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Howdy. We've moved from Cayce, but St. Elizabeth of South Rose Hill or Lizette de Waccamaw de Sud just don't do it for me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rome Trip - July 6: Via Triumphalis to Holy Cross

If you’ve been following along, or even if not, I’ve been typing nearly unedited from notes I made during our July 2007 Rome Pilgrimage. Izzy's volunteered to help with the transcriptions - what a guy!

Seen on the way to the Vatican this AM

Out to Vatican Museum for Via Triumphalis (excavations) Tour. We arrived about 9 AM for our 10:45 AM tour. We’d thought we might get in line for regular Vatican Museum tickets while we waited. When we arrived, the line was already over 1 mile long. So, we waited by the guard area (where one waits for special tours) and re-planned our day. I got a bit grumpy (fatigue definitely a factor) when one particular police officer kept returning to the spot where were had to wait to take his many smoke breaks. I don’t adapt well to smokers…


Once it was time for the tour to begin, we were badged and taken into the Vatican Museum to buy our tix. We began to hope that we would be brought back to this same spot at the end of the tour to get regular museum tix – no such luck…


We were handed off to an Italian tour guide. We walked quite a ways through streets (limited access, I think – there was no one around) to a spot underneath the car park/repair depot. This is the Via Triumphalis, where they have begun excavations on 1st C. BC/AD military graves. I experienced some confusion during the tour until I realized that our guide was speaking accented English, while my ears were trying to hear “American.” Izzy, of course, had no trouble – he’s got the gift of ears, I think…

The 2nd excavation site was 2nd-4th century graves. There were family crypts & sarcophagi, and shallow, newly unearthed, graves of pilgrims who died when coming to St. Peter’s.


The sculpted bust of one infant really moved me – how long must his parents have held in their hearts the face of their dead child while directing the work of the sculptor?

(Latin students get ready – these may appear on a quiz)

We took lunch under the Colonnade, near the Papal apartments and the Vatican post office. We tossed crumbs to pigeons as we had at Lateran on Wednesday. There were cute kids playing by the drinking fountain and chasing the birds. I’ll admit I reacted badly to a man who sat right by me and lit up without asking – I’ve got to someday figure out how to be more prosaic about this, while still being able to avoid migraines…


Izzy checked – there will be no Papal audience this coming Wednesday. Oh well, that makes another reason to be sure and toss our coins into the Trevi fountain when we get there.

We opted to go back to the apartment and rest up for the afternoon’s activities. We stopped for groceries and came back to the apartment – the plan was for me to nap for about an hour and then head to the Capuchin cemetery. I slept over 2 hours (needed it!) Izzy opted not to wake me.

We re-did our plan again (Izzy is remarkably flexible) and decided to take the Metro to Lateran and stroll to Holy Cross in Jerusalem (Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.)

Francis waving to Jesus & His pals at Lateran.

We had a nice stroll through the park between the churches – it was great to see kids and families – real people.

People said: "Don't wear sneakers, so you'll blend in with the Italian women." I think more than my sneakers made me stand out from the locals!

We arrived at Holy Cross during sung Vespers. Very nice sound in the Basilica!


They don’t allow photography. Izzy got a few pix inside, but my camera was too noisy to use. Saw major relics brought back by St. Helena (who also had a chapel dedicated to her, under which was earth from Calvary.)

Relics were:

  • Pieces of the True Cross,
  • a finger of Doubting Thomas,
  • thorns from the Crown of Thorns,
  • a Crucifixion nail,
  • a large piece of wood could be a cross beam? (Note: reported to be the cross beam from the cross of the Good Thief), and
  • the Titulus, or Identification placed onthe cross identifying Jesus in three languages. HTis piece is espeically interesting, since (I read) the letters were written by someone who was not a native Latin speaker. All the "labels" are written right to left.

They also had a fabric relica of the Shroud of Turin, which gave us the chance to take time to see what has fascinated pilgrims for so many years.

Relics of the True Cross
Finger of Doubting Thomas
I'll leave it to others (curators, historians, bishops, etc.) to discuss the provenance of these relics, and how likely it is that any of them are what they are purported to be. I do know that these objects have inspired and drawn people to prayer since the early 4th century - and that can't be bad. We prayed as well, knowing we were following the example of so many who have gone before us.

There was a special display on a child called Nennolina (Antonietta Meo) who died at 6 1/2 years of age from osteosarcoma. While alive, she wrote holy letters and got the attention of the Pope. July 3rd had been the 70th anniversary of her death. It looks like the people here are hoping for “Blessed” status. Saw her grave in church wall.

After Vespers, quite a few Italian women gathered for a Rosary. They finished up after Mass was supposed to start, but Fr. knew to wait on them. I stepped out during the Rosary to eat a protein bar and discovered that the bookstore was open. I picked up postcards of the relics here.

The Mass was in a lower chapel and completely in Italian. The priest was quite elderly. Older, tiny Italian women seemed to lead all the prayers &c. The lector was female, too. I think the Old Testament reading concerned Sarah. (Update: Yes, it concerned her death & burial.) Izzy commented that he missed being able to understand the readings.

The priest sat in a... cloister? cage? Behind a locking grate for the readings and re-emerged for the Gospel.

The seats built for pews/kneelers had a shelf built into the backrest that might have been designed to hold books, but several of the women used these to hold their canes.

Both Izzy and I had to bend down pretty far to receive the Body of Christ on our tongues - the priest was well under 5 feet tall. I've heard that many Europeans of that generation (70's & 80's, now) were terribly undernourished during their post WW1 childhood years and were stunted in their growth. We saw plenty of examples of this.

We headed back through the park after Mass. There were more kids and families as well as old men playing cards and checkers.


Almost home, we stopped at an internet café, Izzy’s second trip today, to check on addresses for the postcards. We got most of what we needed, and it only cost €1 for nearly an hour.


The plan was to make pasta tonight, but we stopped by a restaurant that had Pizza Margherita to go (per portare via) for 4€. We took that back to the apartment for dinner, made lunches, cleaned up, and finished the post cards.

We planned a very early start for the next day. We want to be at the Vatican Museums by 7:30 AM. Then the Capuchin Cemetery, the Galleria Borghese, and dinner at the Spanish Steps. Whew!

Flickr pages for today:

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