Castel Sant Angelo
A quick little religion lesson: Pope Francis has declared 2016 a Jubilee Year, the Holy Year of Mercy. While we are not Catholic, we are faithful Christians, and Rome is, of course, one of the Holiest cities on the planet, so all of this interested me greatly.
During a Jubilee Year, the Pope opens 4 Holy Doors throughout Rome. (These doors are actually sealed with brick-and-mortar when not opened.) The significance of passing through a Holy Door is best summed up here:
“To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone
and goes out personally to encounter each of them.” — Pope Francis
The opening of the door signifies God opening a new pathway to salvation, mercy and grace. Your walk through the Holy Door symbolizes your access to God to receive forgiveness and mercy. During this journey of spiritual conversion, pilgrims will seek to be filled with God’s love so they can experience His love and mercy in their daily lives. (http://www.nawas.com/catholic/holy-year-mercy-jubilee-pilgrimages.htm)
I’m all about gaining some blessings, so I plotted out a way for us to pass through all 4 of the doors while we were in Rome. It was like a full week of Sunday School for my family, but we did it, and there was minimal complaining.
First up, the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica.
I’d read that you needed to register for this door; the instructions were partially in Italian, but I plowed through and had our little family registered as a group of 5 pilgrims. Once you complete the registration, you sit back and wait for the Vatican to approve your pilgrimage and to assign you a time to pass through the doors. We were given 9:30 a.m., which is all fine and dandy unless you are on U.S. time and have been in Rome less than 24 hours; in that case, it feels like it’s 3:30 a.m. Good times.
The pilgrimage begins at Castel Sant Angelo, which we didn’t manage to actually enter due to my dragging of my family to the Holy Door. I was paranoid that we would miss our appointed time. Passing through a tent where a man actually looked up our reservation and pulled out a folder with information with our name on it validated my sense of urgency. We were handed a pamphlet which detailed the steps we were about to take on this pilgrimage.
There were several suggested prayers, reflections, and readings, but honestly, it looked like the majority of folks were just plowing ahead as quickly as possible. We walked down the Via della Conciliazione, past the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, through the Colonnade, and then through the decidedly neither religious nor contemplative security area.
Passing through our first Holy Door was indeed pretty magnificent.
St. Peter’s Basilica is, obviously, pretty magnificent as well.
Michelangelo’s Pieta is directly on the right once you enter.
You do a whole lot of looking up when you’re inside St. Peter’s, both figuratively and literally.
Once again, we waited too long to eat and were very grumpy and not in the mood to walk the distance to Pizzarium or Pastasciutta. Instead, we left St. Peter’s and walked over to De’ Penitenzieri. A few plates of penne arrabbiata and spaghetti bolognese fueled us up for a second trip to St. Peter’s for the Pope’s Angelus and to climb the cupola.
When in Rome, the Pope typically holds 2 audiences a week: a Wednesday Mass and the Sunday Angelus, or blessing.
Even though we do not understand Italian, this was still one of the most moving things we’ve participated in.
After the Angelus, we went through security again and made our way to the dome of St. Peter’s in order to climb the cupola. We bought tickets to take the elevator halfway up; I can’t recommend this enough, especially if you are working on little sleep. Once you exit the elevator, there are still roughly 231 steep stairs to climb, so you really won’t feel like you’ve been cheated.
The view at the top is breathtaking, and this is only slightly due to the fact that you’ve climbed straight up a tilting iron ladder to get to the tippy-top.
while I was looking at this view…
…these 2 turkeys were doing this.
The climb down was equally as harrowing.
After the dome, we visited the Vatican Grottos underneath the Basilica. There’s a ton of fascinating information in the Grottos. You exit the Grottos back into St. Peter’s Basilica again but on a different side. It was later in the afternoon, and the light was amazing.
After a quick gelato stop, we headed back to the apartment for a bit of a much needed rest.
We made a frantic trip to the Pantheon in the rain, and were there for exactly 4 minutes before it closed.
yep, hole in the roof
rainy exterior shot
Sorry, Pantheon. We totally owe you another visit.
Monday evening, we wandered around the nooks and crannies of Piazza Navona until we stumbled upon an amazing little semi-hidden trattoria (whose name I’ll post when I can track it down via credit card statement). Because it was early (for dinner for Italians), we were the only people in the place, but the servers did not seem to mind at all. When people did start trickling in, we were pleased to see that they were all locals. We’d inadvertently unearthed a gem of a restaurant.
We walked through the Piazza Navona to take a peek at the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, which our sons recognized more from the movie Angels and Demons than they did from the travel info I’d attempted to pump into them.
a completely pitiful photo but it was pouring down rain, so we didn’t linger
chestnuts roasting on an open fire…
(no one really likes chestnuts, by the way…)
Day 2 was pretty doggone amazing. I’ll close with the best photo of the day, taken from atop St. Peter’s Dome. It sums up our first Holy Door experience to a T.