Sunday, July 29, 2012

A little bit of Oldtown Rome

Reliving 20 July

We visited another basilica today, the Basilica of San Clemente!  St. Clement was the 4th pope, he was martyred at the end of the 1st century.  As it has gone throughout Rome's history, what you basically do is build on top of whatever you don't want anymore.  This is why construction projects take so long here, because you can't dig down 20 feet without stumbling upon some ruins that now render it an excavation site.

The Basilica of St. Clement is no different.  It is an 11th century church built upon a 4th century church, built upon a 1st century home of a Roman nobleman (which served in the 2nd century as a mithraeum temple), a home that was itself converted from a previous governmental building that had burned to the ground in 64 A.D.  I managed to get one photo inside of the current basilica before being told that photos were not allowed.  Blast.

St. Clement is buried right underneath the main altar.  At one point he hung out with the body of St. Cyril of Alexandria, although St. Cyril has since been moved (a bone fragment remains in the basilica, however).  This basilica was allegedly one JP II's favorite places to pray.  We were able to have Mass at the main sanctuary and afterwards we got a tour of the basilica and the two levels of excavations beneath it from an Irish Dominican priest, which must have been divinely planned because there are no regular tours given of this basilica.  We just happened to find him there when we arrived and he agreed.  His order maintains St. Clement and a few other properties around Rome.

(I wish I remembered all the cool things he said about the architecture and the history of it, but all this Italian I am currently learning in Assisi has really hindered my short term memory of these details.  Go figure.)

The Basilica of St. Clement is just down the street from the Colosseum, the Forum, and the rest of ancient Rome, so on our way back to the college one of the second year men gave us a short tour of the buildings that were there.

The Colosseum's proper name is the Flavian Amphitheatre.  I like Colosseum.  That name is alleged to have come from a massive statue of Nero that stood outside the stadium, modeled after the Colossus of Rhodes.  It is enormous, I am dumbfounded as to how this was built without modern machinery.  Construction began around 70 A.D. and the entire structure, including later modifications, was completed in 20 years.  What??!

These are the barracks where the gladiators would train and be housed.  The Colosseum is to the left of this photo and about 100 yards away.

Impressive monument to the engineering capabilities of Romans.
The holes that you see along the walls and columns originally housed bronze clamps.  Over the centuries, pieces of the Colosseum were continually pillaged and repurposed and this metal was ripped off to be used for military weaponry when it became harder to come by.  It is incredible to me being here in Rome and seeing how much the Romans built things to last.  2000 years later, no big deal.  We can't go ten years anymore without replacing the washing machine.

Site of the Roman Forum.

The Arch of Septimius Severus.  Built to commemorate a major military victory of the Emperor Severus in 200 A.D.  It is pretty impressive to look at! 

The Palatine Hill.  One of the seven original hills of Rome.  This one is often considered the "birth place" of Rome because the community here eventually took over the other six.

This evening we had a barbecue cookout down by the soccer field and played some futbol afterward.  It was good to put the cleats on again and run around.  Unfortunately the field does not have lights, so we played until we couldn't see anymore.  Tomorrow we are off to the town of Orvieto, north of Rome and the site of a 13th century Eucharistic miracle.  Should be another fun day!

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