Our first stop in Rome was the ancient Roman ruins--Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill. The ruins were certainly interesting and the Colosseum was definitely impressive. The weather was wonderful and it was a grand day for photographing the historical landmarks.
As enjoyable as the ruins were, I was much more interested in the Church history in Rome, and we set a goal to visit all seven of the traditional pilgrim churches in Rome--something Wingnut had not yet accomplished in all his trips to Italy. He also really wanted me to visit the four major papal basilicas in order of grandeur.
Saint Peter in Chains (Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli a Colle Oppio) was first up. The lovely old church contains the some wonderful art and history. Beneath the main altar lie the chains which bound Saint Peter during one of his imprisonments. The main attraction for tourists is Michelangelo's famous funerary monument for Pope Julius II with the statue of the "horned" Moses as it's center piece.
Our next stop was Saint Mary Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore), the first of the four major papal basilicas and the largest church in Rome dedicated to Our Lady. The mosaics within are incredible in beauty and detail. Beneath the main altar is a beautiful crystal reliquary holding pieces of wood from the Christ Child's crib.
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme was a definite must see church for us. How wonderful it was to spend time in prayer and reflection before the relics of the crucifixion contained there: fragments of the true cross, a nail, thorns from the crown of thorns, and part of the Eolgium.
Our last stop of the night was Saint John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano). This is the actual seat of the bishop of Rome, more commonly known as the Pope ;) It is officially "Mother and Head of all the churches in the city and the world." Founded by Constantine, it was the residence of popes for over 1000 years. This was the second of the four major basilicas we visited on our pilgrimage in Rome. Our visit there was incomplete due to the late hour, but we returned another day to finish our tour. Most notably, we visited the Scala Sancta (Holy Staircase), just outside the main church. The staircase was brought to from Jerusalem to Rome by Saint Helena and it is believed to be stained with drops of Christ's blood. Pilgrims ascend the 28 marble stairs on their knees, reciting prayers along the way. At the top of the staircase is the Sancta Sanctorum, the old Chapel of the Popes. While I did not ascend the staircase myself, the site of such devotion brought me to tears.
To top off the our first night in Rome, the boys had their first Roman pizza and were completely fawned over by the restaurant staff. Lil' Lamb was even kidnapped and taken back to the kitchen to be "shown off" for his petite size. He loved it. We then treated ourselves to gelato and sorbet from Palma d'Oro.
The view of the Vatican from our hotel window
First view of the Colosseum
Ruins of the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum
Ruins of the Roman Forum
Ruins the Temple of Saturn
The Arch of Titus depicting the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD. You can pick out a Jewish menorah in the relief as one of the spoils carried back to Rome.
Another view of the Colosseum. Only about a third of the original material of the Colosseum remains. Much of the marble, etc. was pillaged over centuries and used for other building projects. The Catholic Church is responsible for saving what remains, having made the Colosseum a pilgrimage site because of the many Christians made martyrs there during the Roman persecutions.
The cross erected by Pope Benedict XIV commemorating the martyrdom of early Christians in the arena
We met a nice young American couple in the Colosseum and they offered to snap what became our only "family" photo of the trip.
Marian column outside Santa Maria Maggiore in honor of her intercession during the plague.
Santa Maria Maggiore exterior
Another view of Santa Maria Maggiore
Exterior of Santa Croce (Many of the churches in Rome do not allow photography inside)
The chains which bound Saint Peter
Michelangelo's funerary monument for Pope Julius II
Wingnut Jr's first taste of Roman pizza. He enjoyed the pizza, but has decided he does not care for buffalo mozzarella.
Lil' Lamb ate like a real champ all throughout our trip. He especially loved the pizza.
Everywhere we went in France and Italy, the boys were treated like little kings.
We spent many, many hours wandering narrow streets in search of our destinations. Lil' Lamb spent the majority of our vacation on Wingnut's shoulders.
Sorbet does not contain milk, and the boys were thrilled to have cones filled with frozen fruity goodness. In fact, I bet they will miss the gelato shops more than anything else from this vacation.