Good to know....
[revised November 2021]
Rome is the capital of Christendom, but I rarely sense the spirituality of this city of martyrs and saints in the most celebrated basilicas. Nevertheless, a lot of travellers come here in reason of their faith, maybe it’s not the only push, but an important one. Therefore we ought to provide a list of activities and places to incorporate in your Roman holiday to nourish your spirituality:
- the place I prefer to go for this purpose is the Abbey of the Three Fountains: here Saint Paul received his martyrdom. According to the legend, when the apostle was beheaded, his head bounced three times and three springs of water came out from the ground. Three fountains were built over this holy place and they are still visible inside the baroque church. Leaving aside the art and historical values of this location, the feeling I always have as soon as I walk through the so-called “Arch of Charlemagne” is peacefulness: simplicity, silence, a synergy between art and nature, harmony. For men, and for a maximum of 6 days, you can even reside there and live the life of the monks, sleeping in the Foresteria.
- Just next to the entrance of this abbey there is a small convent run by nuns called the “Petites Soeurs de Jesus”, the order started by Charles de Foucauld. There is a little wood chapel in the garden, where everybody is welcome: no precious paintings, no comfortable seats, nothing that we are used to admire in a Roman church. Just your soul and blessed silence
- If you wish to experience a traditional pilgrimage (with songs and prayers), every Saturday night from Easter to October you can join a group of local pilgrims and walk from Piazza di Porta Capena (Circus Maximus) to the Sanctuary of Divine Love. They meet at midnight and the whole night is needed to reach the sanctuary where you celebrate mass at dawn. Think ahead on how to come back and bring some water and food with you, the path is 15 km long!
- A different kind of pilgrimage to do with us is the “Seven Churches Path“, but by bike. In the old times, it was possible to walk pleasantly from one church to another, mostly in the countryside, for the 16 miles needed. But today traffic and chaotic urban life make this path less enjoyable on foot. Still, the spiritual significance of these seven basilicas and the symbolism of the path are worth a tour: we suggest by bike in order to spare time for a prayer and some artistic appreciation.
- The Holy Stairs are a staircase which Christ is said to have ascended to be sentenced to crucifixion by Pontius Pilate According to tradition, the steps were brought to Rome in 326 AD by St Helena, mother of emperor Constantine. The stairs, located opposite the Archbasilica of St John Lateran in Piazza di S. Giovanni in Laterano, have to be climbed on knees as a form of respect, praying during the devotional ascension. The staircase leads to a chapel known as the Sancta Sanctorum, or Holiest of Holies, the ancient private chapel of popes.
- In the medieval beautiful church SS. Quattro Coronati (not far from the Colosseum) the Augustinian nuns celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours from 6.30 in the morning to 6.30 pm and anybody can join. They also offer hospitality for few days if you seek silence and solitude. The convent boasts a fascinating cloister and the frescoed chapel of St. Silvester, therefore a visit is well paid in any case.
- Catacombs are usually in the top list of visits for a christian tourist and you find our infos on this visit here. Internal tours are provided, it is rather easy go on own.
- In the same link you find infos on the Papal Audience, that you can easily attend on own, provided that you have reserved. Remember, it is free, do not pay somebody for this, it’s a fraud otherwise. The Angelus prayer with the Holy Father takes place almost every Sunday at noon sharp in Piazza San Pietro and you do not need a reservation.
- Attending mass in Rome is the easiest thing to do, but you probably prefer an English “version” which is offered for instance in Saint Patrick, San Clemente (which definitely deserves a visit, especially the amazing excavations) or Caravita Oratory. If you look for a sung mass, you can head to Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Sant’Agnese in Agone on Piazza Navona. Very close to this famous piazza, you also have the Church of Jesus’ Nativity where the Congolese community animates the service with their typical style. If you prefer non catholic services, these are some addresses for you: All Saint’s Anglican Church, Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church and St Paul’s Within-the-Walls Anglican Episcopal Church. In Rome we also have an important Jewish Community and an Islamic Centre at the Great Mosque
- There are special days of the liturgical calendar when you might appreciate being in Rome: Christmas period is of course a magical moment with the Nativity and Christmas tree in St. Peter’s square and in most Roman churches, the Midnight Mass (book well in advance for St. Peter’s mass, while you can join any service in “normal churches”), Te Deum on Dec 31st (after the Vespers the Pope visits the Nativity scene on the piazza, no need to reserve for this “meeting”) and the Epiphany on January 6th, celebrated with an historical cortege following the Three Wise Men along Via della Conciliazione. On January 21st the church of St. Agnes outside the Walls, over homonymous catacombs, hosts the “blessing of the lambs”, a very old and complicated tradition we will be happy to explain when you come here! During Lent the main moment for a visitor is the Pope’s Via Crucis at Colosseum on Good Friday’s night. And check the date of Pentecost to be at the Pantheon and assist to the “red petals shower” through the oculus of the dome, symbolising the descent of the Holy Spirit. During summer the main event is the miraculous snowfall of Santa Maria Maggiore on Aug 5th, which recalls the event of the foundation of the basilica.