Updated: Feb 12
Hi everyone, end of term one and with exams and assignments completed we have a week off, and I will be on the road with a couple of guys from the college. Staring tomorrow we will head to San Giovanni Rotondo vai Lanciano, for a couple of nights then up to Ravenena, Venice and then Padua and finally back to Rome. I will be trying to do a daily post so if you would like to send through a prayer request for any of the places I will be visiting send me a message and I see if I can place a prayer for you there.
DAY ONE- Sunday
Rome, car loaded last goodbyes and we are off. Andrei is saying goodbye to John our Anglican placement student who is now heading back to his family and parish and Hungary to prepare for his upcoming ordination. It is John's car and it is to him that we owe or thanks for taus on this trip before he continues to home. He will drop us in Venice and Tom, Seath and I will take train back to Rome.
First stop Manopello, a little village on top hill on the east of Italian village is home to a reliquie that is believed to be Veronica's Veil, that was used to wipe the face of Jesus on his way to Golgotha. This has not been approved by the church either way as true or not but to gat an understanding of its significance is that Pope Benedict visited this church in the first few months of his papacy.
Inside the church behind the altar the shroud is positioned in a glass cabinet and access to view it is via a staircase.
The shroud up close, unfortunately there was too much reflection coming through the windows to get a decent picture. But the image was very clear and it si transparent and is easily made out as a face in detail even from floor level in front of the altar.
Up closer you can just make out the face, there are much clearer images on the internet but, viewing it in person gives a much clearer image and is quite a comforting image that is not immediately recognised from pictures of it.
At the entrance of the church the statue of St Michael the Archangel going about his business with the prayer underneath. You know you are getting into St Michael territory when you see that in the church entrance. Next stop St Michael's cave.
After a day of winding through the snow covered mountains in the distance, we arrived at mount St Michael. As the name suggests it is situated up top of long and winding road perched on the side the hill.
On top of the hill is situated a town most fairly modern houses but the castle dates back to the 8th century, it is not connected to St Micahael other than its location which we had to walk past to get to the shrine of St Miachael the Arch angel.
I had my camera set on black and white by accident but it made for some stunning pictures.
Down through the town to the shrine. At the end of the street you can see the bell-tower that marks the entrance to the shrine. It was built in 1274 by Charles I of Anjou in thanks giving to St Micheal for his conquest of Southern Italy, he was French.
Entrance to the shrine. It starts on level ground and descends down via a stair case to the cave which is on the side of the hill.
The 'Men' outside the entrance with wind coming in at a fair pace straight off the ocean and up the side of the hill top, the temperature was strugling to register in the positive C degrees.
Myself, John, Seth and Tom.
Down the stairs.
And some more stairs,
And some more stairs,
Then finally to the cave. The story goes, in 490AD a rich land owner was herding his cattle noticed his prized bull missing. He wandered up the mountain in search of it and saw it kneeling in the cave. Angry that the bull had wandered off the farmer grabbed his bow and arrow and shot at the bull to get it to move and come back out of the cave. To his surprise the owner saw his arrow come back out of the cave and wound his foot. He was greatly troubled by this and went and saw the bishop. After three days of fasting and prayer the bishop, received a vision of St Micheal the arch angel who said to the bishop, go and concecrate the cave because St Michael had chosen it to be Holy and helpings and prayers would be granted if he did. The bishop deliberated over this for a while and did not do it for a while. A few years later a the local Lombard duke won an unlikely battle over an invading force and he credited st Michael as the intercessori for the victory. The bishop on hearing about this and encouraged by the current Pope decide that he better go and concercrate the cave. Apon arriving at the cave he was greated by St Michael the Arch Angel who told the bishop not to bother because he had already done it! There was already an altar set up with a cloth and cruisifix on ready to go! The bishop said mas there for the first time and it has been used as a church ever since.
we were fortunate to be able to catch then of the mass and be able to receive communion in St Michael's cave. The altar and statue of St Micheal behind, he tradionaly dressed in the soliders uniform that the Lombard army wore in the 5th century.
A small statue located behind the tabinacle altar that pilgrims tradionally placed prayers to St Michael.
A chapel built out the front of the cave. There are many reliques kept in the cave including ones from St John Paul II, St Padre Pio, and piece of the original crucifix these are kept in a reliquie chapel.
One last view out over the Adriatic Sea and we were off to San Giovanni Retondo, before we froze.
