Mater et caput of all Rome’s and the world’s Catholic churches, San Giovanni in Laterano is the oldest church of the Western World, founded in the 4th century by Constantine the Great. Dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, it stands on the piazza by the same name, within Rome’s city center. San Giovanni in Laterano is also the city’s cathedral, seat of the Bishop of Rome. The basilica was reconstructed a few times until the 18th century, when the monumental façade, a two-storied portico supported by giant columns, crowned by 15 seven-meter-high statues, was redesigned. Near the basilica, you can find the Scala Sancta, or Holy Stairs: white marble steps encased in wooden ones, which,
Day 3 — Mass S. Maria Maggiore—Full Day Ancient & Monumental Rome
The largest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, hence the name, and one of the first to be built in her honor, Santa Maria Maggiore is located on Piazza Esquilino, not far from the Termini train station. It is the only basilica among these four to have preserved the Paleochristian structure of the 5th century, even though it underwent several makeovers and additions externally. It closely resembles a 2nd-century imperial basilica, imposing in its aspect, perhaps to signify Rome’s Christian future. Under the high altar is the Crypt of the Nativity, with a crystal reliquary said to contain wood from Jesus’ crib.
Santa Maria della Vittoria is a Roman titular church dedicated to the Virgin Mary . The church is known for the masterpiece of Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the Cornaro Chapel, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. The interior of the church has a single nave, it offers one of the richest examples of baroque decoration for the wealth of marble, stucco and decorations.
Day 6 -- Rome Ancient Christianity / St. Peter’s Basilica & Sistine Chapel
The Basilica of Saint Clement is a Roman Catholic minor basilica dedicated to Pope Clement I. Archaeologically speaking, the structure is a three-tiered complex of buildings: (1) the present basilica built just before the year 1100 during the height of the Middle Ages; (2) beneath the present basilica is a 4th-century basilica that had been converted out of the home of a Roman nobleman, part of which had in the 1st century briefly served as an early church, and the basement of which had in the 2nd century briefly served as a pagan worship place; (3) the home of the Roman nobleman had been built on the foundations of republican era villa and warehouse that had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 64 AD. This ancient church was transformed over the centuries from a private home that was the site of clandestine Christian worship in the 1st century to a grand public basilica by the 6th century, reflecting the emerging Catholic Church's growing legitimacy and power. The archaeological traces of the basilica's history were discovered in the 1860s by Joseph Mullooly, Prior of the house of Irish Dominicans at San Clemente.
We will finish our tour in the early afternoon allowing you a free afternoon to explore Rome, shop or just spend leisure time on your own. Our farewell dinner tonight will be at 8:00 pm with wine water, coffee and entertainment included.
The main church Santa Maria del Popolo, used by Langdon in the movie “Angels and Demons” is located at the entrance of the Piazza. Although the main entrance to the piazza is from the via del Corso between the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Langdon’s destination is Santa Maria del Popolo on the north side, which contains Bernini’s Habakkuk and the Angel.
Day 8 — Churches of Rome
Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square) is a harmonious oval square situated near the Borghese Park. Three churches border the square but the eye-catcher is an ancient obelisk from Heliopolis, Egypt. On the north side the square is dominated by the Porta del Popolo, which leads to the Via Flaminia. The Via Flaminia was built in 220 BC to connect Rome with the Adriatic coast and was one of the most important roads leading to Rome. Hence many travelers entered the city from the Via Flaminia, passing through Piazza del Popolo.
San Paolo Fuori Le Mura is the second largest basilica of the four. It was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine over the burial place of St. Paul (now under the papal altar), making it a popular pilgrimage site. The huge basilica has maintained the original structure with one nave and four aisles, but it was almost entirely reconstructed in 1823 following a fire. The covered portico that precedes the façade is a Neo-classicist addition from the reconstruction. What remains of the ancient basilica is the interior portion of the apse with the triumphal arch. South of the transept is the cloister, considered one of the most beautiful of the Middle Ages.
Afterwards, we will continue onto the seat of the Bishop of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
Late this afternoon we will depart the Mount for the airport for our evening trans-Atlantic flight to Rome, Italy. Meals and entertainment are aloft and early afternoon arrival in Rome. Time schedule TBA.
