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Rome Diaries - Week 39

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.


October 30, 2007

My search for more information on the “German cemetery” that lies just beyond the second guard station of the Vatican’s Holy Office Gate has been rewarded. Some playfully call it “the last little bit of the Holy Roman Empire,” but, it’s been an extraterritorial possession of the Vatican since the Lateran Treaty (1929). As early as 1400, the spot became a hostel for pilgrims from what is now Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Flemish part of Belgium. Due to the rigors of travel and the poor health of the peasants who made the journey, a hospital and cemetery were also created. When he was a cardinal, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass here at Santa Maria della Pieta, a 16th century chapel. Today, a German seminary the Görres Society, an institute for the study of church history, art and artifacts make their home in this enclave of palm trees and gravestones that just outside the official boundary of the Vatican City State.

November 16, 2007

I have an appointment at a convent in the Vatican gardens. The last time I visited, a small slip of yellow paper got me in. Now it is like any other boarder crossing. I am asked for my passport by a security agent sitting behind a computer screen in a new office below the east colonnade of St. Peter’s. I timidly show the only picture ID I have - my bus pass. The agent winces, but accepts the “document.” It helps that my appointment was already logged into his computer by the convent. As I climb the path up Vatican hill, I notice a saguaro cactus, part of the small State’s botanical collection. I’ve been told that two ancient olive trees from the garden of Gethsemane were recently planted, living diplomatic gifts to the pope.

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