The sacred home in the Italian Renaissance

The British School at Rome hosts The sacred home in the Italian Renaissance, a talk by Abigail Brundin, Deborah Howard and Mary Laven whose forthcoming book of the same name challenges the widespread assumption that a new secular spirit pervaded the Italian Renaissance home. Instead the scholars explore the private devotional life of Italians between 1450 and 1600, suggesting that piety was not confined to the church and the convent but was shaped to meet the demands of domestic life – childbirth, marriage, infertility, sickness, accidents, poverty and death. The lecture will be in English and is scheduled from 18.00-19.30 on 8th February at Via Antonio Gramsci, 61, 00197 Rome.

Nativity scene, Christmas tree are visible signs of God’s compassion, pope says

A Nativity scene and Christmas tree, like those displayed in St. Peter’s Square, are visible reminders of God’s benevolence and closeness to all men and women, Pope Francis said.

The traditional Christmas displays are “the signs of the heavenly Father’s compassion, of his participation and closeness to humanity who experience not being abandoned in dark times, but instead visited and accompanied in their difficulties,” the pope said.

“Every year, the Christmas Nativity scene and tree speak to us through their symbolic language. They make more visible what is captured in the experience of the birth of the Son of God,” Pope Francis said Dec. 7 in a meeting with delegations from Poland and Italy, responsible respectively for the 2017 Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene.

The centerpiece of the Vatican’s Christmas holiday decorations is the towering 92-foot spruce tree.

Measuring nearly 33 feet in diameter, the tree was donated by the Archdiocese of Elk, Poland, and transported to the Vatican on a flatbed truck traveling over 1,240 miles across central Europe.

Thanking the members of the Polish delegation, the pope said the tree’s soaring height “motivates us to reach out ‘toward the highest gifts’” and to rise above the clouds to experience “how beautiful and joyful it is to be immersed in the light of Christ.”

“The tree, which comes from Poland this year, is a sign of the faith of that people
who, also with this gesture, wanted to express their fidelity to the see of Peter,” the
pope said.

The Nativity scene was donated by the Benedictine Abbey of Montevergine, located in southern Italy. Created in a traditional 18th-century Neapolitan style, it covers a surface of over 860 square feet and features 20 terracotta figures, some as tall as 6 feet.

The representation of the night of Jesus’ birth, the pope said, is “inspired by the works of mercy” and is a reminder “that Jesus told us: ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you.’”

“The crib is the evocative place where we contemplate Jesus who, taking upon himself human misery, invites us to do the same through act of mercy,” Pope Francis said.

As it was last year, the Christmas tree was adorned with ornaments made by children receiving treatment at several Italian hospitals.

“These children, with their parents, participated in a ceramics recreational therapy program” organized by the Countess Lene Thune Foundation for young boys and girls suffering from oncological and hematological disorders, the Vatican said Oct. 25.

Additionally, children from the central Italian Archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, which was devastated by earthquakes in 2016, also made ornaments for the Christmas tree.

Gravity. Imaging the Universe after Einstein

2 Dec-29 April. Rome’s MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo honours the scientific legacy of Albert Einstein with an exhibition exploring the “interconnected key concepts of space-time, crises, confines.”

The show coincides with the centenary of Einstein’s publication of a ground-breaking article which challenged existing models of the cosmos and the universe, ultimately revolutionising modern-day concepts of time and space.

The exhibition examines the deep connections between art and science, paying tribute to Einstein through immersive artistic and scientific installations by international artists.

Address: Via Guido Reni, 4/a, 00196 Roma RM, Italy

Pope Francis creates new Section of Vatican Secretariat of State

Pope Francis on Tuesday set up a new Section within the Vatican’s Secretariat of State to manifest his “the attention and closeness” of the Holy See’s diplomatic personnel.

This Third Section of the Vatican’s State office is to be called the Section for Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See and will reinforce the current office of the Delegate for Pontifical Representations.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office says the Section will be chaired by the Delegate for Pontifical Representations, currently Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski.

“The Third Section will deal exclusively with matters relating to the staff who work in the diplomatic service of the Holy See or who prepare to do so – such as, for example, selection, initial and continuing formation, conditions of life and service, promotions, permits, etc.,” the statement reads.

The Third Section has been granted “the just autonomy”, it says, and “seek to establish close collaboration with the Section for General Affairs (which will continue to handle general matters of the Pontifical Representations), and with the Section for Relations with States (which will continue to deal with the political aspects of the work of the Pontifical Representations).”

In spelling out the Section’s tasks, the statement says the Delegate for the Pontifical Representations “will participate, along with His Excellency the Substitute for General Affairs and His Excellency the Secretary for Relations with States, in weekly coordination meetings chaired by the Secretary of State. Furthermore, he will convene and chair ad hoc meetings for the preparation of the appointments of Pontifical Representatives. Finally, he will be responsible, along with the President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, for the selection and formation of candidates.”

Pope at Angelus: ‘charity fuels faith making it fruitful and credible’

Pope Francis on Sunday told the faithful that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must be ready to meet with the Lord.

