Rome Diaries - Week 36

From 2006 to 2011 Paulist Father Tom Holahan served as vice rector of the Paulist church in Rome. During that time he had the opportunity to spend time exploring the historic sites of Rome as well as the hidden ones. The blog features excerpts from this travel diary. A new selection appears each week.

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September 8, 2007

Among the many sights of tonight’s Notte Bianca is Giancarlo Neri’s “Maximum Silence.” In cooperation with the electric company, Enel, he has filled the entire Circus Maximus with lit globes -- red, blue, purple, yellow, green – 10,000 of them. Neri spent twenty years in the U.S. first as a professional soccer player and then as a student and artist. His works are usually monumental in scale like “The Writer,” a thirty-foot table and chair that was exhibited here and in London two years ago. I skulk around the dimly lit ruin trying to find a spot that takes in the whole field and gives a sense of scale. Finally, I find a rise close to the center that takes in thousands of the colored lights as they merge into a single, bright pool of color at the other end of the stadium. Many children have come to see this particular installation. Maybe it reminds them that Christmas is coming; it has that effect on me.


September 11, 2007


This evening I go to a concert that subtly acknowledges 9/11. The venue is Complesso Monumentale Santo Spirito in Sassia, not the easiest place to see on your own. Begun in the 8th century and rebuilt in the 12th, the complex started as a shelter for Saxon (British) pilgrims to St. Peter’s. Later it became a hospital and orphanage. It is distinguished by its two massive 15th century wings, which enclose 21,000 square feet and are 36 feet high. A series of frescos depicting the lives to two Franciscan popes decorate the highest section of the walls. The adjacent, modern hospital carries on the 800-year-old tradition of healing associated with this place. Tonight’s concert is performed by enthusiastic young musicians; the program notes say they are “inspired by a strong belief that the Arts in general, and music in particular, provide a universal language that speaks to the heart and mind.” The music is intended to bring us to our senses about the use of violence, on this 9/11 anniversary, so it’s appropriate we are in a hospice-turned-concert-hall. Just before midnight, I leave the concert (still going on), passing through the massive gates built by Urban VIII in the 1600’s to keep Rome safe from wars raging north of the Alps.

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