It has been the week to visit churches, for sure. Pilgrims and tourists mix together--and so the more popular churches tend to be crowded and chaotic, but there are places to hide out if you want to, oh, actually pray...
It is a gift to be here to not only see these houses of worship and to pray in them, but to sense the spirits of all those who are entombed, celebrated, or present in other ways.
Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri is beautiful----and has an unassuming facade. You do not know what is there until you go inside. It is the last church that Michelangelo designed. It has a wondrous meridian line----the church is built over the ruins of the baths of Diocletian. Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_degli_Angeli_e_dei_Martiri
One of the most beautiful churches to visit is the minor basilica of Santa Prassede --one of the oldest churches in Rome, with some of the most beautiful, ancient and amazing mosaics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Prassede
To see the chains that bound St Paul at St Paul Outside the Walls, and to pray before his tomb was powerful. To see the chains that bound St. Peter at San Pietro in Vincoli was powerful as well.
We just missed the Pope at Santa Maria Maggiore----we saw that there was a small crowd, with their cameras out, on the side of the church, and when we went inside, a cardinal came in with a policeman----we left and only found out two days later that the Pope had come to pray there prior to leaving for the Holy Land. We haven't been following the news, so there you are. Oh well.
One of my favorite churches is Santa Maria della Vittoria---the small church that houses Bernini's statue called "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa." Fans of Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" will recognize this church from that book---although he moved it from where it really is to someplace that it isn't so that it would work better for the book. Literary license, I suppose. Don't use his book as a map!
No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to the Capuchin Crypt----not as creepy as I expected it to be but strange just the same. You can see and read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capuchin_Crypt
They don't allow photos, so that is the best I can do! They now have a new museum that precedes the crypt--with a lot of historical information, and relics of Padre Pio, among others. They have a very attentive hall monitor who makes sure that you don't even THINK about taking a photo---along with surveillance video to be extra sure. As we were viewing the last of the "chambers" I jokingly asked Terri if she thought they had a gift shop----it turns out that they do! No, I did not buy any of the skull earrings or other memorabilia--it seems a little goth to me, but our little experience of the Capuchin Zombie Apocalypse was interesting, and bizarre.
PS Please be sure to click on the photos to see them in their entirety----the ones that are in landscape mode don't show properly unless you do!
1. Santa Maria degli Angeli e Martiri (meridian line)
2. The Ecstasy of St. Teresa at Santa Maria della Vittoria
3. Michelangelo's vault in Santa Maria degli Angeli e Martiri
4. Mosaics in the St. Zeno chapel in Santa Prassede
5. The chains that bound St. Peter at San Pietro in Vincoli
6. The altar before the tomb of St. Paul---the illuminated area above holds the chains that bound him
7. A homeless man finding sanctuary in Santa Maria Maggiore
8. St. Paul's Outside the Walls facade