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I spent my holidays in Rome. Without Christmas gluttony, sitting at the table, but with lots of impressions. There was no end to sightseeing and walking.
On December 22, 2010 in Warsaw it was minus 16 degrees. The plane taxis to the defrost stand. It sounds interesting, so we look through the windows so as not to miss anything. Meanwhile, the "stand" turned out to be two wagons with pipes through which the plane was poured with de-icing liquid! We take off quickly and after 2 hours we are at Rome's Fiumicino airport. It's 14 degrees C.
Later that evening we go out to the city. We admire the wonderfully illuminated monuments - we live between the Colosseum and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Snow (Santa Maria Magiore). While eating dinner at home, we hear cars coming up and screeching every now and then. They will accompany us until the end of our stay - our street turned out to be an alley of… brothels. Oh, the Roman color. It also includes the ubiquitous voice of ambulance sirens. We heard them almost continuously.
Sarcophagus with an amber rose
We're going to the Vatican. Thanks to these walks, we found out that Rome really lies on seven hills, and using the map, you need to add a dozen or so minutes to each route to overcome these hills. For example, going from the Vatican to our home, we went down three times and entered various depressions.
The first steps in the Vatican go to the tomb of John Paul II. We were threatened with queues, and nothing here! Rome out of season has pluses! Go through the gate and follow the arrows and go down to the so-called New Grotto. They are located under the main nave of the basilica, on the level of the old temple of Constantine the Great. It is here that the graves of 147 popes (out of 263 ruling) are buried at St. Peter, some "crowned heads" and cardinals. Among them is one woman - the Swedish queen Krystyna, who abdicated after converting to Catholicism.
John Paul II is buried in the tomb where the body of John XXIII was once laid. We stand in front of a simple stone slab with the pope's name and the dates of birth and death. There is an amber rose next to it. Silence. We all have tears in our eyes and shivers down our spine. Nobody rushes us, tells us to go on. You can kneel down and reflect. At one point, a young married couple with a picture of the girl approached the grave. He asks the security (two gentlemen discreetly stands at the railing separating the grave from the chapel) to lay them downon disc. The words show that the child is very sick, and they believe that our Pope will heal him. The young people are crying, the photo of the child is lying on the grave for one second (you cannot put anything on the record).
Nativity scenes faithful to tradition
We spent a good hour in the caves. We look at the nativity scene in the side chapel. It amazes with its tradition - a manger, hay, kneeling figures of the three kings, plaster animals. We are used to other nativity scenes - with a message, and here the tradition screeches!
The same is what the nativity scene looks like in St. Peter in front of the basilica. It surrounds a live Christmas tree next to the obelisk. Brought to Rome in 36 by Caligula, it stood on the Vatican Hill for many years. According to some legends, it marked the place of the martyrdom of St. Peter. It was moved to the square in 1586. The Christmas tree next to the obelisk is probably the only free-standing Christmas tree in Rome! We are still looking for the site of an assassination attempt on our Pope - Roman policemen help us find a small slab in the pavement …
The place was marked by snow
On this day we go to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Snow (Santa Maria Maggiore) and St. Peter in Chains (di San Pietro in Vincoli). According to the legend, in 352, Pope Liberius and Roman John saw the Virgin Mary in a dream, who told them that a church would be built in a place where snow fell in the middle of summer. On the night of August 4/5, 352 the Esquiline Hill was covered with snow. The Pope, in the presence of the Roman people, outlined the outline of the future church.
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Snow is 86 meters long. Its ceiling was decorated with gold brought by Christopher Columbus. Under the main altar are the relics of Jesus' nursery. You can go down there and pray.
