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9 June 2020 - Day 59 – Rome 2

Rising early to get breakfast and then headed off to the Piazza di Porta San Giovanni. It was supposed to be raining off and on today, so in addition to wearing the slicker, I planned on using public transportation. Plus I had to carry my photobook today.

Catching the underground at the #Rome train station, it was four stops to San Giovanni. Out of the tube, I cross the Piazza to approach the Arcibasilica Papale di Santissimo Salvatore e Santi Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista in Laterano, or #StJohnLateran Cathedral. The Pope is the bishop of Rome, and hence needs a cathedral. Vatican City, which is not Rome, has no cathedral, so this is the episcopal seat for Pope Francis.

With a baroque façade from 1735 added to the existing face, the building dates back to the Emperor Constantine the Great, who tore down the existing imperial calvary bodyguards’ fortress, and gave it to the Pope in about 313 CE. It ranks above all other Roman Catholic churches, cathedrals and basilicas as the Mother Church with its dedication to Christ the Savior. It is the only archbasilica. Looking less like a church, this tall front is more reminiscent of a palace. Central double columns support a pediment creating a porch, with square columns that mark double side aisles for the palladial balcony and vestibule. Statues stand on the balustrade wall.

Inside, the walls are covered in frescoes wile arches and columns are gilded in gold. The ceiling, also gilded, is coffered. Statues of the eleven apostles and St Paul fill niches between the columns along the central nave aisle. A ciborium rises above the main altar to nearly vault height. In the crypt are excavations of the original fort, of the several churches and cathedrals also built on this site. I did make a point of finding the wooden covered marble stairs, the Scala Sancta, which are said to have come from the palace of Pontius Pilate.

It was after 10am, and I needed to catch a bus from the Porta San Giovanni to get to the #Coliseum for my timed entry ticket. Of course, walking would take as long as the bus, but it had already showered once while I was inside the archbasilica. Hopping on a #3, I was at the gate 5 minutes early. The queue was orderly, probably a bit smaller due to the weather. Once inside the admissions gate, I headed to the N1 meeting point for a guided tour in English.

About 10 were waiting, and as another 10 arrived, our guide Roberto gathered us together and we started off. To the upper walkway, down onto the fighting fields, into the animal cages and the stables. One has no idea of the size of this structure without standing and walking around in it. Roberto made the tour very interesting, engaging with a pair of centurion actors when we chanced upon them. I had a great time and feel it as certainly worthwhile.

Leaving about 12:30, I headed to Cattedrale di Santi Sergio e Bacco degli Ucraini. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of Saints Sergius and Bacchus became a cathedral in 2019, and was 6 blocks away in the district of Monti along a one-way street going the other direction, so I walked. Barely a half kilometer, I was there in 10 minutes, passing a Maronite convent/college. (I’d visited the Maronite co-cathedrals in St Louis in fall 2019 and Mexico City in 2017, and Brooklyn in 2016.)

Squeezed in between two residential buildings, the four-story structure is small, but dates its association with Ukrainian Catholics (Byzantine rite) to 1641. Perhaps a dozen rows of seats/pews, an abbreviated altar sits in front of wrought iron iconostasis which displays icons, including the Evangelists. It is a lovely little church, now a cathedral. The central icon is known as the Madonna del Pascolo, as it had descended while shepherds were pasturing their flocks.

Another half kilometer away was my next cathedral. The Chiesa Principale dell'Ordinariato Militare - Santa Caterina da Siena a Magnanapoli is the Military Ordinariate for the Italian Armed Forces.

It is located on the slopes of the Quirnal Hill, with the Torre delle Milizie behind it. (As a reminder, the #MilitaryOrdinariate is the Catholic structure for priest assigned to military duty to keep them out of the regular military command.) The entry is up a mirrored flight of stairs (the street level had been lowered) to the now sole central door. Three chapels along both sides of the nave continue the baroque splendor of the nave. This is another beautiful baroque-style church, with some intriguing art.