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer, the Pope also said that it is not sufficient to lead a life of faith; a Christian must also be fueled by charity.

The parable of the ten virgins

Recalling the parable of the ten virgins the Pope said one must not wait for “the last moment of our lives to collaborate with God’s grace: you must do it now!” he said.
Quoting from the liturgical reading in which the Lord said to the foolish virgins “Stay awake for you know neither the day nor the hour” Francis explained that Jesus is telling us that ‘staying awake’ does not mean only not to fall asleep: it is an exhortation to be prepared.

Charity fuels and safeguards faith

The lamp, the Pope said, is “the symbol of faith that illuminates our lives”. Oil, he continued, “is the symbol of charity which fuels the lamp making the light of faith fruitful and credible”.

“A life that is poor in charity is devoid of true light” he said.

“If we let ourselves be guided by what appears to be most convenient, seeking only to protect and nurture our interests, our lives become sterile and incapable of giving life to others; in this way we do not store a stock of oil for the lamp of our faith which will be extinguished at the time of the Lord’s coming, or even before that” he said.

“The condition to be ready to meet with the Lord, Pope Francis said, is not only faith, but a Christian life full of love and charity for our neighbour.”

Always be prepared to meet the Lord

He urged Christians always to “be vigilant and to try to do good through actions of love, sharing and service” to our brothers in difficulty so we can serenely await the arrival of the groom.

We know, he continued that “the Lord may come at any time, but even the slumber of death will not scare us if we have a supply of oil that we have accumulated through good works every day”.

“Faith inspires charity and charity safeguards faith” he said.

Giving thanks for Spanish martyrs

After the Angelus prayer, the Pope recalled the beatification ceremony that took place in Madrid on Saturday during which Vicente Queralt LLoret and 20 of his martyred companions and José Maria Fernández Sánchez and 38 of his martyred companions were proclaimed blessed.

“They were all killed in hatred for the faith during the religious persecution that took place during the 1936 – 1937 Spanish Civil War” he said.

Pope Francis concluded giving thanks to God for the great gift of these witnesses of Christ and of the Gospel.

Rome’s Monti District.

Monti, between Termini station and Via dei Fori Imperiali, has a genuine village atmosphere even though it’s close to some of the city’s main tourist sites. There are characteristic centuries-old buildings and a small market, and it is within easy reach of the good-value Piazza Vittorio market area. The best thing about Monti is its position: near to everything but at the same time a world of its own. As its name suggests, it is on a hill and the winding roads are steep and narrow. There are plenty of excellent restaurants, good local grocers and artisan workshops. Buses run frequently along Via Nazionale to the north and Via Cavour to the south, where there is also ametro stop. Its dominant landmark is the basilica of S. Maria Maggiore but a quick stroll downhill and you are at the Roman Forum. It is also the location of a number of good, recently renovated hotels. Parking in the heart of Monti is impossible although there are garages in the surrounding areas such as Esquilino and near Termini station.


Basilica di S. Pudenziana

Fourth-century paleo-Christian church dedicated to St Pudentiana, a Roman martyr and secondary patron saint of the Philippines. The church was converted from a second-century Roman bath house, and traces of them are still visible in its apse. Today the church caters to members of the city’s Filipino community.

Mercato Monti

Trendy market offering a large selection of handtailored fashion items by young independent designers, as well as bespoke accessories, vintage clothing, art works and collectibles. Housed in the basement of Hotel Palatino near the Metro Cavour stop, the market is open Sat-Sun 10.00-21.00.

Piazza Della Madonna Dei Monti

The focal point of this square is a fountain built in 1587 by Giacomo della Porta, who also designed the nearby Madonna dei Monti church. The fountain acts as a popular meeting place, particularly in the evenings when groups of friends enjoy a drink on its marble steps.

Rome’s pyramid open for free tours on 1 November

Piramide Cestia wins Europa Nostra heritage conservation award.

Rome’s Piramide Cestia pyramid celebrates winning this year’s Europa Nostra award for heritage conservation by opening for free guided tours throughout Wednesday 1 November.

The tours, in Italian, are programmed every half an hour from 09.30 until 16.00 and must be reserved in advance via the Coopculture website.

The 2,000-year-old monument underwent a €2 million restoration between 2013 and 2014, funded by Japanese entrepreneur Yuzo Yagi who made his fortune by importing Italian clothes to his Yagi Tsusho chain of fashion stores in Japan over the last four decades.

The Egyptian-style pyramid stands in the middle of a busy junction between Piramide train station and the city’s Non-Catholic cemetery, opposite the fortified Porta S. Paolo.

Dating from the first century BC, the 36-metre high pyramid was built as a tomb for the powerful Roman magistrate Caius Cestius. Experts believe that the monument has evaded collapse over the centuries because it was incorporated into the Aurelian walls in the years 271-275.

The Europa Nostra prize was launched by the European Commission in 2002 to celebrate and promote best practices related to heritage conservation, management, research, education and communication.

Pope Francis at Angelus: on being Christian in the world

Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.

