Rome Diaries - Week 67

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 12th, 2009

At the Vatican today Jesus, Mary and Joseph went missing. The Nativity scene in the center of St. Peter’s Square was dismantled in error. And people noticed. A former Vatican reporter tells me “there was a miscommunication.” The figures, including the Three Kings (who practically just arrived), the stable and the shepherds will be back in a few days. All will remain in place until forced to retire on February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation and official end of the Christmas season.


January 13, 2009

Relatives arrive today from the U.S. They are taking a long cruise back to Florida, but before they embark, their travel agent has booked them for a weekend in Montefiascone, a hill town ninety minutes and a thousand years from modern Rome. It keeps fresh a memorable story of drunkenness. The town is on the Via Francigena, a medieval pilgrimage route from England to Rome. On the floor of the church of San Flaviano is a stone slab marking the grave of Johannes Defuk, a German bishop who succumbed to excessive drinking in 1111, during his return from the controversial crowning of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V in Rome. The bishop, wanting to make the most of his travels, instructed his valet to scout the inns along the way. He was to write the Latin word est (“This is.”) on the doors of establishments serving good wine. At Montefiascone, the servant wrote the word three times to indicate the excellence of the drink inside. This proved to be enough -- in fact, too much, for the bishop. Before he died, he left a legacy of 24,000 silver coins so that, on the anniversary of his death, a small cask of wine could be poured as a libation upon his tomb. The inscription there reads, “Because of the excessive Est! Here lies my lord Johannes Defuk.” Today a light, fruity Moscatello branded “Est! Est! Est!” is available everywhere in Montefiascone.


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