DAY TWO- Monday
We arrived in San Giovanni Retondo or what could be better described as Pardre Pio town. Only canonised in 2002 by Pope John Paul II, the town is completely centered around this man and his life's ministry. Born in a small village in to humble but pius parents Pio went on to transform lives and impact literally millions of people through his extraordinary life and works. A saint who lived through a rapidly changing and turbulant world, two world wars, politicle and social changes, was a powerful witness to the necessity of faith during these times. His miracles were countless from healings, reading sins of confessors, bio-locutions, his ongoing battle with the devil, but probably the most famous was he carried the the stigmata for over fifty years. This is a must read up on saint as there is so much more he did in his life.
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (St Mary of Grace). Was Padre Pios church he used to say mass in it dates back to 1629, with his monestry on the back of it including his room where he stayed. There is a new church built on the right which towers over the old church, it was completed in 1959. You can see at the top of the picture the snow started to come down.
Inside the new church, with beautiful mosaics all round the side altars with the main altar featuring St Mary of Mercy holding baby Jesus and angles surrounding them, this was completed when Padre Pio was alive, but after he was canonised JP II had Pio's image added.
The best thing about this church was that it had air conditioning inside and was a present respite from the chilled weather outside.
Some of the other mosaics around the church including St Margret Marie Alacoque and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Our Lady of Victory.
St Michael the Arch Angel.
St John Paul II.
Next to the new church is the old church which is used for special groups that travel with their own priests for mass. It is quite a bit smaller than the new church.
The famous confessional that Padre Pio used in the old church.
Below the new church is where Padre Pio's body is kept.
Padre Pio pray for us.
To get an idea how popular Padre Pio is, there is a new sanctuary has been built to accomodate all the pilgrims that travel to San Giovanni. Completed in 2004, it holds 6000 people inside for mass or about 30,000 outdoors if needed. This church is used in the summer months, it is estimated more than 7 million people visit each year, only second only to Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Mexico, for Catholic shrine visits.
Inside the church.
Like many of the churches in Italy there is a church under the church, but to get there was a long corridor winding down to it with mosaics along a the walls with stories associated with them all, mostly associated with Padre Pio and St Francis.
In this church is where they keep Padre Pio's body in the summer it is moved down from the 'winter church' and kep behind the altar. Again the walls are covered in mosaics that are very bright and colourful.
The mosaic behind the altar and next to where Padre Pio's body is kept says, Io sono la vita, I am the life.
Outside the old church is the nativity still set up.
After lunch we tackled the stations of the cross which wound it's way up the hill behind the church.
As the snow gently fell down.
And at the top, the resurrection. That is an altar beneath the statue not a seat.
Then down again.
One of the legacy's of Padre Pio was the hospital that he instaged to built to help the sick is now the major hospital in the region. It is situated just across the road from the church.
DAY THREE- Tuesday
Off to Ravenna for the night but on the way was the city of Laciano, those that are into Eucharist miracles would know that this is the home to the first recognised Eucharist miracle of the Catholic Church. The host is on permanent display behind the new alter (Vatican II). There is a museum out the back of the church which proves testimony to the authenticness of the host as actual heart tissue from a human heart. There is also test that have been put under microscope and confirm human blood cells and even a blood type AB.
After arriving in Lanciano, we had to find the church, not in the town clock tower.
Not in the town cathedral.
What is up this side street.
This does not look like a church.
A look inside.........
Up behind the altar it was. Had to get much detail from it even this close up, the fact that this is over a thousand years old is a miracle in itself.
A museum out the back was use of better use for making much more sense of what was on display. After scientific analysis this what they believe the specimen is from.
Under the microscope blood cells can be seen.
We managed to stay for mass in the Lanciano church, and after a quick caffè we were off to Ravenna, and we were in for a treat. Originally the planned stop in Ravenna was due to logistics and timing but the more we looked into what was there mthe more interested we became. Ravenna is a very interesting place in Christian, Roman history it was for a time used as the Italian capital as the Roman Empire was beginning to crumble in the early fith century and as such a lot of inferstructure was being pored into it. With Theodoric the gothic Emperor establishing a lot of the early buildings and churches in the 450's and Justinian in the 500's. What Justinian brought to Ravenna was the Byzantine culture which was mosaics and they are the center attraction in nearly all the churches and they are some of the best in the world and they are stunning to look at.
The church of San Vitali, is a 6th centuary church built in the octagonal to emphasise the new begining of Christ, and the resurrection on the eith day is pretty plain on the outside, but walk inside and it is a amazing.
The main altar.
Even the floors are mosaic.
Out the back of the church is a tomb that was dedicated to Emperor Justinian I daughter.
When we had finished looking through the church and tomb we went past the museum that was on site and asked if they were still open, not only were they still open it just happened to be free today and it was the national museum of Italy in Ravenna.
To a hall full of medievali combat gear there was plenty to see.
On the other side of town is another 6th centuary masterpiece, called the Neonean Baptistry, as the name suggests it was built just for baptisms and full emersion at that.
