(click on pictures to enlarge)
This is the Jubilee Year in Rome. The Porta Santa or Holy Door to the Papal basilicas, of which there are four in Rome including St. Peters, have been opened for pilgrims to walk through. These Holy Doors are normally sealed from the inside with mortar and cement and are only opened about every 25 years or so. Pope Boniface VIII in the year 1,300 started the tradition of the Holy Year or Jubilee. During the Jubilee year, pilgrims who walk through the door gain a Plenary Indulgence or in other words, less punishment for their sins in the next life.
Anyhow, my nephew and family were visiting me and though I don’t usually accompany first time visitors to Rome to see the major sites, I did go with them to St. Peter’s Basilica so that I could walk through the door. The Holy Door is a double door, opening in the middle. Each side consists of 8 panels which depict scenes from the Bible. They are magnificent and of course were polished to a gleaming lustre. To pass from the outside through the door into the Basilica represents leaving the world and entering into the presence of God in order to offer a sacrifice of atonement whether it be prayer or good works. I don’t think this was quite on my niece Nyah’s mind as she strolled through the door. I’m very glad I went but since I didn’t pray when I went in (hard to do in St. Peter’s with all the people milling about taking photos), I will have to come up with some good work to ensure a better chance of a place in heaven!
I also accompanied them to the Foro Romano which is another site I don’t normally go to with my guests.
The reason I went was because this year, the Basilica di Santa Maria Antiqua, the earliest Christian church in the Foro Romano built in the 6th cent. is open to the public for the first time in over 30 years. It houses a rare collection of early Christian art with amazing frescoes, mosaics and paintings, recently restored at an enormous cost and funded by the Italian State and the World Monuments Fund.
This depiction of the Virgin Mary is one of the oldest known Christian icons in the world. The church is situated at the bottom of the Palatine hill where Rome’s emperors one lived and was buried under rubble following an earthquake in 847. It was only uncovered in 1900 and thus escaped the alterations which were carried out in other churches during the baroque or the Counter Reformation periods. Consequently, it has remained intact and has been referred to as the equivalent of the Sistine Chapel of the early Middle Ages. I would have liked to have spent a longer time there with less people about but felt lucky to have had this opportunity to see it since it will be closed again in September for further restoration work.
Another work in progress next to the church is the uncovering and restoration of a gigantic, covered ramp which led from the Forum to the top of the Palatine hill in Roman times. It is also truly magnificent in both scale and grandeur. As with all the Roman ruins, the marble and decorative elements lining the walls have been stripped but there are little bits and pieces which have been found and are on display so one can imagine what it must have looked like in its heyday. It is amazing to think that there are areas of the Foro Romano that are still waiting to be revealed and I’m looking forward to seeing what is uncovered next. There’s always something more to see in Rome!