Thursday, May 31, 2007

St. Paul's outside the Walls

Had a great visit in the Flower Market this morning...lots of nice street vendors selling fresh produce. Bought a little box of raspberries for Brenda, and ended up eating most if it myself! The flower market is famous in its own right...it was here that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death, and also here where the Inquisition used to burn the heretics. There is a great statue of the last one, Jan Bruno who broods over the proceedings. Right now, of course, there are simply lots of competing musicians, and illegal immigrants selling counterfeit gucci purses, as well as silly girls in sun dresses, harrassed American fathers trying to herd them past the gelati vendors (and failing not so miserably!) and countless farmers trying to move their wonderfully fresh produce.
A casual walk down the road to the Pantheon. I had forgotten how big that pile of rock is! It is showing its age, but still...it was a marvel in its time, designed by Appolonious the Greek, who had designed so much of Hadrian's Villa, and also public baths all over Rome. Hadrian had Appolonious put to death for saying that Hadrian's designs for domes looked like pumpkins. Good safety tip...don't critisize the Emperor....grin! We didn't bother to go in....too darned many tourists....and besides, we had other temples to check out, ones that are off the beaten track.
So, we crossed the Spinonna bridge. The Spinonna is the "eyeglass" or big hole through the middle of the bridge which is there to prevent a high flood from washing the whole works away. The Romans keep a close watch on whether water is going through that "spyglass°" during flood season because it means water troubles! A nice bridge, very pretty, and made from the marble we saw being quarried up towards Tivoli yesterday. On the other side of the bridge is the neighbourhood of "Travertina", literally, "across the river". This is the "true Rome" according to the people who live here, and is home to a lot of cool stuff besides the Vatican, for instance, it has the oldest church in Rome, St. Mary in Travertina, as well as John Cabot University and women who wear the highest heels in Europe. (not that I was noticing or anything...)
St. Mary's is even older than St. Clements church, though there is very little which is original that you can see....it is all pretty much "improved" by the de Medici families during the Italian Renaissance, late 13th century. Within the last century, they have cleaned out most of the trashy rococco stuff, and gone back to a nice elegant church, though the ceiling is one of those brown and gilt masterpieces which define an age! Worth the trip just to see the ceiling.
Then after walking over half of Rome looking for the sister church (we never did find it in amongst the twisting narrow, decidedly "un-Roman" medieval streets we just decided to catch a bus and go see St. Paul's.
In rome, burials took place outside the city walls, and of course, when Paul was killed, they buried him "outside the walls". The church was built over the site of St. Paul's grave. It is the second biggest church in the world. The layout is in the form of a "tau" cross, and we went in the side entrance, thinking it was the main entrance. The huge room was pretty breathtaking...with fancy coffer work on the ceiling, and portraits of all the popes high up on the walls. Then, we went a little further and discovered that we were actually behind the altar, and THEN we found the nave! Oh my! Yup, its pretty big all right. Its like, Houston Astrodome size! Only in granite and marble!
The Vatican is apparently only marginally bigger, but then, all its space is in the nave, not in the cross. This church is one of three which is actually not in Italian territory, but belong to the Vatican! Unlike the big old church of St. Peter at the Vatican, this one is stunning by its sheer size and glory, not in the over the top rococco design which is the hallmark of the most vistied church in the world! This one is plain, with understated windows of fancy alabaster instead of stained glass, and the colums which delineate the double aisles are simple plain grey granite. Though it would still take 4 men to link hands around each pillar!

So this makes three major churches I visited today. St Mary's in Traverstina, the oldest church in Rome, the Pantheon, which really "should" be the oldest, but then it didn't become a church until much later, and of course St. Paul outside the Walls, the second biggest in the world.
Today was a little better for tourists who showed a little more respect. Honestly though, its never the Americans! Its the Germans, and occasionally the British! Did my conservative heart good to see a fellow refused entry to St. Paul's because he was wearing short pants and sandles. (at least they werent socks with sandals!!! That is a shooting offense!)

The tour groups which came in were more subdued than usual, and in fact, one Spanish tour group went into one of the "little" side chapels for a private mass. Then the priest guided them all around the site. Another group were Polish (I think) and they all knelt around the railing which fences off the grave site and had a mass prayer. Very touching.

Well, enough of this. This not having picture abilities sucks...think of the words I could have saved if only I could post pictures. Well, I am sure that if you google any of these places, you will find more pictures than even I could possibly take and post!
(and by the way, is anybody reading this blog? I see no comments!)

5 comments:

kimberly said...

Yes Bill, we are reading it! LOL
Love the parts with all the "pretty girls". ;p Haha.
We miss you in class.

Henrietta said...

Of course Bill, wish i was with you guys, i can almost see the different places as you discribe them . by the way audra is going over to france and might be going to rome also for a day. any really cool places she has to definately see while she's there?

Henri

Anonymous said...

Well, the problem is that there is SO MUCH to see! If it is martial activities, I would recommend Trajan's Column, and the Colosseum, she will NOT be able to get into the Vatican Museum, which takes a lot of planning. (Well, she "could" but thats ALL she would do!)
If it is church stuff, well, this blog follows the high points of the first 4 Popes (Peter, Cletus, Linus and Clement). The Arch of Titus (in the Forum Romanum) commemorates the Sack of Jerusalem with two thousand year old bas reliefs. Very poignant.
Must sees...Colosseum, Forum Romanum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Neuvonna, and the baths of Caracalla. Note that I have mostly been avoiding these spots! Too many tourists!

Regards.
Bill

Anonymous said...

Hope you are having a wonderful time over there!

Something I'm not sure if you know - Uncle Nick buried Uncle Bill. He only told this to one person - my dad. He refused to talk about the war, always, and Uncle Nick and my dad were into their "cups" when he made that startling revelation.

From what I remember, Uncle Bill was a sniper and Uncle Nick was a few divisons behind him. The day they took this area, Uncle Nick went to see him later that night, and was told by the commander he was "under that blanket". He buried him that night.

Probably one of the reasons Uncle Nick never spoke about the war!

Susan

STAG said...

Yeah, that was not in the war diaries, and he had never told Andy (thats my dad for all my beloved readers) about that or he would have mentioned it to me somewhere along the line.
Bill was exhumed and re-interred in Bergen Op Zoom (Holland) a few months later. I have all the copied paperwork if you want copies. The whole sordid story is covered in this blog a few entries ago. All my dad ever said was that Baba was furious at Nick for letting Bill go to war at all, but you never know about such family dynamics when they are, what, 60 odd years old!


Bill