The Rome Diaries - Week 7

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.

Dec. 6, 2006

Florence and Rome have completely different personalities. Years ago, on my last visit to Florence, I formed the opinion that Florence is like Manhattan. There is the cold, “bank vault” of the Medici tombs, the “billboard” of David in the main square and the fast-paced walking of people on a tight schedule. Rome is far different. Here remnants of the pharaohs are strewn about, recalling the pretensions of ancient Rome. (The gargantuan scale of the buildings -- ancient and Renaissance -- make them still adequate for modern functions.) The Baroque art and architecture of the Counter-Reformation bears witness to a deep-seated belief that here could be created paintings and statues showing such intense devotion that the Protestant critique would be silenced.

Dec. 7, 2006

A backpacker walks past Sant'Andrea della Valle after he passes me, I notice he is fingering his rosary beads. There seem always to be quiet gestures to be going on everywhere, just beneath the surface. For instance, the church of S. Andrea della Valle is a masterpiece of baroque theatricality, but twenty feet overhead, midway down the nave, are the bodies of Popes Pius II (1405-1564) and Pius III (26 days in 1503). Why are they in a 17th Century church? -- because they are the two success stories of the Piccolomini family who donated the property. Pius II, first a p