The baptismal font or more of a pool.
The ceiling depicting Jesus and the 12 apostals.
Beside the baptistry was the Ravenna Cathedral St Andrews built later over the old church some time in the 1500's. We didn't go inside it but there was a museum out the back that contained things like old vestment, paintings and many other related articles.
One of the most stunning pieces was a chair made for the bishop of Ravenna, out of ivory, that was had carvings of biblical stories in incredible detail.
And the back.
DAY FOUR- Wednesday
Just enough time to have some breakfast at our B&B and catch a couple of churches we missed from yesterday before we hit the road again.
The Apolinarian church, also 6th centuary.
This church had mosaics of martyer saints all down the sides of the upper walls, ladies on the left and guys on the right.
The ladies including St Cecilia, St Agnes and St Lucy
the guys icluded Justin Martyr, St Paul, St Sebastian.
We just had enough time to poke our heads in another church St Francis and found something quite unusual, not reliques, mosaics, architecture, frescos, but a gold fish pond! We initially thought it was another baptistry but found out it was the old church level but had sunk into the ground and got flooded with ground water and someone through a few goldfish in . It is situated under the main altar and has what looks like a mote around it.
There are the goldfish, I don't know what they are going to do with all that money?
On the road again and we headed north, and to one of the most famous cities in the world, Venice. Here we said goodbye to John as he continued his journey onto Hungary, we wished him all the best in his future endevours and remised over our many insitful exchanges over the last few days and months together in college. For us though there was another city to explore and many a church and relique to find and a saints story to be told.
We made a trek to the highest viewing point in the city to get an idea what it was like and we could see all round the canels and the skyline was doted with church domes, spires, and bell towers. Those domes in the distance were of St Marks cathedral we would get there tomorrow.
One church we did manage to see today was Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Unforyunatly my phone ran flat and was unable to get many pictures but it ad a stunning wooden cloister, a primid, among many painting and chapels.
Later in the evening we had mass at the church St Mary of Nazareth, just near our accomodation and headed out for dinner before we retired for the night and defrosted in front of the radiator heaters.
DAY FIVE- Thursday
The next morning we set out again in earnest to discover some more treasures of Venice and the first on one the list was Tintoretto The Crusifixion, it is a painting that depicts the crusifixion of Christ set in the 1500's and has a broad array of charactures and theams running through it from the gospels. It is set in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, which was a highly esteemed school at the time, but now is just a museum to display all the paintings. It was Tom that put us onto it as he had read about it from G.K. Chesterton who discribed it as one of the best in the world. To get to the cruisifixtion we had to navigate thought a visual onslaught off wall to wall to ceiling masterpieces, mainly religious and some contemporary of the time.
There it was standing 5.3 meters high and 12.2 meters wide taking up the entire wall of the side room. Seats were provided so you could sit down and spend a bit of time to take it all in and see if you could pick all the stories from the gospels.
The next stop was the domes we saw yesterday, St Marks basilica. Having not know much about this site before we arrived we were in for a treat. This cathedral has the remains of St Mark the evangelist, the gospel writer and it's decorated as such. But first we had to get there. Navigating around Venice is not easy and google maps defiantly struggled with narrow winding streets, canels and water crossings.
Along the canel.
Over the bridge.
On the gondola.
And finally we found the piazza, on the other side was St Marks basilica.
More in the style of a Persian palace that that of a conventional cathedral, we must remember the influence of the Eastern church of Constantinople in the region in the 9th centuary when this was built. It was rebuilt and continuously refreshed over the centuries.
The line up to get into the cathedral was up to 100 meters long and this is in the off season with temperatures hovering around the single digit Celsius minus the wind chill.
I'm not sure what the building is behind the line up but it is next to the Basilica.
If we though that Ravenna had prepared us for spectacular mosaics we we were in for another surprise. With 8000 square meters of gold mosaics spread around the walls and ceilings depicting everything from Adam and Eve to the final judgement and every thing in between. From the crusifiction and resurrection to countless saints they are all depicted somewhere in this Basilica.
The center dome Jesus pictured with the twelve disciples.
The main altar sanctuary with 14 sculptures not sure who they all are, caved out of red marble alongside the cruisified Christ.
Under the main altar is the tomb of St Mark the Evangelist. He is credited for writing the gospel according to Mark.
We spent a bit of time in the blessed sacrament chapel in prayer and adoration, had bite to eat at a restaurant and then set off on a bus boat that went around the outside of the island and back to our accomodation.
Church of St George Major, on another island off the main Venice island.
As the sun set behind the Basilica of St Mary of Health, it was time to say good bye to Venice, and move on, tomorrow Padua.
