Saturday, April 11, 2009
APPIAN WAY ON GOOD FRIDAY
Friday, April 10, 2009 Good Friday
We left for the Metro about nine thirty and headed for Mary Frances’ apartment located in the outskirts of town near the Metro stop of Garbatella; one stop before St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. By using GPS in the her IPhone we found the apartment. I’m beginning to respect these IPhones; really helpful little creatures when traveling. She is able to sign into the web without waiting to obtain service from another provider which is very nice.
Mary dropped her luggage…she’s young and only brought a large backpack; received the keys and instructions and we were soon off to the Metro and back to Termini Station.
Sister Mary elected to return to the Hostel from the Station; yes, she’s getting brave and has gone to the station stores several times now by herself and is comfortable doing that trip solo. We’ve not had a day off recently and she’s decided to take one.
Mary Frances and I headed towards St.John Lateran area and then caught a bus out of town to the ancient Appian Way. This was the largest and faster road ever in Roman times. Made of huge basalt stones, it ran in a straight line over the contour of the land. All along this road were the tombs of the dead that had to be outside the city walls; today they are ruins. Also along this road are several catacombs that were used by the Christians who wanted to be buried as opposed to cremated because of the expected resurrection!
We walked this road; at times paved over by cobblestones, from one to three o’clock; Mary read the “Passion of the Lord” to me from her prayer book as we walked the second hour. Very appropriate for Good Friday; we also witness a large procession led by a gentlemen carrying a large wood cross near the catacombs; they were doing the stations of the cross on an outside route along the Appian Way.
By three o’clock we’d arrived at the church of San Sebastano where we witnessed veneration of the Passion in a side chapel. We then took the tour of the Catacombs of San Sebastiano; the only one that has always been open since the Roman times. Originally the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul were here. Very interesting tour that ended back in the church where the guide explained the history of the marble bust of Christ and the fact that it sat for years in storage until someone recognized it as the last piece by Bernini when he was in his eighties. There are two copies but this is the original. This church was restored by the Borghese family in the seventeenth century.
We then walked further down the Appian Way until we reached the nearby Callisto Catacomb that has four levels under ground and half a million graves. This was a much longer tour with a monk as a tour guide. We ended in a family tomb that is used as a small chapel by visiting priest where we all said silent prayers and then at the urging of the monk sang a verse of Amazing Grace together.
Back to the bus to rest our weary feet on the way to the Hostel; arrived just before seven o’clock; picked up Mary and another new roommate from Australia who wanted to tag along before heading back out towards the Metro for the Good Friday service at the Coliseum by the Pope.
We picked up pizza to eat as we walked from a nearby restaurant; the Metro was jammed packed as it was rush hour and also Easter Activities. We expected to get off near the Coliseum, never seeing the sign that that Metro Stop was closed because of the services being held. We realized it when we found ourselves at the next stop: Circus Maximus. It was a fairly close walk with many streets closed off. The outside lights were beginning to come on as we arrived. Thousands of people were already milling about and it was still another couple of hours before the service would begin. Contrary to what we’d thought; the service was outside the Coliseum. The Pope will be across from the entrance to the Coliseum on a hill on the Roman Forum. They had a huge crucifix covered with candles that were blazing long before the service started. It was a beautiful sight as the sky darkened around us and the monument lights became even more luminous. Everyone was given a large candle with a cup to catch the wax for use when the service started and all the lights were turned off. We finally walked to a grassy knoll overlooking the piazza in front of the Coliseum and found seats on the grass. We talked with a group who is planning to start standing in line tomorrow at St. Peters at one o’clock for the nine thirty pm service for the Easter Vigil Mass. I don’t think we’re going that early!
Mary Frances headed for her apartment and Mary and I took the new roommate Kristen to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain before we also went home to the Hostel. Kristen had flown in from Singapore Thursday morning so she was more than ready to call it a night! My feet are the ready for a day of rest but tomorrow afternoon is another Service!