Day 2— Arrival Fiumecino International Airport Rome, Italy
Upon arrival at Fiumecino, Leonardo daVinci Airport, we will clear customs, baggage claim, meet our motor-coach and driver. Our first stop today as we approach Rome center city will be the major Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Here we will meet our guide who will join us for the balance of our day.
Day 9 - Departure day
We bid a fond farewell to Rome as we depart for Fiumecino International Airport for our voyage back to the USA following a wonderful pilgrimage and cultural visit to Italy. We arrive home in the evening, meals aloft.
After breakfast, we will transfer to the major Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in center city. Here we will have mass and then a guided visit of the Basilica before continuing on our tour .
After mass we will begin with our visit of Rome, visiting such sites as the Coliseum, the Capitoline Hill, Roman Forum, the Pantheon and the Fountain of Trevi, the Spanish Steps and more. We will also visit the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains).
This evening we will culminate with a pizza supper (included with wine, water and coffee) and overnight in Rome.
Also known as the Basilica Eudoxiana, it was first rebuilt on older foundations in 432–440 to house the relic of the chains that bound Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. The Empress Eudoxia who received them as a gift from her mother, Aelia Eudocia, presented the chains to Pope Leo I. Aelia Eudocia had received these chains as a gift from Iuvenalis, bishop of Jerusalem. According to legend, when Leo compared them to the chains of St. Peter's final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison, in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together. The chains are now kept in a reliquary under the main altar in the basilica. Michelangelo's Moses (completed in 1515), while originally intended as part of a massive 47-statue, free-standing funeral monument for Pope Julius II, became the centerpiece of the Pope's funeral monument and tomb in this, the church of della Rovere family. Moses is depicted with horns, connoting "the radiance of the Lord", due to the similarity in the Hebrew words for "beams of light" and "horns".
according to Catholic tradition, once led to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Our Lord stepped on his way to trial during His Passion. Time allowing we will take a few minutes to visit this historical site.
Later we will go to our hotel for check-in and time to refresh before supper (included with wine, water and coffee) at a local restaurant. After dinner we can take a walk around the area for those still feeling energized. Overnight in Rome.
Day 4 —Departure for Assisi
Today after an early breakfast we will depart for the region of Umbria to the city of Saint Francis, Assisi. Approximately 90 miles north of Rome, in the rolling hills of Umbria, stands the exceptionally well-preserved medieval town of Assisi. St. Francis was born in Assisi in 1182 the son of a well-to-do cloth merchant. A lively, even riotous youth who dreamed of achieving military glory, Francis abandoned his worldly ambitions at the age of 19 while a prisoner of war in Perugia. He thereafter became a mystic who experienced visions of Christ and Mary, composed the first poems in the Italian language about the beauties of nature, and in 1210 founded the famous order of mendicant friars known as the Franciscans. Francis was the first known Christian to receive the stigmata, the spontaneously appearing wounds on the hands, feet and side of the body corresponding to the torments of Christ on the cross. Known primarily as the birthplace of St. Francis (1182-1226 AD), the town has been a sacred place since long before the Franciscan era. Upon arrival we will visit the Basilica of S. Maria delle Grazie with the Portuncula. The Portuncula is a small church located within the Basilica of Santa Maria degl’Angeli, the place from where the Franciscan movement began. Later we travel up the hill to visit Basilicas of Sts. Clare & Francis. We will visit the chapel of the Cross of San Damiano that spoke to Francis. We will have a full day in Assisi, there will be free time after the tour to return to one of the churches or for leisure. Afterwards we will check into our hotel for overnight. Mass to be announced, Supper included (with wine, water and coffee) and overnight in Assisi.
Day 7— Subiaco & Casamari / Supper at Santuccio in Sezze Romana - Subiaco—Starting point for St. Benedict
At 22,067 square meters, St. Peter’s is the world’s largest church; regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines, it is a popular place of pilgrimage, even though it is neither the Mother Church nor a cathedral (San Giovanni in Laterano is both). It is hard to grasp its proportions until you have seen it. Particularly impressive is its height, 136 meters from the ground to the top of the magnificent dome, the tallest in the world. According to Catholic tradition, the Basilica is the burial site of the apostle St. Peter, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome. St. Peter's tomb is said to be below the high altar. Many popes have been buried here since the Early Christian period. A church has been on this site since Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. Construction of the present basilica, which replaced the basilica of the 4th century, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed in 1626. St. Peter’s Basilica is also famous as a magnificent work of art, to which major Renaissance artists, including Michelangelo, Bramante, Raffaello, Sangallo and Giacomo della Porta contributed. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the ample staircase and elliptical square surrounded by columns, which “introduces” the basilica, with the façade by Carlo Maderno.
