Some places I visited, I found to be so deeply moving, so spiritual, that I could not have rummaged around in my bag for my phone and then taken a photo. To do so would have felt disrespectful and somehow sacrilege. Sometimes these places had worshipers in such a raw state of prayer and devotion that they seemed vulnerable, so I just looked at the ceilings and sculpture, art and flooring, then quietly moved on.
The consequence is that some of the most special places I went to I have no photographic record. I was conscious of feeling sad about this. I thought at the time, ‘how can I possibly remember this’, but then I would reassure myself that even photos couldn’t have captured how this felt and, some things we just hold within us.
The Scala Santa was one of these places. It is a flight of steps in a building over the road from the Archbasilica of St John Lateran, (San Giovanni laterano) where people ascend on their knees. It was brought back from Jerusalem and is said to have been walked on by Jesus on his way to being crucified. Whatever our own beliefs it was very humbling to see people undertaking this.
I have used a usage rights picture off google.
Another site I found particularly moving was the Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis. It is a very small, plain church near the Appian way. The story goes that St Peter, running for fear of his life from pagan Rome had Jesus appear before him here. Jesus in a allegorical way, told him to return to Rome and without fear, face his crucifixion. There is a marble slab on the floor in the center of the church which has footprints. It is a copy of the original held elsewhere but some believe they were the footprints left by Jesus. I was here on a Sunday and worshipers were arriving for their service.
Other incredibly special sites for me include San Severo chapel in Naples with the veiled Christ sculpture. Not only is this stunningly beautiful, but photography is also just not allowed.
I bought a postcard at the chapel shop for this image.
The cemetery in Taormina on Tutti i Morti had me putting away my camera out of respect. Many locals were tending their loved ones graves and it just wouldn’t have been right.
This picture is taken from within the cemetery looking out of the gates over towards the sea. There was a small place here with tiny grave markers that were obviously not allowed within the gates. I would love to understand if this was for non Catholics? Babies? or Pets?
Many beautiful churches in Rome I left with no pictures. Either they had services running at the time I was there or there were people clearly praying, or it just felt unnecessary for me to snap away and not be fully present to the experience.
Left to right: San Pietro in Vincoli, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.
It felt like inadvertently stumbling from the tourist destinations of the Trevi fountain and Piazza Navona into intimate places, places that are not designed for tourism, but for spiritual practice and contemplation. These places still maintain themselves as a place of serenity, peace and of intense worship even with the endless parade of tourists and guides through them. When they contain a Caravaggio painting or a Michelangelo or Bernini sculpture it just adds to the draw for tourists. I guess the churches on some level must want this to happen for revenue? Or to draw potential parishioners?
One church, very close to where I stayed near termini, I have no excuse. I just did not take any photos. I had walked past several times not realising the significance of the building. This is a very important church in Rome. When I finally went inside the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore it was evening. I was tired and hungry but oh my, it was wonderful. It was built around 430 ad and contains notable mosaics, the Tombs of many Popes, and Bernini, Pauline Bonaparte and Junio Bourgese s tombs. It has the highest bell tower in Rome and interesting Cosmati flooring and gold on the ceiling, the first brought back from the Americas by Christopher Columbus.
Thank goodness for the internet or I would have no memories except what I found in books.
And lastly, there was a few times I went out for a quick stroll to grab a takeout dinner without taking my mobile, and of course, randomly witnessed a sight I wish I could have photographed.
It has been a treat for me to go through my journal looking for sites I visited but have no photos. It would be so easy to forget.