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
It’s hard to believe that the students and I have finished our four months in Rome. Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said. This past week was final exam period and our lives were full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects. We enjoyed a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic semester last night and today most of the students are flying back 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. The Italians believe that one way to assure a return to Rome is by throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain. During the semester, all of us have thrown at least a few coins in that famous place.
For me, personally, this is more than just the end of another semester, but rather the end of my three year term as Faculty Resident Director here. I will be returning to the home campus in Providence after six wonderful semesters of having the blessing and the privilege of teaching Theology at the heart of the Church. Since the days of my doctoral studies in Rome at the Angelicum, I always dreamt of being able to teach in “the city of apostles, martyrs, and saints”. And these three years have been a dream come true.
During our last week together, 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:
“Rome might actually be the best place in the world to study theology, especially Catholic theology because of the historical and present relevance. You can’t go three blocks without passing some important church or site, with the biggest site, of course, being the Vatican.” Bryan Blum
“Studying theology in Rome is a unique experience because we have been able to learn not only from lectures and textbooks, but from the city itself. I have gained so much more insight about theology and also about my faith through the incredible sites that we have visited throughout the semester.” Alex Brady
“I think Rome is one of the most important places in the world to study theology. I have found that studying so close to the Vatican has given me so many opportunities to broaden my faith and learn more about Christianity than I ever could in a classroom in the states.” Abby Chave
“Rome is the ideal picture book to use to teach Catholics about the historical, political, and religious significance of their religion.” Caragh Corcoran
“The city of Rome is a visual theology in itself…” Lacey Sullivan
“Rome is the center for the theology of the Catholic religion and the heart of the Papacy. There is no better city to explore the beliefs of Catholicism than Rome…” Peter DiCenso
“The sites that we have visited this semester in the eternal city of Rome have brought theology to light in a whole new way that is unmatched by any other city.” Erin Wallace
“My experience of studying theology in Rome is much more than learning the history of the papacy or learning the different Christologies of the Gospels. Having the opportunity to study theology in Rome has brought me to a greater understanding of the values that Providence College stands for and how these values create such a strong sense of community.” Haley Grant McHugh
“Everyone knows that Rome is the center of the Catholic Church. However, it is not until you visit all the basilicas, catacombs, and historical sites firsthand while learning about the New Testament and its history that you truly understand what this entails. With every site you visit in Rome, you get a little better sense of the history and foundation of the Catholic Church and how it is still relevant in your life today.” Jamie Russo
“Rome holds the threshold of the apostles, over 500 churches, and an undeniable spiritual richness that attracts pilgrims worldwide. Studying in Rome and studying theology go hand in hand, complimenting each other in a way that allows the pilgrim to see both in a new and invaluable way, that has the potential to reshape from the inside out.” Alley Harbour
“The amount of Christian history that is available in our backyard is amazing… Rome is filled with historic sites that have shaped the foundations of Christianity. I would not want to study theology anywhere else.” Griffin Colpitts
“Studying theology in Rome is a fantastic opportunity because Rome is the center of the Catholic faith. There is no better way to learn about Peter, Paul, and their teachings on which the Church was built than doing so minutes from their burial sites.” Marco Scozzari
“To study theology in Rome has been truly an incredible experience. It has given me the opportunity to really learn about and understand my faith in an entirely new and enlightening way… through the visual theology we were so lucky to be able to witness on our weekly site visits here in Rome, the center of the Catholic faith.” Nick Berardi
“Studying prominent figures in the Bible has been an incredible learning experience, but there is definitely something special that happens when you get to see what you are learning come to life through the visual theology. Studying in Rome has enhanced my understanding of Theology because of our site-visits.” Paige Silengo
“I believe that it is important to study theology in Rome because of the rich spiritual history that lies deep in the roots of Roman history.” Grace King
“I really feel that there is no better place to learn about Christianity that here in Rome. In just about four months, we’ve visited so many locations that are important to Christianity. We’ve walked through the holy doors, gone to the Papal Audience, visited the basilicas of Peter and Paul, and seen some of the oldest frescoes including images of Mary and the infant Jesus. We would not have been to experience these things in any other country!” Gianna Luciano
“In college, it is easy to forget the foundations of your faith that you were taught when you were younger. Being in Rome and not only learning about the beginnings of Christianity, but also being able to see the places where they happened, or great churches erected in honor of saints and martyrs, it gives it such a deeper meaning.” Lilly Steeves
Student quotes like these – and many others in past Blogs during these six semesters – say more than I ever could in an executive summary or an administrative report about my time here. I’m convinced that the PC in Rome Program flows from the very heart of the Catholic, Dominican mission of the College. And each year student testimonies have confirmed that.