DAY SIX- Friday
A Late morning as the long cold days about and travel were starting to get the better of us. Not on our original agenda but a quick look at the map and a spare night before returning to college made it a no brainer too spend a night in Padua. A half hour train ride toward Rome and we were in the city that is home to the resting places of St Anthony and St Justina but also an unexpected find that none of us knew about.
Up from the train station it was about a two kilometre walk into town, we crossed over a bridge that seamed to set the tone of the city. Away from the husstel of Venice a quieter and calmer maybe a more understated vibe greeted us.
First stop on our list was The Scovegni Chapel, not known to us before the trip but a bit of research from Tom put up to speed. A rich merchant banker Enrico degli Scrovegni in the early 1300's built this 'chapel' to go along side his 'house' which encompassed the remains of an old Roman colosseum, more in keeping with a modern five star hotel. The House no longer remains but the chapel is still standing for what is inside.
Enrico commissioned one of the best artists in Europe at the time to decorate the interior of the chapel which is dedicated to St Mary of the Charity, in fresco paintings and this what he came up with.
The main altar.
The rear of the chapel depicts the last day and final judgment.
The side walls depict many different sceans from the bible, mainly Jesus' and Mary's life on earth.
The reason why they say that this chapel is so important to western art is because this is said to have kicked off the renaissance era not only in the religious scense but also wider society as well. Giotto went back to painting life accurate portraits of people which went out of fashion for a couple of hundred years due to the influance of the Byzantine style of incon like pictures. Giotto painted the bell tower in the Florence cathedral and also credited with the upper Basilica of St Francis of Assisi.
Also attached to the chapel access was another museum that featured artworks from 3500 BC all the way to the moder era with every thing inbetweeen . Here are some highlights.
Enough of museums back to the basilicas! Off again and into town but not before passing over another of Padua's scerean waterways.
And of corse the cobbled stoned bridge over them.
First basilica we went in was St Justine's, this is actually the main basilica of Padua. It is named after a saint that was martyred by the emperor Maximilium who was passing through Padua in 304 AD. After the Edict of Milan in 313 which decriminilised Christianity in the Roman Empire the residence of Padua built a shrine over Justines grave which over the centuries became the basilica what we see today.
In proportions that rival some of Romes largest basilicas it stands at 118 meters long by 80 meters wide it is the seventh largest in the world.
The main altar.
The Blessed Sacrament chapel. You may be able to notice the graphics around the top arch looks a little 3D, that's because they are. Someone has overlaid and painted boards to enhance the effect of the paintings.
And this side chapel hold's the tomb of St Luke the Evangelist. Hold on a minute did that little sign on the wall say St Luke the Evangelist! The guy that is held responsible for writing the third gospel and Acts of the Apostles as well as being St Paul's travelling companion is just sitting here in a quietly understated side chapel in St Justina's basilica in Padua. This was our unexpected find to see two Evangelists tombs in two days, one with a basilica decorated from top to bottom in gold and a plaza dedicated to his memory and the other just quitly sitting a side chapel with a discrete sign stating his place.
A short walk across the square Prato della Valle, one of the biggest squares in Europe brought us to St Anthony's Basilica.
St Anthony's basilica.
A bit understated on the outside, a walk inside soon brings one to the understanding that St Anthony is one of, if not the must beloved saint in Italy and many parts of the world.
We arrived just in time for evening mass and were fortunate enough to be blessed with a relic of St Anthony by the preist at the end of mass which was proceeded with an litany of St Anthony in the side chapel with St Anthony's tomb.
A St Anthony blessing from his tomb.
The blessed sacrament chapel.
Side chapel dedicated to the blessed Virgin
The Chapel of the Relics, it contains all sorts from JPII, to fragments of theTrue Cross of Jesus to St Anthony's incorupt tongue.
Anthony with St Anthony, the relique was on the tomb of St Anthony.
The next day we caught mass in the morning, bought a few souvenirs, grabbed a café or chioccolate chaulde and headed out of town to the train station. St Anthony's basilica.
Down the stone pavement streets.
The red train that was to take us back to Rome. Travelling at 250 kms per hour I call them the Ferrari trains, nothing to do with the famous cars though. It was to bring to an end of what was a jam packed week in which we saw two evangelists tombs, a Eucharistic miracle, a possible cloth of Jesus face, a handful of beloved saints, many other saints, as many basilicas and churches again, countless artworks, paintings, sculptures, and mosaics all with one thing in common, for the glory and praise of God. It has been like a mini pilgrimage for us and I hope you have enjoyed reading and looking at the pictures about it and maybe it has sparked some interest in the places or saints that i have been. Rest assured I have said many a prayer in each of the places i have visited and i hope and pray that many of you readers back home have received some blessings.
May God Bless you.