Postscript 2: Rome
All roads lead to Rome? Whether or not they do, when you get here you discover a city of eternal surprises. Not only do you have to negotiate the layers of history of this place (literally one layer on top of another), but around every corner you could be startled by something. I visited the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, and walked in on the photo shoot of a wedding, presumably of a lorry driver, because there was a decorated truck in the background. Inside the church I discovered an exhibition on Galileo, dwelling on his discoveries within the fields of pendulums and gravity, but also learned that Italy once had its own meridian, totally independent of the Greenwich meridian. After all, I suppose Italy, and Rome in particular, were the centre of an important empire in its day.
On the underground shortly afterwards, I heard a woman praying loudly at the end of the carriage. When I looked, I saw a woman carrying an infant and going the length of the train begging. Prayers, presumably, were to soften the hearts of the passengers (but I saw no-one making an offering).
Seven pilgrims churches. There are seven major churches, mostly basilicas, that the medieval pilgrim would visit in order to receive the full spiritual benefit of their journey. Two that I visited were enormous structures, cavernous in their interiors, and heavily laden with guilt ceilings and wall mosaics. They both made me stop and think about the sheer wealth enjoyed by the church in former times. This inevitably tempers the enthusiasm and sense of awe.
Santa Maria Maggiore is held by many to be the most beautiful church in Rome. Externally not impressive, but once you step inside the visual sense is stormed by the ornate ceiling, the mosaics and the baldachinno over the altar. It is a huge stage for the performance of the liturgy.
San Paolo outside the walls. A Basilica built over the burial place of St Paul, and displaying the nine-linked chain that was said to have chained Paul when he was prisoner, the mosaic behind the main altar is a wonderful distraction while you are listening to the Gregorian chant of the high mass.
The pilgrim’s passport. On the Camino de Santiago, the passport is important and influential. It not only proves the nature of your journey, but brings with it some privileges in terms of entry to places (including municipal swimming pools) and accommodation. The VF passport has been very useful in terms of accommodation, and sometimes food, but never did it provide free or reduced entry to museums and the like. I am sure time will make a difference, and when the flow of pilgrims steadily increases, local authorities along the route will revise their thinking. My first stamp was added at my own parish church at Buckden, and the last at the Vatican.
Posted on September 19, 2010, in Canterbury-Rome 2000kms: a cyclist's tale and tagged pilgrim churches, pilgrim's passport, Roads lead Rome, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Santa Maria Maggiore. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.