about a man named Jesus Christ.” Vanesa Zuleta
“…Of course studying in Ireland, Paris, or London would be an amazing experience, but Rome is the only place to fully grasp the entirety of what the Church really means and what faith really entails.” Rachel Reilly “Studying in Rome has exposed me to the roots of the religion I live and practice everyday. Living […]MORE
“As a dedication to the person and martyrdom of Paul, it is one of the four patriarchal basilicas to be visited on one’s spiritual pilgrimage to Rome.” Giana D’Avanzo
“Upon entering the portico of St. Paul’s outside the walls, the pilgrim encounters a vision of paradise in the center garden. The grand statue of the apostle in the center reminds the traveler that it was Paul’s courageous teaching that led to Christianity’s firm hold within the city of Rome.” Alexandra Lawrence
Recently, our New Testament in the Eternal City class visited the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. This basilica, built over the tomb of the apostle Paul, enshrines the witness of martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel. As the patristic writer Tertullian stated, “…the apostles poured forth their whole teaching, along with their blood into the Church of Rome…” Like St. Peter, the apostle Paul culminates his ministry of the Word with the spiritual victory of winning the crown of martyrdom. As he states in II Timothy, “… the time for my departure is near, even now my life is being poured out as an offering. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and now what awaits me is a crown of glory that will never fade, life on high in Christ Jesus..” (4:6-8)
Although St. Paul’s martyrdom, like St. Peter’s, is not mentioned in the New Testament, the evidence of Patristic writers testifies to his execution outside of the walls of Rome on the road leading to the port city of Ostia. St. Paul was beheaded and his body was buried, according to tradition, by a pious Roman matron named Lucina, in a nearby pagan cemetery. Today the magnificent basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls stands over the site of his grave.
St. Paul’s tomb is below the altar, behind a grill, where a small red light burns constantly. If peered at through the grill, it is possible to see the marble cover of the sarcophagus with the inscription: “To Paul, Apostle and Martyr”. The cover has holes, made for direct contact with the inside of the tomb. Through these holes, in ancient times, pilgrims were able to lower down objects to touch the sarcophagus of the Apostle. And these pieces of cloth became prized relics for the ancient pilgrims.
After our visit, as usual, the students wrote papers connecting our lectures on St. Paul and his apostleship to the Gentiles with the art and architecture of the basilica. In this way, they are being trained to “read” a church and its artistic program from a theological and biblical point of view.
“The cross is depicted on the central bronze doors of the Basilica. In this depiction, the names of the four evangelists and the images of the twelve apostles are represented and acanthus leaf wraps around the entire cross. The acanthus leaf historically represents eternal life and by interweaving it with the cross, apostles, and evangelists, it stresses how the cross is the key to absolute salvation.” Tony Ravosa
“Above the columns of the naves run a row of Papal portraits. Popes are the successors of St. Peter and St. Paul, which makes it interesting to see these portraits, because the Pope labours to free the message of Jesus from any cultural restraints or encumbrances, as St. Paul did.” Rachel Reilly
“All along the sides of the church are statues of the apostles in niches and all around the church are portraits of the popes. This is fitting because, as successor of St. Peter and St. Paul, the bishop of Rome is to continue the ministry of St. Paul in an ardent zeal for the promotion of the good news of Christ.” Colleen O’Connell
“… the major mosaic of Jesus is the largest and most serious, portraying him as a judge. Jesus looks stern because the image represents him during the second coming. Christ is holding a shepherd’s staff, further highlighting his role as judge during the Parousia.” Jordyn D’Esposito
“As a dedication to the person and martyrdom of Paul, it is one of the four patriarchal basilicas to be visited on one’s spiritual pilgrimage to Rome.” Giana D’Avanzo “Upon entering the portico of St. Paul’s outside the walls, the pilgrim encounters a vision of paradise in the center garden. The grand statue of the […]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 share some reflections 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 share some reflections about St. Francis and his remarkable life. We discussed his family life, […]MORE
“The Basilica of St. John Lateran is a useful guide to teach the lessons of the Bible. The intent of this Basilica is to lead the viewer on a visual journey through the Old and the New Testaments.” Elizabeth Kirby
Last week our New Testament in the Eternal City class made a visit to this 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.
“The Old Testament portrayals serve as a foreshadowing for the coming of Christ in the New Testament… It is this “Biblical Concordance” that showcases the history of salvation in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.” Ashley Alemian
The inscription on the façade of the Basilica of St. John Lateran reads: “The Most Holy Church of the Lateran, Mother and Head of all the Churches of the City and of the World”. This cathedral of Rome owes its origins to the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century and was where the Popes resided until the 14th century when the papacy became centralized at the Vatican.
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.
“The images on the left side of the nave represent salvation history in the Old Testament, while the right side represents fulfillment of these scenes through Jesus. The most important fulfillment, perhaps, is the depiction of Abraham being stopped by an angel from sacrificing his son Isaac, being fulfilled through the illustration of Christ’s crucifixion, marking the ultimate fulfillment of salvation history.” Luke Fitzgerald
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.
“The central nave of St. John Lateran shows the history of salvation within Christianity by depicting the twelve apostles and supporting them by twelve reliefs that truly show that the life of Jesus the Savior, prophesied in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the New Testament.” Rachel Reilly
“Water is repeatedly a symbol of life and birth especially in the New Testament as well as in Saint John Lateran where there is a large baptistery… The baptistery is in the shape of an octagon to symbolize 8 sides: the 7 days of creation, and the 8th day symbolizing eternity and immortality.” Sarah Viens
“The Basilica of St. John Lateran is a useful guide to teach the lessons of the Bible. The intent of this Basilica is to lead the viewer on a visual journey through the Old and the New Testaments.” Elizabeth Kirby Last week our New Testament in the Eternal City class made a visit to this basilica […]MORE