Moses with horns
Not far from here to the Basilica of St. Peter in the Chains with a statue of Moses with horns carved by Michelangelo. The marble sculpture is part of the unfinished wall tombstone of Julius II. It was built in the years 1513-1516. She was one of the six figures to crown the tomb. Initially, the tombstone with the sculpture was to be placed in the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, he finally ended up on Esquilin. And that Moses has horns? This is the result of an incorrect translation of the Bible in the sixteenth century ("when Moses spoke with God on Mount Sinai, his face was horned," says the old translation. Today we know that it was about rays of light around the head, which indeed sometimes take this shape). Under the altar, we can also see these "fetters" or chains of St. Peter. According to legend, there were once two separate chains: one was chained in Jerusalem, the other in Rome. Both found themselves in the Eternal City and miraculously, in front of the crowds, merged into one (this sceneshows a painting on the ceiling of the nave).
We eat chestnuts, listen to Christmas carols
In the evening we sit on the Spanish Steps (it has stopped raining) and eat hot chestnuts ( although apparently eating on the steps brings bad luck). The stairs are 138 steps. It is one of the longest and widest in Europe (second only to the Potemkin Stairs in Odessa). They are the work of architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi. They were completed in 1725, they are decorated with flowers in summer, and a nativity scene is set up on the terrace in winter. Again, a very traditional manger - wooden, with a Jesus-doll on hay and colorful stars. A Christmas carol is coming from the loudspeakers - "Silent Night".
Christmas Eve in monuments
The day of Christmas Eve is sunny. Perfect for visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum (one ticket is valid). We start with the Colosseum. In the past, he demonstrated the power of Rome, and today he evokes respect and admiration. The construction of this magnificent amphitheater began in AD 72 and ended in AD 80. The name comes from the huge statue of Nero (colossus) 36 meters high, which was located near the amphitheater.
We go inside. The Colosseum is an oval structure, 527 meters in circumference, 188 meters long and 156 meters wide. It had 15 floors and an arena with an area of 2.5 hectares. There were over 50,000 seats and several thousand people standing in the audience. Although there is not much left today, it still makes a great impression.
There is a large cross on one side of the arena. In 1744, Pope Benedict IV consecrated the Colosseum and proclaimed the place of martyrdom of Christians. However, the cross was placed only by Benedict XIV, when on Good Friday he made the Way of the Cross here (since then it has been held every year, it is hard for us to forget 2005, when the sick John Paul II prayed in his private chapel in the Vatican, and the crowd gathered at the Colosseum joined him in prayer). The cross was quickly removed but restored in 1926.
We are leaving the Colosseum in a strange mood. This is not a happy place. We go to the Roman Forum, the main center of ancient Rome. The sun is shining beautifully, it's 17 degrees C! Cats roam between the ruins. Not many people.
Emotion pick up the voice …
Midnight Mass in the Vatican is at 23, we leave at 21.30 (the metro runs until 22). Crowd in line, everyone goes to the Vatican. It's… fun. The multilingual crowd quickly fills the square. We pull out a white and red flag. this is how we mark our territory. There is a group of Ethiopians next to us. Children run, argue, eat ice cream. The adults are singing. Picnic atmosphere, where it is to the seriousness of our holidays! But I guess it is … better, after all, let's be happy, because the Savior will be born in a moment! We can see the interior of the basilica on large screens. Fills up quickly too -the queue of the chosen ones with invitations goes around the square (we learn from Polish pilgrims that invitations are received in … Poland. Apparently, every church receives a few pieces and their parish priests have them at their disposal! It's a pity we didn't know about it …). At. 11 the bells are ringing. The pope appears on the screens. The crowd goes wild, we also wave the flag and shout something. Sudden movement, the screens go blank for a moment. After a few minutes, everything returns to normal - the Midnight Mass begins (it was only on the second day that we learned about the attack on the Pope). The mass ends after two hours.
We are going to march through Rome at night. We are not alone, the streets are full of people. All cafes and bars are open at the Venetian Square, next to the Victor Emmanuel II monument.
