Monday, May 28, 2007

Appian Way

Took the train and subway to St. John's Lateran Church. This pile of marble is actually where the Popes hung out while the Vatican was being built, and it is still Vatican Territory. So technically, when you are in the church, you have left Italy, and are in the soverign state of The Vatican. Lots of tourists, even though there was a mass going on. Men in short pants, women in halter tops...c'mon wouln't go into your own church dressed like that would you? I noticed that most of the American women were wearing shawls or had slipped on their sweaters, but the German speaking ones were the worst. Ah well, that sour expression on St. Cyril's face was probably not because of a visitor with a naval ring and camera! I just wanted to shout at some of the 40 something men in short pants and socks-with-sandals that hey, your not in Disney-Land! At least I didn't snap a picture of the priest (a full cardinal no less!) while he was saying the mass!
Ah well...hard to be upset at my fellow tourists. Best to do what the locals do, and try to ignore them. We caught the bus outside St. John's Lateran to visit the Appian Way. There are two busses which go up that historic highway, and I think they use alternate bus stops. This is important because Brenda and I got separated...she went out the middle door, and the back door stayed resolutely closed in my face! Ah well, it was only a kilometer, but then again, it was a kilometer of the Appian Way, which was made for marching troops, not tour busses. When we finally got together, we had to stay on the bus for an entire run, just to cool off. We observed an interesting bus...a double decker....which leaves from the train station (and bus central!) called the "archeobus". Might be nice to have a day on a bus instead of walking every where.
When we got back into town, we looked through our "pilgrim's guide" and found an archeological site I had never visited before. It is the second oldest church in Rome, the church of San Clemente. It is built on a temple site which dates back to way before there was a Christian presence in Rome. On a hill side, there is a spring which produces lots and lots of water..fresh clean bubbling mineral water. Naturally the priests of some ancient religion decided to control that water supply and they built a neolithic temple on the spot. Then came the Romans and their Etruscan attitudes, and they built a temple to some water sprite or diety. Eventually, the soldiers decided to place an altar to Mithras on that spot, and only much later did early Christians decide to place a church there. How early...well, the third Pope is buried there.
Then Rome burnt, Nero blamed the Christians, and Diocletian fed them to the lions. But eventually things prevailed, and now there is a beautiful church which is maintained by the College of Cardinals. Through the years, the basement has been used as a church, and even now, there are several chapels down there. On the walls of the chapels are frescoes, some of which date back to the ninth century. And of course, over in the dark recesses of the basement is the old Mitheaum with the altar of Mithras, as well as the gushing spring, which is still, well, gushing. Of course I have only been describing the basement of this church. The rest of it is just as over the top and interesting. It is the headquarters of the Dominican Order, and the atrium is very peaceful, and pleasant.
The Church is lined with grey granite pillars, robbed no doubt from the old Roman Temple, and the gold mosaics in the apses light up the room. The church contains the relics of St Cyril (the friar who went into Russia to convert them, and brought to them the "cyrillic lettering" that the Russians and Ukrainians use even today).
And of course, a bus stopped right in front of the church to take us to the train station.
The Termini. This deserves a post in its own right! It is the biggest shopping mall in Rome, and you can get anything any time. No Sunday closing. Sometimes not even any closing hours at all! A 24 hour MacDonalds can come in handy at three in the morning! But Brenda likes it because there is a really good grocery store in there, and I like it because it has an excellent ice cream shop. As usual, a trip to Italy is going to spoil me for ice cream anywhere else in the world!

Well, enough of that. Time I got up for breakfast. This is the "only" internet point for the entire hotel, and there is a line up as I write this!

Regards from Rome

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