Monday, May 28, 2007

Assisi Pilgrimage: Rome

Pope John Paul II Funeral

We entered Rome tired and quiet, we had just spent six days in Assisi. Now we were in a city of 2.5 million people. It was a time of culture shock. Rome was dirty, loud, there was graffiti, gypsies, the black market. Our lodging was cold compared to Casa Papa Giovanni. Yet it was also only two blocks from St. Peters Square. I could see the dome from my bedroom.

Sister Margaret took us on a “short” walking tour. She had lived in Rome. She got lost and our short walk lasted four and a half hours!

Still, we saw a lot. We saw Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps that were able to connect two very different parts of the city. We walked through piazza navona and the Roman Circus. I loved the art, the statues and the fountains. Everything was over sized. However, I was tired, missed Assisi and just wanted to go home.

By the next morning I was in love with Rome. Our pension had sisters from all over the world. I walked the Tiber by myself for three and a half hours. I walked past embassies, floating gardens, floating soccer fields and nightclubs. I passed all different styles of bridges, each a work of art. I saw the black market, men and women from Africa and Asia trying to make a living. All of their goods were on bed sheets. That way when the police moved in they threw their belongings on their back and walked over to another bridge. At one time I witnessed fifty men migrate from one bridge to another.

I walked past palaces, ancient walls and the hills.

One evening we went to the Trastrevere neighborhood of Rome. We drove past a river embankment made by Mussolini. The walls stopped flooding and reduce typhoid. We passed the prison Pope John XXIII visited against advice on a Christmas Eve. This was the same prison that held the attempted assassin of Pope John Paul II. We passed the synagogue John Paul II visited.

Finally we arrived at San Francesco di Rippa. This was the church Francis stayed at when he walked to Rome. It had a long Franciscan history. At one time is functioned as a hospital and was established by Lady Jacobi. It had a number of saints associated with it. Father Andre showed us relics and art. The church was poor, simple, yellow and I loved it.

The church was baroque. Francis visited it in 1229. The church and the neighborhood was always considered poor. And yet there was a Bernini masterpiece in this church.

At various times the church was taken over by Napoleons troops, the united Italian Republic troops and the neighborhood.

Afterwards we all went across the street to an outdoor restaurant and had a wonderful meal. On our ride home we drove thorough the hills of Rome and looked down on the sparking city. We also stopped as Michelangelo’s home. This was originally near the Vatican. However, when Mussolini opened up Rome to the Vatican he moved the house to the top of a hill. It was beautiful.

So while I initially hated Rome, that hate quickly gave way to love. I can not wait to visit Rome again.

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