We had no real plans today – go to church and then wander around just to see what we could see. Richard wanted to go to mass at Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano or Basilica of St. John Lateran which is the seat of Pope Francis. On the half hour walk to the church, we walked through the park containing ruins from the Baths of Trajan. This was originally a massive thermae (60,000 square meters), a bathing and leisure complex, built in ancient Rome starting from 104 AD and completed in 109. We also stopped in at the Pontifical University and the Basilica of St. Anthony. Around the corner from the Pope’s Basilica, is the Piazza (plaza) which contains an obelisk that was donated by Emperor Constantine after he liberated it from Egypt. The entrance way to the Basilica contains the Holy Door and the Statue of Constantine. This is the oldest and most important church in the western world. Even though mass time was at noon, we arrived there just around 10:45 and the 10:30 mass was in progress (we were not aware that this mass existed). We were still able to walk around the church which was absolutely magnificent. However, I was drawn to the mass as they had a full choir and a fantastic pipe organ. I watched the last half hour from the sidelines and was mesmerized. The entire thing was in Italian or Latin but music is an international language and though I did not understand the words, the melodies and harmonies were amazing. (Becki Thiessen – You would have loved it!!) We still attended mass at noon but there was no music and it was still in Italian. It was lovely but was missing some of the pomp and circumstance.
After mass, we thought it was time for some lunch. But we were curious about the ancient wall that was running next to the church. We walked through one of the arches to the other side but still saw no signage. This called for some research and we discovered that this wall is actually the Aurelian Wall. Built between 271 and 275 AD, the wall surrounded all seven hills of Rome. The wall remains remarkably well preserved today with a number of portals allowing for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. What a wonderful discovery!! Can’t wait to see rest of it.
Fortified with another meal of wonderful pasta, we headed off towards The Spanish Steps. The journey is usually much better than the destination and today was no exception. We came upon another Basilica – this one dedicated to Santa Maria. Another beautiful interior of which pictures will not do it justice. The Spanish Steps were nice but being a Sunday, there were quite a few people hanging around so we didn’t get the full impact of the place.
It was starting to get late in the afternoon, so decided that we should start heading back to our BNB. On the way, we stopped off at the Trevi Fountain, one of the most iconic fountains in Rome. Again, it was crowded but absolutely beautiful.
Before we reached our home, we stopped at another church, saw another obelisk, and then stopped at a little store for a few snacks and groceries to get us through the next day or so. It is just so hard to describe all that we are seeing here. In the wise words of my sister “one of the coolest cities of all time”. And she is not wrong.
The Obelisk in St. John Lateran Square.
The Lateran Obelisk is the oldest Egyptian obelisk in Rome, it is also the highest one: 32m without basement, 46m with the basement. It is made of red granite and was originally from the temple of Amon at Thebes, erected in the 15th century BC where it was dedicated to the Pharaoh Thutmose III. In 357 Constantine II brought it to Rome from the Nile valley with a ship built specially for this occasion. It was erected first in Circus Maximus. In 1588 Pope Sixtus V had it moved to the Lateran square.
St. John Lateran Basilica.
Below is a statue of the Emperor Constantine who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire.
I have never seen a Nativity scene like this before.
When we entered the Church an earlier Mass was already in progress. I recorded a tiny bit of it and it was moving to say the least.
Statue in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.
Basilica of Mary.
Cool Carving. Came across this at an intersection. Other than the she wolf in the corner feeding Romulus and Remus I don’t understand this carving. I Googled it, but came up empty. If anyone knows the meaning of this can you let me know. Thanks
The Spanish Steps.
The Trevi Fountain.