Addressing them ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis shared a reflection on the Reading from the Sunday Gospel, which this week came from St. Matthew and contains the maxim, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”

Pope Francis explained that the episode teaches us both the legitimacy of earthly authority and the primacy of God in human affairs and over all the universe.

“The Christian is called to be concretely committed in human and social realities,” said Pope Francis, “without putting God and ‘Caesar’ in contraposition.” He said that counterposing God and Caesar would be, “a fundamentalist attitude.”

“The Christian,” Pope Francis continued, “is called upon to engage concretely in earthly realities, but enlightening them with the light that comes from God. Entrusting oneself to God in the first, and placing one’s hope in Him, do not require us to escape from reality, but rather to work diligently to render unto Him, all that it His. That is why the believer looks to future reality, to that of God: that he might live his earthly life in fullness, and respond with courage to its challenges.”

Lakes around Rome – a few tips!

Lago Albano.

This volcanic crater lake presents visitors with beautiful views of its clear water and surrounding forests. The picturesque towns along the shores serve as popular summer resort areas for Romans, including Castel Gandolfo, home to the summer papal palace whose gardens were recently opened to the public. On the other side of the lake is Palazzolo, a villa bought by Rome’s Venerable English College in 1920 and now open to guests. The towns surrounding the lake are known for their restaurants, shops and fruit farms. Swimming, fishing and boating are among the favourite activities for visitors, and the lake’s beach is located on the western shore. A simple 45-minute train ride from Termini, visitors can reach Lago Albano by taking the FL4 train towards Albano Laziale and getting off at the Castel Gandolfo stop.

Lago di Bolsena

Located on the site of the Vulsini volcano, dormant since about 100 BC, this crater lake has two islands and is surrounded by rolling hills and vegetation. The area around Montefisascone on the southeast shore of the lake is famous for its Est! Est!! Est!!! wine. The town of Bolsena in the northeast is a popular tourist resort in summer and it is here that the famous so-called Eucharistic Miracle took place in 1263 when a Bohemian priest is said to have seen blood coming from the host that he had just consecrated at Mass. Capodimonte on the southwest of the lake is also worth a visit . The lakeside area provides activities for sports and nature enthusiasts all year round. The best way to reach Lago di Bolsena from Rome is by car, as buses to Bolsena from Termini Station are infrequent.

Lago di Bracciano

One of the cleanest lakes in Italy, Lago di Bracciano acts as an important drinking water reservoir for Rome. The ban on motor boats (except for a little ferry) means it remains an ideal spot for swimming, sailing and canoeing. The Lega Navale operates a dinghy sailing school in Anguillara. Churches and historic sites are located in the three small towns around the lake: Bracciano, Trevignano and Anguillara. There are also places for camping and horse riding tours by the lake, which is just an hour on the Viterbo train line from Rome’s Ostiense station. The lake is overlooked by the 15th-century Orsini-Odescalchi castle in Bracciano, often chosen as the venue for jet-set weddings, and there is also an air force museum at nearby Vigna di Valle.

The Secret Tunnel Under The Vatican

The Vatican is the world’s smallest state both by area and population, coming in at under only 110 acres with a population of 1000 people. Despite that, its small stature is nothing to laugh at – the Vatican is filled to the brim with historical buildings, monuments, and other architectural works of art. From Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, to the Vatican Library or the Vatican Museums, the small nation is rich in building design. However, most don’t know about one of the Vatican’s best-kept secrets that is hidden in plain site, a secret tunnel named the Passetto di Borgo.

At first glance, the Passetto di Borgo, Italian for “small passage,” looks like nothing more than a simple stone fortification much like other walls in the Vatican. However, within its walls lies a secret hidden passageway used by popes in the past as an emergency escape route when they faced imminent danger. The Passetto runs a total of 2600 feet along the Old Vatican wall and links the Vatican Palace to the Castel Sant’Angelo. Construction of the Passetto wall began around the year 850, but it wasn’t completed until the year 1277 under Pope Nicholas III. In 1492, Pope Alexander VI finished the wall in its current form as seen today.

The first time it was used as an escape route was just two years after its construction in 1494, when King Charles VIII invaded Vatican City with French forces. Pope Alexander VI used it to escape to the Castel Sant’Angelo.

The most recent usage of the passage was during the Sack of Rome on May 6th, 1527. The mutinous forces of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V massacred nearly the entire Swiss Guard on the steps of Saint Peter’s Basilica, however they were able to hold off just long enough for Pope Clement VII to escape using the Passetto. It is said that during Clement VII’s passage, he wept looking down at the gruesome scene in Saint Peter’s Square. He was so distraught that a fellow cardinal had to help him walk through the narrow corridor. Fearing that a rifleman may recognize the pontiff through the narrow windows, Clement VII was covered in a cloak flung over his head and shoulders to disguise him as he was smuggled into the castle.

Since the escape of Pope Clement VII, no pontiff has used it since. Around the end of the 16th century, the Passetto within the wall was closed to the public because of its declining conditions. During the Great Jubilee of 2000, the Passetto was renovated for the occasion. Since then, it has opened during the summer for a limited amount of time for tourists to walk down the same passageway used by popes hundreds of years ago.