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.
Sept. 28, 2006
I am beginning to notice the prevalence of angels here. Not just cherubs, but “serious” ones like the large bronze on top of Castle St. Angelo and the ever-popular image, by Guido Reni, of St. Michael the Archangel vanquishing the Devil. At the same time I notice people citing miraculous coincidences. A teacher links the finding of a spring on school grounds with future enrollment growth; a seminarian believes the death of Pope John Paul II occurred on the Sunday after Easter “because he loved that Sunday.” I am reminded of a nice person I met in Berkeley years ago who said, “You never know, so I believe in everything.”
Oct. 4, 2006
Every ticket to the Vatican Museums also includes admission to the Museum at the Lateran Palace (next to the Basilica and Cathedral of St. John Lateran) but most tourists don’t know this or don’t have the time to go. Such obscure opportunities often materialize in Rome and it is wise to take advantage if at all possible. The formal rooms of the papal apartments are magnificent and rival those at the Vatican. (On February 11, 1929 the Lateran Accords were signed here, creating the Vatican City State; that document holds a place of honor in one of these rooms.) Our guide points especially to the display of “rare” Remington rifles from the mid-19th Century. In those days popes still had an well-equipped military guard. Before going to the museum a parishioner and I spent some time making the circuit around the church. There you may contemplate how Gothic, Renaissance and neo-Classic architecture clash and combine. It’s a sort of mini-course on the history of Rome since the site was originally used by Ancient Roman administrators (the famed equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius now the Capitoline Museums in Piazza di Campidoglio was found here) and then, in 313, it was given the to papacy by Emperor Constantine. After many restorations, Sixtus V completely rebuilt the church and palace complex in the 16th century. It’s always “wheels within wheels” in Rome. Over an espresso after our visit, we discuss the ways of drinking coffee in Rome. I mention that in the U.S., the one time you can relax is when you are drinking coffee. It seems in Rome you down your espresso and run. Then my companion said that, although this was true, “When you are tired or in the right mood, you just agree to pay a bit more and sit as long as you want.”