Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nov 22 – When in Rome…..

When in Rome on a Sunday, do as the Romans do, and go to church.

Today is turnaround day, as a new set of passengers get on in Civitavecchia. Normally, being lazy, we decide that we don't have enough time to get the train to Rome and back, before we set sail again - but this time, we thought we'd give it a go.

As it turns out, when you factor in the time getting to Civitavecchia station, waiting for a train, and then the 75 minute ride into Rome, that only gives you a little over 3 hours of Rome time, which does mean that it's not the most relaxing "day" in Rome.

Inspired by our visit to the Holy Land, we decided to visit a couple of churches that we haven't been to. We first went to the enormous San Giovanni in Laterano – this is the second most important church in Rome, being first founded by Constantine the Great in the 4th century, and it's Rome's Cathedral. The huge bronze doors that I'm standing next to were originally from Ancient Rome's senate building.

Next we went to the La Scala church, which was full of devout pilgrims. The church reputedly features the original marble stairway taken from Pontius Pilate's palace in Jerusalem – the stairs that Jesus would have walked down, before he was crucified.

Being pretty holy, you're only allowed to climb the stairs on your knees, which means it's fairly slow progress for the pilgrims who inch their way up the steps, deep in prayer. Being pushed for time, we fancied a power walk/kneel up to the top, but unfortunately our progress was blocked by the slow-moving faithful.

After this, we went to the Santa Croce in Gerusalemm church (twinned with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that we visited in Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago), which is stuffed full of memorabilia fetched from Jerusalem in the 4th century by St Helena. It features among its many relics, a bit of the true Cross, some nails from the cross, some thorns from Christ's crown, the inscription of the word "Nazarene" from the Cross (written on Pilate's instructions in Latin, Greek and Hebrew), and most bizarrely, the very finger that St Thomas inserted into Christ's side when he was in his Doubting phase (they never explained if the finger was removed before or after Doubting Thomas's demise).

Having done this whistle-stop tour of all things holy, we embarked on another Roman institution – pizza! We're going to venture into the home of pizza, Naples, tomorrow, so our pizza consumption was purely in the interests of research, so we can compare and contrast. Naples is going to have its work cut out to beat today's offering though!