Thursday, June 7, 2007

Trip to Rome -- Day 4

The Vatican day. (Sunday) This is the first day we spent the whole day in one place. And you could spend days there, there’s no way you can see it all in a few days. But what we saw was as advertised--awesome. We took the Metro so that we could try to save time because the guide books all said to get there early as the lines for the Vatican museums would just keep getting worse. We saw a priest and asked him if he new English, because we weren’t sure which stop to get off. He didn’t know English, but between him and his buddies--they turned out to be seminary students from Brazil--they were able to guide us there because that’s what they were doing also. The line was two hours. But in a way we were glad we were standing in line out there on the sidewalk because today was the Rome Marathon and the marathon route was right alongside us. So since we got in line at 8:50 a.m. and the marathon started at 9 a.m. we thought we might be able to see the runners. And sure enough about 45 minutes later there came the lead pack. It was a great moment and the first of many today. We got to cheer for a lot of runners today and it brought back a lot of memories of the marathons I’ve run. My dad and I had talked in years past about doing a marathon like London someday and after today I’d like to do Rome one day. This morning eating breakfast in our hotel there were three guys that were going to run the marathon and so that was kind of neat. The start and finish are at the Colesseum. One crack up about the line is that it’s no different there than here with people jockeying for position--you can’t have room to breathe because you might end up two feet farther back then you otherwise would have--but the crack up were the nuns. There was this group of nuns that inched their way through the line and everyone just kind of let it happen, because, well, they were nuns.

Inside the Vatican Museums we decided to head for the Sistine Chapel since by now it was about 11 a.m. On the way we passed through the map corridor. Really cool old maps. It was actually very impressive how they were able to determine where things were. I didn’t think to look at the dates of them, but one map we saw of the world had a date of 1528 and it was pretty darn accurate. Although it was kind of funny to see how out of scale they made America. By the way, the guidebook said that the Vatican Library has some handwritten copies of some of Luther’s stuff, which I find very interesting. On our way through we came across two other guys in clerical collars and cassocks (long black robes). They knew English because they are from the U.S. They miss being able to keep up with things like March Madness which was going on at the time. The Sistine Chapel is very neat to see, although I really like the churches and Basilicas more. But the amazing thing about the Sistine Chapel is to just be in awe of what Michelangelo accomplished while lying flat on his back for four years. Something to behold.

Then we had to decide what to do. The internet said there was a mass every hour up through 1 p.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica and so it was now coming on toward noon. One thing I definitely wanted to do was witness a mass in St. Peter’s. We decided to eat lunch at the Vatican Museum cafeteria. Then we headed over to St. Peter’s. We had 20 minutes. Unfortunately, when we got to St. Peter’s Square, there was another huge line and it was for getting into the Basilica. So there goes the mass. There was another one scheduled for 4:30 or 4 or something so I didn’t give up hope. When we got inside we heard something going on so we headed in that direction. The one o’clock mass was in progress so we watched. When it was time for Communion we saw the two seminary students that we had met in the museums and had talked to on the way toward the Sistine Chapel. Great guys. From D.C. and Jersey. I asked them about the mass and they said one went on every hour at St. Peter’s. Anyway, I had lots of questions after seeing the mass so I asked them if they had a few minutes. Well, we ended up talking to them for almost an hour. And it would have been more but we did come here to see the sights.

So on to the dome. And another line. Hey, we’ve been to Disneyland, and other than a 25 minute wait at the Colesseum we haven’t had trouble with lines in Rome. So no big deal. One funny thing we saw on the way to the dome was a sign in about 8 different languages, and the English one went something like this, “Notice to all old, troubled and cardiopatic people, there are 320 steps up the dome.” I guess they didn’t get a scholar to do the translation work for that sign. The first thing you come to going up the dome is an inside walkway where you can look down on the altar and chancel. Then you go up into the dome and the stairway gets narrow. When you get to the top you get the best views in Rome of Rome. You also get some good views of the Vatican, since they don’t let ordinary people into most of the Vatican. It is a beautiful place. The trees, bushes, and lawn are all very well kept. I saw some beautiful crosses in the gift shop but kind of pricey, about 40 Euros.

