The Rome Diaries - Week 11

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.


Jan. 5, 2007

In The Geometry of Love anthropologist Margaret Visser writes: “Christianity is a religion of both sudden revelations…and an ongoing transformation – both in history and every individual soul.” One of the saints buried in our church is Genesius; he certainly qualifies as a sudden conversion. Not a “name” now, but at one time his acting troupe was well- appreciated in Rome. During the performance of a play making fun of Christian baptism, Genesius realized he had to accept Christianity. The play, which was being performed in front of Emperor Diocletian, involved an actor (as priest) pouring water over Genesius; it was then that he experienced a complete change of heart. No one knew anything was amiss, but Genesius; in the second act, the saint threw away the script and began: “Listen, oh Emperor, before today when I heard the word Christian, I despised their name…(but)…when the water was poured over me, I was baptized and the angels said to me, ‘you are cleansed of your sin’…” His conversion was tested by torture and he went to his death praising his new religion. Our church contains a large fresco, of the baptism of Genesius. He is surrounded by contemporaries who were martyred just like him.


Jan. 7, 2007

The mayor has proclaimed an “open house” at City Hall, which lies at the center of the Michelangelo-designed piazza, Campidoglio. At the beginning of the tour, we are told that the mayor wants us to see all Rome’s glorious history; this includes the first equestrian statue in Western art, which he recently had restored and moved from the piazza into an adjoining museum. Near the statue lies the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, built in 509 B.C. as a symbol for the just-established Roman Republic, it nevertheless possessed the grandeur necessary to inspire imperial vision and the cellars big enough to hold the treasure from centuries of war. Some say Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian, paraded to this spot loaded with the valuables of the Temple of Jerusalem. In the Renaissance when its colossal foundations became part of a noble family’s palazzo.

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