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Roman Holiday, Part 1: A Church on Every Corner

Rob and I took a wonderful week-long vacation to Rome during Holy Week, the week before Easter, and what a memorable trip it was! In this post, I’ll share pictures of some of the many beautiful churches we visited that week.

We visited between 30 and 40 churches, most of which were Renaissance style: Painted or carved ceilings, marble statues, lots of arches and columns, and in some, lots and lots of gold. Unlike most of the German churches I’ve been in, there wasn’t a lot of intricate stained glass windows. Ah, but why am I telling you about it? Here are some pictures. I’ve tried to highlight the art and the statues with these images. If you want to see more (much more!) stay tuned to my Picasa album. I’ll be uploading images as I work through and find the best ones.

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beautiful artwork, columns, and marble

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Amazing marble statue!

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beautiful rotunda

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The spiral columns remind of the ones on the alter in St. Peter's. Plus more marble artwork.

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I mean, wow!

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I really liked the angels, the dove, and the dove's light rays.

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Another beautiful rotunda

Illegal Picture of the Sistine Chapel and The Creation of Adam!

Illegal picture of the Sistine Chapel and The Creation of Adam!

An amazing statue at St. Peter's Basilica

An amazing statue (it's huge!) at St. Peter's Basilica

Us at St. Peter's Basilica with the Pope! (Sorry, Pope Benedict XVI is in another picture, unfortunately.)

Us at St. Peter's Basilica with the Pope! (Sorry, Pope Benedict XVI is in another picture, unfortunately.)

I loved how floral this gold design is.

I loved how floral this gold design is.

statue of Paul and paiting at St. Paul's Basilica

statue of Paul and painting at St. Paul's Basilica

huge painting at St. Paul's Basilica

huge painting at St. Paul's Basilica

Now, how did we see so many churches? Here’s what would happen.

Rob and Linden turn another corner.
Rob: Hey, that looks like another church. Wanna go in?
Linden: Sure, why not?
They leave the noisy Rome streets to meditative silence of a new church. Usually they sit for a few minutes, reflecting. Linden takes some pictures with the aid of her trusty tripod (no flash needed!).

Sometimes the roles were reversed and I’d spot the church first, but you get the basic idea.

There were 3 churches that I would like to talk about in a little more detail: St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Church of the Holy Stairs, and St. Paul’s Basilica.

St. Peter’s Basilica

We attended Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday. And the Pope was there! We got to hear him speak and chant, though in Latin. If Pope Benedict XVI would have spoken in his native language, maybe we could have understood, but alas. He blessed the oils and prayed for the people affected by the earthquake earlier that week in L’Aquila. Il Papa passed us twice, once within about 10 feet.

Look how close we got! (This is during the recessional)

Look how close we got! (This is during the recessional)

Here is a short video of the Pope during Chrism Mass.

The Pope during Chrism Mass 2009 from Linden A. Mueller on Vimeo.

The Church of the Holy Stairs

We intended to visit the church San Giovanni in Laterne, but the Pope was holding a mass there shortly after we arrived, so we weren’t able to fully enjoy the church. Our guidebook told us that across the street were the Holy Stairs, or Scala Sancta. We headed across the street and were so glad we did.

The Holy Stairs are the stairs that Jesus supposedly climbed at Pontius Pilate’s house before he was crucified. Whether or not these are the stairs that Jesus actually walked on, we had a great experience. You are not allowed to walk up the stairs, but instead, you must kneel on your knees and climb the 28 stairs that way. What a unique way to celebrate Easter: praying while ascending stairs that Jesus could have climbed shortly before he was crucified.

They covered the marble stairs in wood to protect and preserve them.

They covered the marble stairs in wood to protect and preserve them.

The view at the top of the stairs. Very symbolic.

The view at the top of the stairs. Very symbolic.

The Basilica of St. Paul

We almost missed this because it isn’t in Central Rome and our guidebook map didn’t quite show this part of town. But boy, were we glad we went! The Basilica of St. Paul has a stunning courtyard and its decoration is right in-step with the other churches we visited in Rome: gold everywhere, mosaics, carvings, arches, and columns. Having seen Pope Benedict XVI up close in the previous days, we particularly enjoyed the mosaic busts of all the popes which create the boundary between the tops of the columns and the beginning of the ceiling, with Pope Benedict’s circle being lit up.

Pope Benedict XVI's bust illuminated, with Pope John Paul II's next to it.

Pope Benedict XVI's bust illuminated, with Pope John Paul II's next to it.

To the upper-right of that person's head is Paul's tomb. Wow.

To the upper-right of that person's head is Paul's tomb. Wow.

We descended a short set of stairs in front of the alter not knowing what was down there. It is Paul’s coffin, partially exposed marble behind a glass window. Another amazing relic to experience during Easter week. Paul spent the last few months of his life in Rome and therefore I can reasonably believe that the person buried in that coffin could be Paul from the New Testament. Wow.

The Beautiful Music

One day, we happened upon an organist at All Saints’ Anglican Church practicing for a concert later that evening, and then not more than two hours later, a service with a capella singing by the nuns and priests at the church at the top of the Spanish Steps, the Trinità dei Monti. I couldn’t video all of it, but here are a couple short clips of those beautiful moments from our trip.


Organist practicing at All Saints’ Anglican Church (Rome) from Linden A. Mueller on Vimeo.


A Capella Singing at Trinita dei Monti (Rome) from Linden A. Mueller on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Rome’s churches and looking at all the pictures I could share (for now!). Stay tuned to hear more about Rome: Our explorations of the Ancient Roman ruins and our mouth-watering culinary exploits coming soon! Because these pictures blogs take more time than word-only blogs, I’m planning on posting about the Ancient Roman ruins this weekend. Until then, “Ciao!”


2 thoughts on “Roman Holiday, Part 1: A Church on Every Corner

  1. Lorraine

    28 Apr on 2009 at 1:34

    Wow: I’m really just speechless. It’s like a trip through an art history class: thank you So Much for bringing us along. Rome is definitely now on my list of Must-See cities.

    • xgravity23

      23 May on 2009 at 20:54

      @Lorraine: It was SO fun. And I’m sure I couldn’t appreciate all the art as much as you could with all ur fancy learning and stuff. :) But seriously, it was amazing.