I would like to end my final Blog with one more quotation. It’s a well-known quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow concerning Rome and it expresses quite well my thoughts and feelings during my bittersweet departure from this beautiful city.
“There is the centre to which all gravitates.
One finds no rest elsewhere than here.
There may be other cities that please us for a while,
but Rome alone completely satisfies.
It becomes to all a second native land by predilection,
and not by accident of birth alone.”
It’s hard to believe that the students and I have finished our four months in Rome. Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said. This past week was final exam period and our lives were full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects. We enjoyed a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic […]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
This week the P.C. in Rome program hosted the second academic colloquium of the Spring semester. Our topic was “Muslims in Europe: Immigration and Integration”. Academic colloquia are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of contemporary culture and society. Typically, local experts are invited to speak about their field, their recent research, and implications for current events.
Our distinguished speaker was Dr. Mustafa Cenap Aydin, director of the Tevere Institute for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue here in Rome. The title of his hour long presentation was “The Youngest Son of Abraham and/ of/ to Europe: Muslims in Europe between Immigration, Violence, and Dialogue”.
Currently he is a visiting fellow at the Institute for the Study of Philosophy, Politics, and Religion at the Wolfson College, in Cambridge, England. His remarks were the result of his current scholarship. He began with a discussion of the relationship between majority and minority religions in the history of Europe, tracing the emergence of Christianity and later Islam in Europe.
Dr. Aydin then unpacked the notions of citizenship and religion as well as how secularism has been defined in European history. He also stressed the definitions of “Islam(s) and Islamism(s)” suggesting that Islam is not monolithic either in its history or in its current manifestations.
Perhaps the most challenging part of his talk was about the growth of the modern nation state and realities of secular citizenship. That is, a model of citizenship wherein religion is not and cannot be expressed in the public sphere.
Through the use of historical and contemporary examples, Dr. Aydin outlined citizenship and religious identity issues facing Muslims in Europe. The discussion was helpful in giving our students a wider perspective, a cultural sensitivity, and a religious appreciation of what the European Union is facing in the re-emergence of Islam in its member states. “Identity politics” is a very hot topic, and one which the students can now understand, perhaps, on a much deeper level.
This week’s academic colloquium helped to raise the level of academic engagement among students and faculty. It’s experiences like this that help to ensure that our time here is not spent simply in “study tourism” but in “study abroad” – learning in the context of a culture and society that is different from our own.
This week the P.C. in Rome program hosted the second academic colloquium of the Spring semester. Our topic was “Muslims in Europe: Immigration and Integration”. Academic colloquia are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of contemporary culture and society. Typically, local experts are invited to […]MORE
This week the PC in Rome program had its first academic colloquium of the semester. These colloquia are organized a few times a semester by CEA and the PC Center for Theology and Religious Studies. They are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of contemporary culture and society. Typically, local experts are invited to speak about their field, their recent research, and implications for current events.
This semester it was decided to focus on the immigration crisis in the European Union. There is a course running at CEA this Spring called: “Immigration, Race, and Identity” and the professor, Dr. Volker Kaul, invited a colleague, Dr. Daniele Archibugi, to offer an academic colloquium on this challenging and controversial topic.