On the first day of Christmas, we march to the Vatican again. The sun is shining, it's 17 degrees Celsius. We stand in the square, sing Polish Christmas carols, wave flags. Poles are approaching, there are more and more of us. At. At 12, the holy father appears on the balcony of the basilica. After the Urbi et Orbi (city and world) blessing, Benedict XVI greets those gathered in the square in several languages. And suddenly we hear, "Let him be praised …". We are overwhelmed by euphoria. We wave our flags, we jump, we scream. We are not silent yet, and the Spaniards standing next to us are starting to wave their flags. And so every now and then, applause and shouts burst from another part of the square. The Pope disappears and the crowd moves to the open basilica. We also look there. Unfortunately, the grottoes are closed. How good it is that we went to the grave of John Paul II on the first day!
We go for ice cream and to the city. There are stalls along the Tiber - there is a Christmas market. At the stands, antiques are mixed with kitschy souvenirs.
We go to the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin to see the famous Mouth of Truth.
On the way we pass … St. Nicholas. Dressed in a red jacket, he rushes somewhere with a sack on his back. A view like from outer space!
A round, marble medallion, approx. 175 cm in diameter, depicting the face of a bearded deity, is located in the vestibule of the church. You have to stand in the queue, but nobody protests. There is a man next to the bas-relief and he charges a fee for putting his hand in his famous mouth! We throw in, take pictures and it's time for dinner. We choose a small pub at pl. Navona. A huge pizza lands on the table. Delicious! Plus wine, coffee and tiramisu. Holidays in Rome!
We drop by the church of St. Louis the King (San Luigi dei Francesi) to see the works of the most famous painter of Rome - Caravaggio. "The Calling of Saint Matthew", "The Inspiration of Saint Matthew" and "The Martyrdom of St. Mateusz ”as always, they delight us. The sharp chiaroscuro of the images emphasizes even moreexcellent (dark) exposure (the paintings are in the side chapel, and they will only be lit by spot halogens).
A visit to Copernicus
We are looking for a statue of Nicolaus Copernicus behind the Spanish Steps. There is! It's jammed into a corner, but we find a great astronomer. Nicolaus Copernicus came to Rome with his brother Andrzej in the spring of 1500. He took part in the celebrations of the Holy Year. On November 6, he watched a lunar eclipse, and at the end of the year, he made calculations to prepare for the observation of some unusual phenomenon. The astronomer's statue stands in the courtyard of the Church of the Resurrectionists (at via Sebastianello 11). It was unveiled in 1873, on the astronomer's 400th birthday.
At ul. Babuino, at number 165, we can see a very damaged plaque dedicated to J. Słowacki (the poet arrived here on February 22, 1836). We drink espresso in the Greco cafe, next to portraits of Poles who visit here (Mickiewicz, Norwid, Krasiński, Słowacki, Konopnicka, Sienkiewicz, Miłosz).
We arrive home late in the evening. Traffic begins in the streets.
The second day of Christmas is a normal working day for Italians. So we go to Paweł Outside the Walls (San Paolo fuori le Mura), the burial place of Saint Paul.
This is the second largest church in Rome (after Saint Peter's Basilica). It is preceded by a courtyard surrounded by a granite colonnade. A figure of St. Paul with a sword. We admire the door - the Holy Gate, made in Constantinople in 1070, destroyed in a fire and reconstructed in 1967. There are 80 columns in the interior. Along the upper edge of the walls there is a strip of medallions with portraits of popes - from St. Peter after the spotlighted Benedict XVI (it is said that when there is no space for images, the world will end). The saint's tomb is located under the arch in the main nave. It is covered with a canopy from 1285… We kneel in front of the grate found during the excavations. It was customary to cover the graves of martyrs in early Christian times with such a lattice.
We leave Rome in the evening. We leave the keys on the table, slam the door. A last look at our "ladies" and the brilliantly lit Colosseum. We enter the subway and after 1.5 hours. we are at the airport. Another 3 hours and we land in snow-covered Warsaw. It's - 10 degrees C. In the taxi we listen to Christmas carols, in the streets you can see Christmas decorations …