Rome Diaries - Week 44

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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January 28, 2008

On a visit to our post office box at the U.S. Embassy, the American behind the desk asks if I knew that church officials are moving Padre Pio’s body into a glass coffin. Not your usual conversation starter, but, hey, this is Rome. “Twenty years ago,” he continues, “when I first heard of Padre Pio, I was not a practicing Catholic, but I couldn’t get enough about the holy Capuchin of San Giovanni Rotondo.” As canonized saints go in Italy, Padre Pio is just a notch below St. Francis of Assisi in popularity


February 3, 2008

At lunch I hear about Fumone, a medieval garrison founded in the 10th century during the invasions of the Saracens and Normans. The town’s name is a memory of that era since it recalls the smoke signals used to warn of approaching threats. Later (1296), the fortress was used by Pope Boniface VIII to imprison the abdicated pope and saint, Celestine V. This humble old monk had been elected pope to end a 27 month deadlock, but he could not take the high stakes politics. This picturesque town has now become “cell phone central” since it occupies the perfect spot for relay towers. The cell phone company has restored the town to its medieval state, but spoiled its views in a sort of devil’s bargain. Locally, the microwave tower is called the “Eco-monster.” Rocca di Papa, located on the flanks of the Alban Hills outside Rome, met a similar fate, but received no historic restoration – its famous rock now bristles with steel. Some other towns that have been able to get cell phone companies to hide their towers inside massive artificial trees.


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