Dr. Archibugi is a research director at the Italian National Research Council in Rome and is affiliated with the Institute on Population and Social Policy. His work centers on the economics and policy of innovation and technological change and on the political theory of international relations.
Dr. Archibugi began his lecture tracing the history of the refugee crisis in Europe after the Second World War. The creation of the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention and its critera for seeking asylum and the principle of “non-refoulement” were the focus of his remarks. After this historical overview, he explained the current crisis in the E.U. and offered some observations on the obligations of the international community, the necessity of welfare and financial assistance, and the uneven burden of refugees across the various countries.
The lecture went on to unpack the challenges facing refugees including integration into the host society, problems of public order, unemployment, and aspirations of citizenship. He also explained the creation of new political parties in Europe specifically to close the borders to refugees and combat immigration.
His talk challenged the students with some thought provoking questions near the end: How do we distinguish economic migrants from refugees? How can benefits for immigrants be standardized across the E.U.? And, after one year, are these people still refugees?
The notion of “hospitality” was his final challenge. Yes, most E.U. citizens want to be hospitable to those seeking asylum for political, racial, and religious reasons. But, as a community of nations, the E. U. needs to decide how much of the burden is given to each country. A standardized system of “welcome and welfare” needs to be articulated for all countries.
After the lecture, I reminded some of the P.C. students that Pope Francis has spoken many times on the topic of refugees and immigration in his homilies, Angelus messages, and public speeches. In fact, just recently on Palm Sunday, during his homily, he departed from his prepared text to speak about this issue.
Diverting from his prepared remarks, the pope drew a parallel between Jesus being abandoned to his fate and European countries that are refusing to help the more than 1 million immigrants that have fled to Europe seeking refuge from persecution, war, and hunger in Iraq, Syria, and northern Africa.
Jesus was “denied every justice,” the pope said. “Jesus also suffered on his own skin indifference, because no one wanted to take on the responsibility for his destiny.” “I am thinking of so many other people, so many marginalized people, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees,” Francis said. “There are so many who don’t want to take responsibility for their destiny.”
“There they are, at the border, because so many doors and so many hearts are closed,” he said. “Today’s migrants suffer from the cold, without food, and with no way to enter. They don’t feel welcome.”
This week’s academic colloquium helped to raise the level of academic engagement among students and faculty. It’s experiences like this that help to ensure that our time here is not spent simply in “study tourism” but in “study abroad” – learning in the context of a culture and society that is different from our own.
This week the PC in Rome program had its first academic colloquium of the semester. These colloquia are organized a few times a semester by CEA and the PC Center for Theology and Religious Studies. They are important events which enhance the academic conversation in our program and provide opportunities to focus on issues of […]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 Providence College 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. Michael Mascari, O.P. Currently, Fr. Mascari serves on the General Council of the Order and works closely with the Master General. His position is known as “Socius for the Intellectual Life”. He is also a former member of the Board of Trustees of Providence College.
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. Mascari 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 responding to […]MORE
“The papal audience was truly an unforgettable experience. Seeing Pope Francis up close and in person will surely be one of the best highlights of my semester abroad.” Brian Kossmann
Last week the P.C. in Rome program attended a Wednesday Papal Audience with Pope Francis. 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. Go Friars!
“The papal audience was incredible as it was an opportunity to see thousands of people come together in support of Papa Francesco, but more importantly in support of the Catholic Church as a whole. Also hearing them give PC a shoutout was really cool, especially being in the audience with my Dad, a former friar!” Lacey Sullivan
“Hearing the English announcer greet Providence College was such an exciting moment. I have to say, I truly felt blessed after today’s experience. As I left St. Peter’s Square, I once again reminded myself how lucky I am to be involved in this once in a life time adventure.” Gianna Luciano
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 mercy of God. The talk he gave to us was about wealth, power, and mercy. The Pope contrasted the worldly use of power with the power of God’s forgiveness and love. In the face of so many grave injustices in the world, the Pope exhorted us to consider the example of Jesus whose power is service. Should a Christian lose this dimension of service, power can transform into arrogance and become domination and oppression.