On back down into the basilica and into our second mass already in progress. This one, however, was in the actual chancel. When it finished we got up and walked out with everyone else and I was a little disappointed, as I still had not been able to witness an entire mass and we still hadn’t gotten to hear a male choir. But you can’t do everything you want and so I said I was ready to go. As spectacular as St. Peter’s is, and it is (and also massive), I still liked the San Paolo the best. But as we were walking out I realized I hadn’t gotten a picture of the altar area of the chancel, so we went back. Well those two seminarians were right, they do something every hour at this place. So we sat down in the front thinking that we’d stay for the first half since we’d already seen two second halves. I wanted to go to the back so we could leave inconspicuously, but for some reason Sara wanted to stay up there, so we moved to the side. And are we ever glad we did!!!! From the side, right next to us, comes the organist. But he doesn’t start playing. We just sit there in silence. Then people turn around and here comes the cross, and the altar boys, and about 30 men, to which Sara whispers to me, “This must be a choir.” Then about 35 bishops, and one cardinal--we knew this was going to be big. The organist started playing and it was just spectacular. When all the clergy got situated and the choir got in place they began to sing. Incredible. They all had clerical collars on so we were thinking that they were a seminary choir. (It turns out, as we ran into two more American seminary students later at dinner and we asked them about the choir, that they were all either priests or laymen and the laymen just wore collared shirts that looked like clericals.) This service we were at was Vespers and with the bulletin we were able to follow along somewhat, singing the parts for the congregation. When they came to the part of the incense, the three presiding bishops went around the altar--two holding the ornate cope (I think it was a cope) of the middle guy and he then swinging the incense and then the altar boys and one of the other bishops went around the altar, altar boys holding the bishop’s cope and he swinging the incense, and then up to the officiants, swinging it, then bowing, then over to the bishops on the right side, same thing, then the one cardinal who was evidently higher up, since he got all this treatment just for himself, then over to the bishops on the left side, and same thing again, and finally to the congregation, same thing. Very cool to see the incense rising up. Well what can we say. That was the experience we had been waiting for and I am grateful we were able to be there for it.

Out of St. Peter’s we got more gelato, because, well, the stuff really is good. I also bought a cross at one of the stores going out of the Vatican. And then we decided to head home and stop for dinner on the way. It turns out a few blocks from the Vatican is a Chinese restaurant so we stopped in. Very good and also variety in vegetables--very important to this American couple. While we were eating dinner two young men, also seminary students from America, came in and sat at a table very close to us. I listened in because they were talking theology--so of course I had to also talk to them. These guys were really into the Rome thing. “This is so great to be here. This is where it all started. Where Paul and Peter proclaimed the Gospel. Where they are buried.” I couldn’t help but feel sad for them. Rome is spectacular and does indeed have a lot of great Biblical history--but to raise it to the level of where it all began is a bit much. I’ll take Calvary, thanks.

Well, it was a great day and sometimes the things that you don’t plan on turn out to be some of the most enjoyable. Although I wouldn’t want to stand in line again for two hours, we did get to talk to this nice guy from Brazil. As we were standing in line for St. Peter’s we talked to a nice couple from London. And then of course the two seminarians we met in the Vatican. It sure would have been great to get to know them.

A great day.


David Contra Mundum said...

Dude, was the Mass in Italian or Latin? Either way, sounds fabuloso.


rev.will said...

Oh yeah, forgot to talk about that, sorry. I was expecting some Latin masses, especially at St. Peter's. And honestly, I was disappointed I didn't get to see one. Evidently, they have one mass in Latin at St. Peter's on Sunday. All (or at least most) of the masses in Rome are in Italian. But yes, fabuloso either way.

Mmmmmmm. Gelato.