31 December 2008

Roma - Day 4

Spanish Steps and our conscientious Christmas tree

Piazza Popola

Trevi Fountain

Blurry photo of the first gold that Columbus brought back

One of our excellent one euro cappuchinos

Christmas service at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

On our fourth day of our trip, we attended Christmas Day service at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and enjoyed the service to the extent that one could without understanding much Italian. A really nice sounding choir sang throughout the service and it was interesting to see how the service was done. It was also nice because they turned all of the lights on in the basilica and we were able to see the church much more clearly. The church has a quite interesting history which we learned from my friend that I mentioned earlier. It was originally built because the Pope had decided that a Mother Mary church needed to be built in Rome and he asked for a sign of where to build it, the next morning it snowed on one hill and that's where he commisioned it to be built. The church also has a door that is opened once every 25 years by the Pope as a symbol of renewing the old as new and visitors can enter through the door but not exit through it as a sign of entering the Kingdom of God and never exiting. The tradition of opening the door every 25 years comes from a Jewish tradition of renewel every 50 years in which things are restored - if someone sells themselves into slavery they are freed, land sold to pay for a wedding is returned, etc.; this kind of reminds me of the moral economy philosophy of James C. Scott that I mentioned in another post. Also the church keeps what they say is a piece of Jesus' cradle as a relic and contains the remains of the sculpter Bellini. Also, there is a statue outside of the church which is a tall pillar with Mary at the top, the pillar is taken from a Roman devoted to Roman gods and a Latin inscription on the statue says something to the effect that 'This pillar which formerly held up a monument of non-believers now supports Saint Mary' and in the basement of the church, which is now a small museum, is the first nativity scene ever created. And a final note on the church, because Columbus dedicated himself to Mother Mary, hence the name of his largest ship Santa Maria (Saint Mary), he requested the first gold that he brought back from the New World be used to adorn the ceiling of this church. Quite an interesting church, eh?

After the church service we had a wonderful cappuchino (one euro each) and then walked around town for quite awhile. We stopped by Trevi Fountain to relax and take some pictures. No musuems were open on Christmas day and the metro shut down at 1330 so we were quite limited in our options, but we made the best out of it and took the opportunity to see many of the outdoor sights. After the Trevi Fountain we headed North to Piazza Popolo to see a really interesting plazza and then came back to the Spanish Steps to see it during the daytime. It is quite beautiful and it even has a conscientious Christmas tree (it was for kidnapped people in Colombia and elsewhere) and we returned to the hotel for a bit before we had a nice long dinner at Piazza Navona before heading back to the hotel. This would be our last night in the old dirty place; the next morning we made reservations at another hostel, but I'm getting a day ahead of myself aren't I?
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year, Andrew

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