“I was so glad for the opportunity to finally see Pope Francis in person. Even from a distance I could see that all that was said about his faith, humility, and Christian nature was true.” Bryan Blum
“I didn’t have any expectations going into the audience but when the pope mobile drove past me my hands and legs started shaking and I was able to feel the significance of what I was experiencing. Overall I loved the papal audience and can’t wait to go again when my parents are in town.” Abby Chave
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.
“Seeing so many people from diverse cultures and backgrounds come together as Catholics to pray with the Pope was surreal. It really showed me the sheer strength of the Catholic faith, and the vast amount of people the religion encapsulates.” Matt Griffin
“I thought this was truly an incredible experience and one that I am thankful I got to be apart of. Seeing people come from all over the world to witness Pope Francis ride around in his Popemobile, kiss young children, and wave to others, and then give a short homily was something I will always remember.” Marco Scozzari
“Papa Francesco waving at me was the closest I’ll get to my 5 minutes of fame and I’m calling that a success.” Caragh Corcoran
“Seeing the pope and the environment he created was amazing. Seeing all walks of life gather in one place to support the pope and catholic religion was majestic.” Griffin Colpitts
“Watching people from so many different backgrounds come together at the Papal Audience to hear the same message was a uniting experience unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It proved to me that despite our cultural differences we truly are all one as children of God.” Mattie Matarazzo
“The papal audience was truly an unforgettable experience. Seeing Pope Francis up close and in person will surely be one of the best highlights of my semester abroad.” Brian Kossmann Last week the P.C. in Rome program attended a Wednesday Papal Audience with Pope Francis. Each semester I register Providence College in Rome as an official […]MORE
Last week our site visit for the New Testament in the Eternal City class was 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.
“Symbols and artifacts of the early Christians are difficult to find, and the Catacombs give a clear representation of their faith through the details that are depicted throughout. The fish became a symbol of Christ and is clearly shown within the Catacombs. There is also a Phoenix rising from the ashes, which is a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” – Lindsay Hogan
“The symbol of the anchor was used in the Catacombs of Priscilla with the intention of having the same meaning as the cross, an understanding which strengthens one’s relationship with Jesus.” – Lacey Sullivan
“While looking at the tombs in the catacombs observers can find marks of dates. However, these dates did not signify only the date of death, but rather the date of entrance into eternal life.” – Connor Bubolo
“The Catacombs of Priscilla were used as a final resting place for Christians – poor and rich – all of whom believed that life truly started after death. The common theme of life after death and believing in Jesus through hard times ties Mark’s gospel and the Catacombs of Priscilla together.” – Abby Chave
Last week our site visit for the New Testament in the Eternal City class was 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 […]MORE
The famous Roman Forum was our second site visit of the semester. 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.
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.
Here is what some of the students said in their essays about our Roman Forum visit:
“The Roman Forum, through its architecture and culture, can act as a ‘primary source’ when studying Christianity and the New Testament in particular.” – Alexandra Brady
“… with the erection of the Arch of Constantine, Christianity gained official notice in the Roman Empire. The arch, which honored Constantine’s victory over a rival emperor, seems to refer, however, to both Christian and Pagan beliefs.” – Chris Burrows
On our tour of the Roman Fourm we observed many situ artifacts in their original places that contribute much to the history of Christianity… One artifact that combined both religions was the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina originally build around 141 AD. ..In the 12th century AD this temple was converted into the church of San Lorenzo after the legalization of Christianity…” -Grace Maxim
“A visit in the modern day to the Roman Forum is interesting because you are able to see many of the Pagan remains from ancient Roman society, but you are also able to get a glimpse of their transformation. Many of the old Pagan temples, such as the Temple of Romulus, have been converted into Churches.” -Nick Berardi
The famous Roman Forum was our second site visit of the semester. 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 […]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