When in Rome: visit the St. Peter’s Basilica!

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By: Ramos, Carla Evita O. (2011-78902)

St. Peter’s Basilica, this is the first setting of the movie “Angels and Demons”. The movie showed the death of the pope, and the breaking of the papal ring by the Camerlengo. Other scenes happened in the Sistine chapel and the Piazza.

Watching the movie, I cant help but be disappointed that it did not offer much imaginative juices like that of the book. Reading the book made one feel that he is touring and searching Rome with the symbologist / character Robert Langdon. The book version takes us to different historical and architectural treasures of Rome. One of the highlight places is the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. History would say that the site of the Basilica was the site of the Circus of Nero. It is also said to be the martyrdom and burial site of St. Peter. Broken bones were said to have been found during an excavation, with a Greek inscription “Peter is here” as translated. Renaissance architect Donato Bramante was commissioned to rebuild the new basilica and was succeeded by Michelangelo. The impressive Piazza San Pietro was designed by Bernini, another Renaissance master. In the Piazza’s center is an obelisk, an Egyptian marker considered by many as a pagan symbol. The obelisk is said to have been transferred from the original circus and measures 40 meters from the cross to the base. It is one of the four obelisk scattered around Rome. The colonnade of Bernini is a symbol of welcome to the Catholic church. The facade of the basilica is 116 meters wide and 53 meters high. The central balcony is called the “Loggia of the Blessings” where a new pope is declared and where the pope gives his blessings to the awaiting pilgrims. The Holy Door, the northernmost door, is only opened in special celebrations like the Jubilee Year. It was last opened by Blessed John Paul II in Jubilee year 2000-2001. The center door is called the Filarete door, said to have been preserved from the old basilica. Panels were added since the door was much smaller than the opening. The leftmost door is the Door of Death. This is used as an exit for funeral processions.

 

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The interior of the basilica has a 218 meter long nave. A large round porphyry (a type of igneous rock with embedded crystals) slab is set on the floor, said to be from the old basilica and where Charlemagne was crowned. Markers showing comparative lengths of other churches line the nave as well. Lined pilasters contain niches with 39 saints who founded religious orders. One of them was St. Dominic, who founded the Dominican Order, where UST and Siena College (my former schools) belong. The Pieta by Michelangelo is located in the right transept. The Pieta obtained much abuse in the course of its existence. The four fingers of the Virgin Mary broke off as it was transferred around the basilica. It was repaired back then. In 1972 it was attacked by a man named Laszlo Toth with a hammer, while yelling “I am Jesus Christ!”. The Virgin Mary’s arm broke, as well as the nose and eyelids. It has since been restored and encased in protective glass. Incidentally, The Pieta was the only signed work of Michelangelo. Apparently, he heard someone talking about a great statue that Solari created, meaning the Pieta. This prompted Michelangelo to sign the sculpture, which he regretted later. Bernini’s Baldacchino seems to fill the vertical space under the basilica’s dome. It also serves as shelters for the pope altar and St. Peter’s relics. The bronze used for the Baldacchino were said to have been from the Pantheon, which angered the Italians. The grotto is where most popes were buried, including Blessed John Paul II. The Scavi is the Vatican Necropolis, where the tomb of St. Peter lies. Only 200 people can join the Scavi tour per day. The Basilica is guarded by Swiss guards, the Vatican army where members must be Swiss, Catholics and must swear the oath of loyalty to the pope. History has it that the Swiss guards aided Pope Clement VII’s retreat to safety in Castel Sant Angelo thru the Passetto (a secret passage connecting the Vatican and Sant Angelo).

Thinking of visiting St. Peter’s Basilica? As researched, the Basilica is open daily, from April – September 7:00-19:00; and October – March 7:00-18:00. Daily masses start at 8:30am at the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament; 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 17:00 – Altar of St. Joseph, Thursdays at 9:00am in the Cattedra, Sundays from 9:00am to 5:45pm.
The masses though are in Italian and one in Latin. But just to have a feel of the authentic and holiness of the Seat of our religion, the language barrier may be dismissed. I myself would write St. Peter’s Basilica in my bucket list. The antimatter did not destroy it.

References:

  1. http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/sanpietro.htm
  2. http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/rome-st-peters-basilica
  3. http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/24417
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/swiss_guard/swissguard/storia_en.htm
  4. http://saintpetersbasilica.org/
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