Monday, May 28, 2007

Assisi Pilgrimage: Civita

Civita di Bagnoregio

Our last journey outside of Assisi and Rome was to a fairytale land. We visited the home town of St. Bonaventure, Bagnoregio and its “suburb” Civita. Bagnoregio is a quaint town with shops, rolling roads and beautiful old buildings. There is even a Communist Party headquarters!

We entered the church St. Bonaventure attended. We saw the relic of his arm. We saw a bible he read out of. Father Andrea told us we could look wherever we liked. I saw a door ajar and asked if I could enter and Father Andre said yes. I went into a gallery of paintings of Bonaventure from all over the world. Father Andre visits this place yearly and yet never knew it existed! We wished aloud that there was someone who could explain the place to him. So I suggested the priest who was in yet another room. By the time we left Father Andre made a connection between the gallery and St. Bonaventure University and he left with pictures for the school. All because I was curious.

Next we crossed a long footbridge over a valley to the ancient town of Civita. Civita di Bagnoregio is a town of Viterbo province in Central Italy, a frazione of the comune of Bagnoregio. It was founded by Etruscans over twenty-five hundred years ago. Today its population has dwindled to just fifteen residents.

The town sits atop a plateau of volcanic rock overlooking the Tiber river valley

Civita is connected to the town of Bagnoregio by a narrow pedestrian bridge. The original bridge that connected these two villages eroded over two centuries ago and what remained was bombed out during WWII. In 1965 a new bridge was built for local foot traffic. The town is constructed of stone and cobblestone. This was once the main Etruscan road leading to the Tiber Valley and Rome.

In this little town you will find the Piazza del Duomo. Nearby is the church, the Chiesa San Donato. The church was built in the 8th century over a pagan temple. There is also a Romanesque bell tower or campanil. Near the church there is a wine cellar and an olive press that dates back to Etruscan times.

We go into the church and view the relics, the saints and the art. Father Andre gives us a lecture that is more like an impassioned sermon about Bonem, “God IS Good and all good comes from God”. There was nothing neutral about this talk. I have been studying the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition. I know there is a strong move to reestablish its preeminence in Catholic Institutes of Higher Education. However, I believe friars became friars, and sisters became sisters and Seculars became Secular not because of the Intellectual Tradition but because of the Spiritual Tradition. We need both heart and mind and today I heard a talk fueled by the heart.

Afterwards we go to the one restaurant in this town. It is wonderful and the food is magnificent. On our drive back to Rome we passed valleys, snow covered mountains, a volcano and Roman Aqueducts. It was a great day. I cannot wait to hear our current pilgrims share their experiences at Civita.

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