Thursday, August 2, 2012

Day trip to Orvieto, time for the plunge

Reliving 21 July

After a day around town, we got out of the city again today to visit a mountaintop village called Orvieto, about, oh gosh I can't remember now, maybe two hours north of Rome?  Orvieto is important because it is the (neighboring) site of a Eucharistic miracle that took place in 1263.  For those who are lightning fast at math, that makes next year the 750th anniversary of this event!

This is a major event for the Church because it was this miracle that helped to spur the papal bull in 1264 declaring the solemn feast of Corpus Christi, which we still celebrate in the universal Church every year, three quarters of a millennium later, on the second Sunday following Pentecost.  Blows my mind to reflect on the continuity and heritage and richness of our faith.

In 1263, a traveling priest by the name of Peter of Prague stopped in the town of Bolsena while on pilgrimage to Rome.  He had doubts about the truth of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (for those unfamiliar, the belief that the bread and wine consecrated in a Catholic Mass truly and substantially become Jesus' Body and Blood, even while remaining under the appearance of bread and wine).  He stopped to say Mass at the tomb of St. Christina and at the words of consecration, blood began to seep from the host onto his hands and onto the altar and corporal.

He immediately took the corporal to the neighboring town of Orvieto, where Pope Urban IV was currently residing (looks like even the popes take their summer vacation away from Rome!).  The pope had the corporal enshrined in a reliquary and placed in the cathedral there.  St. Thomas Aquinas was alive and preaching in Orvieto during this time, and Pope Urban commissioned him to compose a proper for the Mass honoring the Eucharist.  Aquinas produced three very well known hymns that we still use today:  O Salutaris Hostia, Panis Angelicus, and Tantum Ergo.

Unfortunately, photos were not allowed to be taken inside the cathedral of Orvieto.  This seems to be generally true of any church I have visited here that contains old frescos.  However, I must say that I have never in my life seen a striped cathedral.  So, your guess is as good as mine on this one.

Somehow it seems like going to jail every Sunday.

It is gorgeous on the inside however.  Beautiful frescos.  The Cappella Nuova (added to the cathedral in in the mid 1400s) contains an incredible continuous rendering all the way around the vaulted ceiling depicting the end of the world, the coming of the antichrist, and the Last Judgment.  It was a masterpiece.  We also had the opportunity to celebrate Mass in the Cappella del Corporale which still contains the corporal reliquary.  You can clearly see the blood-stained corporal behind the glass.  Pretty neat.

For lunch I went with a few guys to a little restaurant called Al Pozzo Etrusco, by recommendation of our admissions director here Fr. Joe who came with us on the trip.  Good choice (what Italian restaurant isn't a good choice?) especially since here in Europe you can get the regular 12 oz. bottled beer, or the man-size 2/3 liter bottled beer.  I went man-size.  After lunch I just meandered around town to check things out.

Typical street in Orvieto

Typical inside of a church

I couldn't get a shot of the city coming in, but I found an ad by the cathedral that did the job.  This is Orvieto!

 So as I mentioned earlier, Orvieto is also a village where St. Thomas Aquinas did some hanging out and preaching for a few years of his life.  I found and visited the actual church he used to preach in, San Domenico.  His preaching chair is still encased there in a wood covering.

They love the stripes for some reason.  Must have been in vogue.

Preaching chair inside that wood covering thing.

We got back to the college this evening and have the night to chill out and get ready for tomorrow.  I will head out of Rome for a month to begin my study of Italian in Assisi.  People say that the Spanish background will help; I hope so, but I fear it might just come out instead of the Italian!  I guess time shall tell the truth.  Here is a panorama from the edge of Orvieto.  Not too bad of a view!

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