European Adventures: Papal Basilicas

DSC02773One of my previous posts was about St. Peter’s Basilica, which is considered as the world’s largest church. St. Peter’s is a papal basilica, along with St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major. When we were in Rome, we got the chance to visit all four papal basilicas.

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We passed by St. John Lateran the most during our stay in Rome, because it was located near the place we were staying. Like the other churches we’ve visited, the facade of San Giovanni was beautiful. I also loved the statues of the apostles that lined the interior of the basilica.DSC02653

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope. It is the oldest church of the Western World, founded in the 4th century by Constantine the Great. The basilica is dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist (Italy Magazine). DSC02658DSC02664

Officially named Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris (Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior), it is the oldest and ranks above all other churches in the Catholic Church, even above St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and holds the title of ecumenical mother church among Catholics (About Roma).P1050342Near the basilica, you can find the Scala Sancta, or Holy Stairs: white marble steps encased in wooden ones, which, according to Catholic tradition, once led to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus Christ stepped on his way to trial during the events known as the Passion. (Italy Magazine)

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Getting to St. Paul Outside the Walls needed more time and effort since it was quite far from the city center. However, when we arrived at the basilica, I realized that it was definitely worth it. Aside from the magnificent structure, it was much more peaceful compared to the other basilicas since there were fewer visitors.DSC02747DSC02739

San Paolo Fuori Le Mura is is located on the Via Ostiense, near the left bank of the Tiber river, 2 kilometers outside the Aurelian Walls. It is the second largest basilica of the four, after St. Peter’s Basilica (Italy Magazine)P1050461

St. Paul Outside the Walls was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine I over the burial place of St. Paul (now under the papal altar), making it a popular pilgrimage site (Italy Magazine).P1050480P1050511

St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore)

P1050370Among the four papal basilicas, St. Mary Major is probably the one that we explored the least. However, we were still glad that we got the opportunity to visit it given our tight schedule.

Santa Maria Maggiore is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary and one of the first to be built in her honor. It is the only basilica among these four to have preserved the Paleochristian structure of the 5th century, even though it underwent several makeovers and additions externally (Italy Magazine). P1050361 The seventy-five meter bell tower – the tallest in Rome – was built in 1377, shortly after the popes returned from their exile in Avignon. The pyramidal spire was added much later, in the early sixteenth century (A View on Cities).

Again, thank you Sister Pierette for being our tour guide!

For more posts on our European adventures, click on the following links:

 

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European Adventures: St. Peter’s Basilica

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After spending hours at the Vatican Museums, our next stop was St. Peter’s Basilica. It was a dream of mine to visit this church and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to do so.

According to Sacred Destinations:

St. Peter’s Basilica is a major basilica in Vatican City, an enclave of Rome. St. Peter’s was until recently the largest church ever built and it remains one of the holiest sites in Christendom. Contrary to what one might reasonably assume, St. Peter’s is not a cathedral – that honor in Rome goes to St. John Lateran.

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Inside the basilica, one can see Michelangelo’s great dome and Bernini’s Baldacchino directly below it. This monumental canopy shelters the papal altar and the holy relics of St. Peter. Click here to read more about the different areas found inside the basilica.

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St. Peter’s Basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter – the apostle who is considered the first pope – was crucified and buried. St. Peter’s tomb is under the main altar and many other popes are buried in the basilica as well. Originally founded by Constantine in 324, St. Peter’s Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th century by Renaissance masters including Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini. (Sacred Destinations)

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Directly in front of the basilica is St. Peter’s Square.

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According to the Vatican City State website:

Designed and built by Bernini between 1656 and 1667, during the pontificate of Alexander VII (1655-1667), the square is made up of two different areas. The first has a trapezoid shape, marked off by two straight closed and convergent arms on each side of the church square. The second area is elliptical and is surrounded by the two hemicycles of a four-row colonnade, because, as Bernini said, “considering that Saint Peter’s is almost the matrix of all the churches, its portico had to give an open-armed, maternal welcome to all Catholics, confirming their faith; to heretics, reconciling them with the Church; and to the infidels, enlightening them about the true faith.”

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We also passed by Ponte Sant’Angelo and Castel Sant’Angelo (Hadrian’s Mausoleum).

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Again, thank you to Tita Christine, Tita Anabella, Sister Pierette and Sister Bel for touring us around Rome.

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European Adventures: Vatican Museums

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Buongiorno! The last stop of our Mediterranean cruise is none other than the Eternal City – Rome. After disembarkation, we wasted no time and immediately started the day touring the city. First stop – the Vatican Museums.

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We spent hours lining up to get inside, but we braved the heat and fatigue. When we walked through the galleries and saw the amazing pieces of art, we knew it was definitely worth the wait. Sculptures, paintings, tapestry, architecture and other art forms were found in every corner.

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Overwhelming is one word I could use to describe my experience walking through the different galleries. The ceilings were my favorite part because I’ve never seen them so ornately designed!

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Of course, the highlight of our visit would be the Sistine Chapel. The place was packed with people who were all looking up to admire Michelangelo’s masterpiece. The moment I walked inside until I exited, I was also looking up! It was grander than I could have ever imagined.

Picture taking is not allowed inside the Sistine Chapel so here are some photos from the internet.

 

sistine chapel ceiling

While walking through the compound, we also had a photo with the famous dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. After exiting the Vatican Museums, we headed straight to St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square (more on that on my next post).

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Huge thanks to Sister Pierette and Tita Anabella for fetching us at the Port of Civitavecchia and for touring us around. Thank you also to Sister Bel and Tita Christine!

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