When St. Benedict, at the age of fourteen (c. 494), retired from the world and lived for three years in a cave above the river Anio, he was supplied with the necessities of life by amonk, St. Roman. From this grotto, St. Benedict developed the concepts and organization of the Benedictine Order. He built twelve monasteries, including one at the grotto, and placed twelve monks in each. In 854 Pope Leo IV is said to have consecrated an altar to Sts. Benedict and Scholastica and another to St. Sylvester. Another renovation took place in 1053 under Abbot Humbert of St. Scholastica. Abbot John V, created cardinal by Pope Gregory VII, made the grotto the terminus of a yearly procession, built a new road, and had the altars re-consecrated.
A chronicle of the abbey from the 13th century dates its founding to the 9th century as a Benedictine monastery with the same name. Initially, a small community with a simple church the buildings were expanded in the mid-11th century by its then-Abbot Giovanni. That it became a sphere of influence for the region at that time is shown by the large number of donations it was receiving and its acquisition of many chapels in the area whose revenues contributed to the maintenance of the abbey. At the start of the 19th century, Italy found itself invaded by the forces of the First French Empire. In the course of the Napoleonic wars, several French soldiers stopped at the abbey on their return from the assault on Naples. They were well received by the prior, Simon Cardon, a fellow Frenchman. Nevertheless, the soldiers proceeded to sack the abbey, including the church, where they broke open the tabernacle and scattered the consecrated hosts on the floor. When Cardon and five of his fellow monks went to recover the hosts, they were shot by the soldiers. Declared martyrs, they were buried within the church itself, as opposed to the abbey graveyard. Soon, though, the abbey, along with most other religious communities, was suppressed by a decree of Napoleon in 1811.
We will conclude our day with supper at Santuccuio Restaurant in Sezze Romano; a rustic restaurant with local regional cuisine. 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor. Meal to include wine, water and coffee. Return to Rome for overnight.
Today after breakfast we will begin our tour of some of the most ancient Christian churches and sites of Rome. We will visit the Church of San Clemente; a church upon a church.
We will also visit Santa Maria in Trastevere . Dating from the 4th century AD, Santa Maria in Trastevere has a long history and dazzling 12th-century mosaics that make it well worth a visit. Located in the popular
Trastevere neighborhood, its atmospheric piazza is enhanced by the mosaics on the façade, especially at night when the church and its tower are illuminated. Before moving to Vatican City we will visit a catacomb of ancient Rome.
The day will culminate with a guided visit of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Supper (included with wine, water and coffee) at a local restaurant.
Today we will have mass in the Duomo, a tour of the city and some free time to enjoy the surroundings of this beautiful location. There are many small trattorrias and wine bars for lunches or snacks. Later in the afternoon we will depart for Rome and check into our hotel. Supper (included with wine, water and coffee) at a local restaurant.
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TRAVEL & TOURS
Day 5 — Departure for Orvieto / Rome
Orvieto. Situated high atop a volcanic “mesa”. We will reach the summit of the city by “funicular”. The Duomo: on November 15, 1290, Pope Nicholas IV laid the cornerstone for the present building and dedicated it to the Assumption of the Virgin, a feast for which the city had a long history of special devotion. The Corporal of Bolsena, on view in the Duomo, dates from a Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena in 1263, when a consecrated host began to bleed onto a corporal. In September of 1261 Thomas Aquinas was called to Orvieto as conventual lector responsible for the pastoral formation of the friars. In Orvieto Thomas completed his Summa contra Gentiles, wrote the Catena Aurea, Pope Urban IV, deeply affected by this miracle, commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the Proper for a Mass and an Office honoring the Holy Eucharist as the Body of Christ. The hymns which St. Thomas wrote included the traditional hymns still widely used in Benediction: the Pange Lingua (with its concluding verses, the Tantum Ergo), the Panis Angelicus, and O Salutaris Hostia. One year after the miracle, in August of 1264, Pope Urban IV introduced Aquinas’ composition and issued a papal bull instituting the feast of Corpus Christi.
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