Roaming the Streets of Rome | Postcards from Rome 2022

June 18, 2022
  • DMac Class

Week Three Highlights (June 6 – June 12):

– Chiesa Nuova and the Tomb of St. Philip Neri

Within the last week, many of us have visited Santa Maria in Vallicella, the church that was built by Saint Philip Neri and now houses his relics. I am currently reading an English translation of his original biography, which contains numerous stories about encounters St. Philip had with people in the same neighborhood of Rome in which we are staying. Santa Maria is also called “Chiesa Nuova” since it was the new church built under St. Philip’s leadership and the place where the Congregation of the Oratory was founded. I pray that all of us on the Rome Experience will receive a portion of this great saint’s spirit as we stay in the area of his priestly ministry.

– Seven Church Walk

The Seven Church walk last Saturday was another experience related to St. Philip, who devised this devotion for the young people of Rome. We covered somewhere between fifteen and twenty miles while stopping to pray at the four major basilicas (St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. Mary Major, and St. John Lateran) as well as the churches of St. Lawrence, St. Sebastian, and the Holy Cross. We even added Santa Maria in Trastevere as an eighth church! Almost as amazing as these big and important churches was the sheer number of smaller churches we passed without looking in. One of the most memorable moments was walking into St. Paul’s Basilica in the middle of a concert featuring a French horn quartet, who finished their performance with a rendition of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

– San Stefano Rotondo

Just down the Via Claudia from the impressive and crowded Colosseum stands the old and unassuming church of San Stefano Rotondo, named after Stephen the first martyr but really dedicated to all the early martyrs. The walls of the circular church are filled with chronological frescoes of the first generations of Christians who died for Our Lord, beginning with Christ’s own death before proceeding to Stephen and everyone else. I was able to pray with the martyrs — especially my own patron saint — in a church that is just as round and almost as ancient as the amphitheaters in which many of them died.

– Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms at the Vatican Museum

The in-depth tour of Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel tends to eclipse the works of Raphael in a hallway connected to the papal chapel. Sister Emanuela, our enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide, indicated that The School of Athens is positioned directly across from The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament to show that faith and reason are both necessary for the journey to God. Since we were the only group in the Sistine Chapel that evening, we sang the Salve Regina to Our Lady in that holy place.

– Back to School

On Tuesday, June 7th, we had our first session of classes on architecture with Dr. Denis McNamara. He is presenting the course material as a crash course in learning how to “read” a building based on the architecture. This is especially applicable in Rome, and I’m already starting to see which buildings are considered more important and what their function was based on architectural features. I have been particularly edified by how deep the thought process behind building a church is; theological questions about what a church even is make an enormous impact on how it looks, as does the thought behind how a church is integrated into the rest of a city.

Stephen Kirby
Archdiocese of Baltimore