Walkabout in Rome. 3/9/18

After a fairly reasonable amount of sleep last night due to exhaustion we meet at breakfast to plan today’s activities. We have decided to visit four churches before lunch and then figure out the rest of the day while having lunch.

First stop is St. Pudenziana a few blocks from the hotel. St. Pudenziana is no longer a recognized saint by the church. She and her sister, Praexedes, were dethroned in 1969 at Vatican II. But her church is the oldest continuing Christian community in Rome and also the patron church of the Phillippines. The morning is brisk but sunny and we enjoy the walk to the church which is many feet below the surface of the street.

Sarah in front of St. Pudenziana’s

Stepping in from the brightness of the street, the first thing we see is a rather bizarre painting of St. Pundenziana and her sister, St. Praexedes collecting blood from martyrs. This was apparently done to facilitate miracles and to be used as relics in churches.

Saints Pudenziana and Saint Praexedes collecting the blood of martyrs

Behind the altar is a large mosaic, striking for its natural looking figures. I am so used to mosaics with Byzantine faces. Since this is the earliest Christian Church in Rome, the figures are pre-Byzantine and Jesus and the apostles are wearing togas and have individual faces and expressions. (This applies to the figures on the left side and Jesus, the figures on the right have been altered.) There is also the first appetarance of the iconography of the Gospels.

Mosaic in Chiesa Santa Pudenziana

Rome was built on seven hills and our next stop, The Church of Saint Peter in chains, is atop one of them. Sarah points out that if we just go up this incredibly huge staircase we will have a shorter route to the church. Reluctantly I agree to go along with this plan. The many, many steps are uneven and perilous. The only reason I am walking around on this trip at all is thanks to a shot of cortisone in my knee right before we left. By the time I get to the top I am pretty shaky and drenched in sweat.

After a few minutes of recovery time, we go up the steps(!) to the church. I take a seat under the guise of wanting to get oriented. Finally I get up and hobble up towards the altar. One of the two main draws for this church are the chains miraculously welded together that St. Peter wore when he was imprisoned and subsequently released by an angel.

Sarah with St. Peter’s chains

The other big draw is Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. He was supposed to carve an entire  sarcophagus for Pope Julius II but only did Moses. We have seen this statue several times and it is always impressive. The hands are beautiful.

Micelangelo’s Moses

Just as Michelangelo’s David in Florence is an opportunity for name-branding, Moses gets a lot of play here.

The Moses Bar

Since we are in the Coliseum area we decide to take some photo ops before we head to the Church of Cosmos and Damien.

Looking out towards the forum with Sarah below checking her phone for directions

Mary and John by the Coliseum

They are putting a new subway line which must be very difficult. First they have to not knock down any of the ruins and they also have to categorize anything old they find

Inthe meantime we are walking down narrow sidewalks jammed with people. Don’t they know it is the beginning of March and they should stay home? It was below freezing and snowing here last week and now it is beautiful and inthe 60’s! We are accosted by people wanting to sells us tours, selfie sticks and food. It is great to duck into a quiet church and get out of the crowds.

Approaching the church of Cosmos and Damian

This Church is partly made from ancient Roman structures. You can view the Temple of Romulus from inside the church. There is a large mosaic of Christ’s Second Coming. There are a lot of big sheep.

Mosaic of Second Coming


By now we are dragging but we have one more church on our schedule before lunch, the Basilica of Maria Maggiore. We manage to have a hard time finding the door that is open and spend some time tromping around this immense church. Finally inside Santa Maria Maggiore, the church is resplendent with mosaics and a beautiful ceiling. The current basilica was erected by Pope Sixtus III (432-440) after the Treaty of Ephesus which settled the question of whether Mary was the mother of God.

The mosaic behind the altar shows Jesus and Mary sitting together in heaven. All along the nave are panels in mosaic with various scenes from the Bible. The ceiling is especially beautiful.

Mary enthroned

Sarah photographing Pope Pius IX in a chamber in front of the altar

Time for lunch! We start to head back in the direction of the hotel stopping now and then to see some interesting Roman piece of history. Rome is such a mishmash of centuries with ancient Roman ruins next to Renaissance buildings and 20th century structures.

Roman vista

We decide to stop at Ristorante Leonetti because I am ready to fall down. We have a delightful lunch of Roman specialties. We are the only Americans in the place!

Cacio e pepe for Mary

Bucatini with cured meat for Sarah and John

Next up, what all of us have been craving – siesta! So far today we have done a lot of walking and stair climbing and we are all tired. We decide we can spare an hour to recharge while most of the churches are closed anyway. They reopen around 3pm. All of us go to sleep but when I wake up I have a terrible pain in my lower right leg and my big toe is sticking straight up. I didn’t know that it could even bend like that. So I am freaked. I have apparently gotten so dehydrated that I am cramping up. John manages to massage my leg enough to relax the cramp and get my toe down. Jeez, what next!?

We meet downstairs and walk to a fairly nearby museum, The National Gallery at the Palazzo Barbarini. They have a couple of floors of art we might be interested in and an elevator. Here are some things we enjoyed –

Triumphant Christ – upright with eyes open and is usually seen before the 13th century

Suffering Christ, a later development in crucifixion art

Giotto-esque lamentation over the dead Christ by Giovanni Branzio mid-14 th century

King Henry VIII by Hans Holbein

We flag down a taxi to get back to the hotel because it is really uphill and I am whining. We decide to meet again at 7 pm at the bar. During this time my leg cramps up again. The toe thing is really weird.

Great thing about a lot of Italian bars is that they have a whole bunch of free food if you buy a glass of wine, a beer, or a cocktail. We are not too hungry and so make dinner out of  the offerings.

Bar snacks

Sarah tells us that we must stay awake until 10 PM but unfortunately we all crash by 9 and end up awake half the night. Jet lag is such fun.

9 thoughts on “Walkabout in Rome. 3/9/18

  1. Thank You ! Thank You! ThankYou !
    I really enjoyed your first day in Rome . This is wonderful . Your description and photos are very informative and very much appreciated.
    Enjoy the travels

  2. Thanks, Mark! I am glad you enjoyed it. I am always a little uncomfortable posting our travels because it seems like too much hubris. But I love our experiences and even though not all our trips are totally independent, I like to demonstrate that even old codgers such as ourselves can pull off independent travel.

  3. Mark sent me your first day in Rome – so beautiful and hope your toe is OK now.

    Please add me to your email listing….

  4. This was lovely and informative and clever — as always! Love to enjoy your travels vicariously! Please be careful about that knee! Love you!

  5. My sister once said that all I ever take pictures of are old saints and food so I like to change it up a bit once in a while. Henry VIII was certainly no saint!

  6. Thank you for your concern, Sophie. It seems remarkable to me that I can walk after how I was in February. I know it is just a temporary respite. Yesterday I insisted we take some cabs.

  7. I always assumed the Holbein of Henry VIII was in a museum somewhere, maybe in England. Would never have guessed it was in a little museum in Rome! That Henry got around! ???

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