Friday, February 9, 2007

Italy News, Pt. 2: Rome (day 1)

After another four hours in the bus, we arrived in Rome!

I didn't take a picture of the monastery where we stayed. It was more of a wayhouse for Czech Catholics than a monsatery, anyway; there were a handful of priests and many groups coming and going. Anyone who has been to someplace like Harvey Cedars has seen was the room was like.

The first day, one of the priests escorted us around several Cathedrals and Ancient Rome after breakfast, which was bread. A serving dish of rolls in the middle of the table. Since Italy is famous for good food, I was actually looking forward to be eating, you know, real Italian food! But it never happened. We had dry bread for breakfast and cafeteria-quality Czech food for dinner. Lunch we were on our own, and almost everyone had brought enough food for the trip. Traveling on a budget has it's disappointments...but the bread was not stale, I am happy to say, and so, well, it could have been alot worse.

We began by seeing this church. You're going to see alot of pictures of churches; and since the priest showing us around was Czech and spoke (of course) in Czech, of which I understand approxiamately four words, there isn't a whole I can tell you about them. They were pretty interesting to look at.

In the back of the church we saw the revered finger of St. Thomas. It's in the gold cross. I was also told that one of the little ones on top contains a thorn from Our Lord's crown of thorns, complete with Holy Blood.

I tried to look suitably non-skeptical, and hope I succeeded enough that the priest didn't notice. He had us sing a hymn (in Czech) here.

Although I didn't take a picture, this church also contained the supposed shroud of Christ. Since when he came back to life he of course blazed with light and this zeroxed his image onto the cloth. Which is still intact two thousand years later. Cue hymn number two.

We went from there to another church, whose name again I did not catch. There were no relics, but there was some incredible architecture. I believe there were bronze doors in this church that were over two thousand years old, although I seem to not have downloaded the picture. This was the outer foyer of the church.

Sts. Peter and Paul.

Even the ceiling was intricately and richly decorated.

These cathedrals are absolutely stunning in their proportions and sheer size: stunning enough to get a group of 45 teenagers, many of whom are 13 and 14 year old boys, to walk in hushed silence the entire time we were in them.

I really loved the way the sunlight fell from the windows onto the arches of the opposite side.There were several banks of organ pipes throughout the front of the church. It must sound incredible when it's played.

There were frescoes on every inch of available wall, mostly showing scenes from the Bible or church history/mythology.

A sunbeam.

There was a chapel in this cathedral, smaller and older; it was dark with age and very quiet and peaceful. As impressive as the huge cathedrals are, a part of me liked this better. It was also less richly decorated: compare the wood paneling on this ceiling to the gold of the main part of the church.
The art was also older than the Baroque frescoes in the church.

Every church had the requisite stand outside selling tourist junk.

We began the only non-religion related part of the trip that afternoon, with this famous statue of Marcus Aurelius (I think).

In the same square was this fountain. On either side are the rivers Tiber and Nile and in the middle an Ancient Greek goddess: Athena, I think. (forgive my repeated uncertainty. Remember that I'm going on sketchy second hand translations from Czech courtesy of a kind student).

A triumphal arch.
Of course, no trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to...The Colosseum!

In spite of the food, there are several distinct advantages with going as part of a group, particularly a school group.Inside the Colosseum. The rows in the bottom that you can see today are the lower levels of the arena, where things and people were stored until they were needed. There used to a floor covering it, as well as a cloth canopy to cover the entire structure. I wonder what the Caesars would have thought of this?

Pilgrims come to pray for the people who died there.

View from the top of the Colosseum.

After the Colosseum, we walked down a very pretty path to visit some more ruins of Ancient Rome. I don't know what some of them are, though.

I liked the marbling on these columns

This was either a prison or a government building.

Did I mention that it was a perfect spring day the whole time? I know I posted pictures of the flowers in Florence...I'm not sure if Italy, like Prague, was mysteriously passed over by winter this year, or spring always comes this early. Either way, we won.

The tomb of Romulus and Remus.

This is a Roman cell such as St. Paul would have been staying in. Although you can see things in these pictures, because of the wonders of flash, it was actually practically pitch dark, except for what light came from a small hole in the ceiling, and very small. The door is for conveinant dumping of dead bodies. Bottom picture is of the Czech priest who was showing us around.

At the top of some building; more arial views of Rome.

From there we went to this famous fountain.

By the time we finished at the fountain, I was frankly exhausted, and it was starting to get dark. I hoped it was time to go back for dinner; but no such luck: we proceeded to this basilisca. The light was all wrong to get a picture inside, being too light for the flash to do anything yet too dark to actually get a picture. Anyway, it was more frescoes and tiling, but even despite the light it was hard to see with the amount of people and the fencing put up around the walls so you couldn't actually get close. Oh well. It was, thankfully, the last stop of the day.

After dinner, I promptly went to bed and fell asleep. :)

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