I had to get moving. I was scheduled to have tea with the Anglican bishop at the Anglican Center. About three-quarters of a kilometer away, Maps said 10 minutes. Across one street, the Palazzo Colonna beckoned, another great museum of art. A bit further on, the Palazzo Bonaparte was at the corner as I turned north. The Anglican Center is in a corner building rising 3 stories above the street. Today is the day Communion services are held, but a noon, and I was strolling at the Coliseum then. Nicoletta, the Centre Manager, had invited me to come by, and if Archbishop Ian was available, to have tea. Originally from Mauritius, he is now the Director of the Anglican Center in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Representative to the Holy See. I felt quite privileged to just have met him, but to share tea and talk about his activities in Rome, and about my trip and photobook, #CathedralsToTheGloryOfGod! I had decided that I would give him my copy – I really didn’t need to carry it further on this trip, and he had expressed interest. So now there’s a copy in Rome!

Late afternoon, there still was time to revisit the Pantheon. Five short blocks, I was entering this truly marvelous gem. Burial place for the former Italian royalty, this former Roman temple is truly a marvel and is currently an active church. I’d only been to Rome once before, in February 2001. A friend and I did a long weekend, which I now say was a weekend from hell, as most anything which could go wrong, did. I was glad to return and build new, good memories.

The hotel was 3 kilometers away, and a #62 bus would have me there in half an hour. Shedding my yellow slicker for the heavier jacket and packing the extra bag I’d carried the photobook in, I freshened up and grabbed my ticket for this evening’s performance. When I was looking to see what might be going on in Rome while I would be here, I found a concert at the Baths of the Caracalla. So I got a ticket and was soon on my way to the Castro Pretorio metro stop. Four stops and 6 minutes later, I as at the Circo Massimo stop, and had a 10-minute walk. On the way, I decided to at least check out the ruins of the Circus Maximus nearby, even if the gates were closed. Just under 2 hours to curtain, I walked down past the entrance and found Orazio.

A “Roman Restaurant”, they were able to seat me, and ensured me I’d be out before the 9 o’clock start. Spinach risotto for the primi, knowing that it takes 20 minutes to prepare, so a Carciofo alla giudia to start. A table for four was seated next to me, and it turned out they were also going to the concert. The journal was the curiosity point, and then that I was “American” and going to the concert, they insisted on pushing the tables together. I’d ordered a glass of white, but bottles of red and white appeared on the tables, and the male (with 3 females) kept pouring more into my glass.

The redhead took pity on me and showed me how to tackle the artichoke, as I know how to eat them if steamed. There’s a lot of show discarded, before you find the tender stuff you eat. My risotto was out of this world, so creamy and tasty. I wasn’t too anxious for anything else, but settled for a plate of lasagna, which got me a few scoldings for having two pastas.

My dinner partners, Antonia, Patrizia, Julietta and Erico, then asked why I was going to the concert. I admitted that I didn’t know Claudio Baglioni, but I was willing to try. The women all seemed to be fans, with Erico the escort. The Rome Opera had been hosting a Twelve Notes series of concerts for years, but this would be the first time the same singer would perform at all 12 evenings. A pop singer-songwriter, he had recently turned 69 but had been performing since he was 17. Known for melodic and dramatic love ballads, I guess I’d call him a crooner.

We settled up and began walking to the theater at the Baths of the Caracalla. Once past the ticket takers, I headed off to Section C, and we agreed to meet at the interval for drinks at the bar. I got settled, surrounded mainly by women who were my age, dressed to the nines despite this being open air. The orchestra tuned up, the choir entered and climbed the risers, and the conductor entered. To great applause, Mr Baglioni graced the stage.

Okay, no, I didn’t recognize anything. He’s an excellent musician, has great command of his voice and is a consummate performer. An undercurrent of singing along hung in the air, and the female audience seemed enraptured. I found it great entertainment. At the break I didn’t find my foursome, so after a while I roamed and people watched, and then returned to my seat. The second half apparently featured more of his greatest hits, and the chorus backed him up well.

At the end, after two encores, I headed back to the Metro. Back at the hotel about midnight, I unloaded the camera, began charging, and caught up in my journal. This blog post was a push. Tomorrow I plan on two former cathedral sites, and two major basilicas, including St Peter’s. I’ll get up when I get up.

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