Day 13, Last day to wander around Rome
Piazza dei Populi
Piazza della Republica
Via di Quattro Fontani
Rome is thick with history and art.
The Church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Capuchini
The Capuchins, of course, have a lot of history in Rome. After all, they got a drink named after them (what kind of drink do you want named after you?). This church is most famous for its crypt with its arrangements of the bones of deceased Franciscans. These bones have been stacked and arranged artistically requiring the bones of thousands of hours of work. (They didn’t want pictures taken. More info at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/santa-maria-della-concezione.)
I am reminded of the St. Katherine’s monastery at the base of Mount Sinai. They had a building with bins of skulls, bins of leg bones, etc. The idea was to have no personal monument on earth. We remember that on one (on earth) knows where the body of Moses is buried. Here we have no lasting city (Hebrews 13:14). Nathaniel Hawthorne visited this crypt in Rome and found that it dragged down his faith, and he needed blue skies to recharge it.
I’m surprised he would react that way given that his most famous work “The House of Seven Gables” is not the cheeriest text.
One can also question of that is a proper way to treat human remains. However, it speaks of people who were comfortable with their own mortality, and with mortality in general. The museum shows a painting of St. Francis holding a human skull. We remember the admonition of St. Benedict to keep our mortality daily before our face, and the old adage, “Time flies, remember death.” Longfellow wrote, “Art is long, and time is fleeting, and our hearts, though stout and brave, still like muffled drums are beating funeral marches to the grave.”
Perhaps that is to teach us to take ourselves less seriously, for our stay here is so brief while at the same time take our work more seriously, because history is so much larger than we are, and marks that we leave (recognized as ours or not) can affect people for a long time.
When they were laying the first bricks on the Palatine hill, what were they envisioning? It is hard to believe they were planning on an Empire that would last a thousand years, and then leave tools that would help the building of what followed.
Of course, it took the work of countless people, whose bones have long turned to dust, to make that happen. On the one hand, the large number of people involved makes the contribution of each a smaller part of the whole; on the other hand, the gathering of so many contributions made the effect of each last longer and reach farther. I was given to understand that one of the early symbols of Rome was a bundle of sticks, suggesting that bound together they were so much stronger than each individually.
I would also suggest that the effect of our contributions is not merely cumulative, like the value of pennies in a jar, but one can build on another, like supports on a bridge. St. Ambrose encouraged St. Augustine, and both were influenced by St. Paul. Was there a teacher, a parent, or an uncle that gave St. Paul critical encouragement or support that moved him to the path of being zealous for God or strong in learning? How do you weigh the total effect of that unknown person?
The Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria was even more beautiful than most. My first reaction was, “I want one!” There were some excellent sculptures including the famous Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila.
The Church of Mary of the Angels and Martyrs was large with many large works of art. One wing was dedicated to prayer (the rest to tourism).
While I was there, Mass happened and a small group participated.
Of course, that brings me back to the central point. The greatest treasures are not the buildings, the sculptures or the paintings, but the faith and devotion of the people.
This is the end of my Rome trip. Next post will take this blog in a new direction.