The Man, the Myth, the Legend: Saint Valentine of Terni

Not many tourists make it to Terni. But many of those who do come to Umbria’s second largest town come specifically to see the church of Saint Valentine. Continue reading The Man, the Myth, the Legend: Saint Valentine of Terni

For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, the Facade of St. Mark’s Basilica is Scaffold-Free

With so many ancient structures in need of constant upkeep, Italy is no stranger to scaffolding. Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica, in particular, is known for constantly being under repair. Continue reading For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, the Facade of St. Mark’s Basilica is Scaffold-Free

Church of Purgatorio in Terracina

Italy’s bigger cities, especially Rome, have plenty of churches to please those with morbid fascinations for skulls, skeletons, and saintly relics. Taken together, these churches and their contents provide a sort-of museum feel — creepy but not altogether isolating.

Continue reading Church of Purgatorio in Terracina

The Milano Duomo, Inside and Out

Over the weekend, I finally got the chance to check out Milan’s famed Duomo, that jagged, Gothic behemoth that defines the city’s traditional skyline. Also known as Santa Maria Nascente (Saint Mary of the Nativity), the Duomo is the second largest church in Italy (second only to Saint Peter’s in size) and it took more than 500 years to complete, with more than 78 architects and engineers heading the project from its groundbreaking in 1386 to its completion in 1965. Continue reading The Milano Duomo, Inside and Out

Will Work For Wine: Luca Signorelli’s Orvieto Duomo Contract and His Intoxicating, Apocalyptic Fresco Cycle

In 1499, Tuscan artist Luca Signorelli signed a contract to paint two remaining sections of the Cappella Nuova (new chapel) of the Duomo in the Umbrian town of Orvieto. By 1502 (or 1504, depending on which documentation you read), he had completed his “End of the World” fresco cycle in what is now known as the San Brizio Chapel. Continue reading Will Work For Wine: Luca Signorelli’s Orvieto Duomo Contract and His Intoxicating, Apocalyptic Fresco Cycle

Photo of the Day: A Ray of Light in San Giovanni in Laterano

While hundreds wait in lines in the harsh sun to get into Saint Peter’s, the Archbasilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, also known as the Cathedral of Rome, is practically empty. San Giovanni is the oldest and largest papal basilica in Rome, although it has gone through many reconstructions over the years due to earthquakes, fires, and vandalism (by the actual Vandals, in the 5th century).

Admission to San Giovanni in Laterano is free. But you can purchase a ticket to visit the 13th century cloister, located through a door to the left of the altar, and the Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctorum (the Holy Stairs and Holy Sanctum, located across the street), one of the most important sites of pilgrimage outside of Vatican City.

The Pantheon On Pentecost Sunday

Pantheon at Pentecost: Rose Petals

Easter may have come and gone but the ceremonies and spectacles surrounding this holy time continue long after Easter Sunday mass at Saint Peter’s.

Fifty days after Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate Pentecost Sunday, a day when the Holy Spirit is said to come down to earth. Rome celebrates this day by raining rose petals down into the Pantheon through its oculus.

The ancient Pantheon, known since the 7th century as St. Mary and the Martyrs or Santa Maria Rotonda, hosts the event called Pioggia dele Rose (The Rain of Roses) or Pioggia di Petali (The Rain of Petals)  in the afternoon following Pentecost mass. The event is free.

Adopt a Spire on the Milano Duomo

Aerial of Milano Duomo Spires

The Milano Duomo, an enormous Gothic cathedral that is recognizable for its 135 spires, is giving the public a chance to help with its upkeep. Like an “Adopt a Road” campaign, Adotta una Guglia (Adopt a Spire) is an initiative by the Veneranda Fabbrica to get locals, tourists, and businesses to help with the upkeep of the spires, which are topped with fragile statues of saints and angels.

According to Adotta una Guglia:

The Duomo could not exist without the people of Milan, nor could Milan exist without its cathedral, which gives the city its identity. This is why the population is being invited to share in an act of popular responsibility. All contributors will be recorded in the List of Donors of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano, drafted in paper form and published online in the portal adottaunaguglia.duomomilano.it, obviously with the donor’s consent.

Donors who donate more than €50 can apply to receive a certificate of participation while top donors, those who donate more than €100K, will have their names engraved. (If you’re considering the latter, get in touch and let’s talk about adopting me…)

Browse on over to get a look at the map of the spires or the spire wall and learn how you can donate. The wall includes photos of the spires and has the names of the saints or angels represented. Also cool to note on the wall are the saints’ days, in case you want to make a donation to honor a loved one’s birthday.

As of now, the top three adopted spires are the Angel Pointing to Heaven, Archangel Gabriele, and Saint Cecilia. I wonder if anyone is going to adopt St. Napoleon?

h/t @moscerina

Photo: Milano Duomo

Papal Basilicas of Rome: San Giovanni in Laterano

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San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran) is the basilica dedicated to the Bishop of Rome (i.e., the Pope). It is where the Pope delivers his Holy Week address on Maunday Thursday.  Continue reading Papal Basilicas of Rome: San Giovanni in Laterano

Papal Basilicas of Rome: Santa Maria Maggiore

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Continuing with with Rome’s Papal Basilicas, today we will profile Santa Maria Maggiore.

Continue reading Papal Basilicas of Rome: Santa Maria Maggiore

Papal Basilicas of Rome: San Paolo Fuori Le Mura

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Many tourists to Rome, both Catholics and non-Catholics, know very little about the papal basilicas outside of St. Peter’s. While St. Peter’s is the “mother church,” three others – San Paolo Fuori Le Mura, San Giovanni in Laterano, and Santa Maria Maggiore – make up Catholicism’s patriarchal basilicas. Each of the four have a “holy door,” opened once every 25 years during a Roman Jubilee, and have significance dating back to when the Catholic realm extended to Antioch and Constantinople. This is all according to the Catholic website newadvent.org.

So, we thought we’d introduce readers to the three other papal basilicas, starting with San Paolo Fuori Le Mura, as 2008 begins the Pauline Year. This church, “outside of the walls,” is a wonderfully tranquil diversion away from the main sites of Rome.

San Paolo Fuori Le Mura
Address: Via Ostiense, 186 (EUR)
Phone: 06-541-0341
Web: http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_paolo/index_en.html
Getting There: Metro Line B to San Paolo stop; Buses 23, 170, 673
History: Built on top of the grave of St. Paul, this church has existed since before the 4th century. Emperor Theodosius ordered a monumental church built on top of the original church between 384 and 395 A.D. and San Paolo was the largest basilica in Rome until St. Peter’s was completed in 1626. In 1823, most of the church was destroyed in a fire. An identical church was rebuilt using surviving architectural elements and reconsecrated by Pope Gregory XVI in 1840.
What’s Cool: Elements that did survive the fire are a series of portrait medallions of each of the Popes, beginning with St. Peter. These medallions encircle the top register of the church and legend has it that when the circle of medallions is completed, then the apocalypse is nigh (!). Also interesting are the cloisters, which feature gorgeously gilded, twisting columns.

Photo © Vatican.va