Wednesday morning and Mass was offered in Rome’s only Gothic masterpiece- Santa Maria Sopra Minerva; titular church of Cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Connor. It is one of my favourite churches in Rome. Beneath the main altar lies St. Catherine of Sienna and the artist Fra Angelico is also buried here. We celebrated the holy mysteries in the chapel close to his tomb and were joined by a number of nuns. It was then time to hot foot it to the train station for our day’s excursion out of the city centre…
Only this being a pilgrimage failed at every turn by public transport the train had been cancelled. There were a few groans at this point but there was nothing for it but to wait in the coffee shop of the train station and wait for another. As you can see the time was productively spent gossiping by the clergy. Once the next train arrived we hopped on it and travelled out to the hills, our destination being the Palazzola; summer residence of the English College in Rome.
The Palazzola is beautiful. A 13th Century former cistercian monastery which now serves the English College in Rome, as well as the guests who stay there and the functions that take place throughout the year. Built around the site of an old volcanic explosion the views are nothing short of breathtaking. The Palazzola staff had prepared a most delicious meal for us and we enjoyed relaxing in the gardens before Evening Prayer and the journey back to Rome.
On Thursday morning we enjoyed a more leisurely breakfast with free time offered to pilgrims to explore the city. I took a handful to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona with time factored in for a visit to a clerical outfitters. We then walked to the English College in Rome for a lunchtime Mass in the beautifully restored church. This was followed by a tour of the gallery which honours the martyrs of England and Wales; the gruesome images a stark reminder of the horrors inflicted on Catholics in England at the time of the reformation. We pondered how similar were the tactics of the barbarians then- destroying sacred images and bullying by the point of the sword- to the accounts of ISIS in our day.
A late lunch was then taken in the city before the pilgrims met up again. This time close to the forum and Colloseum- the truly ancient basilica of Ss. Cosmas and Damian the setting for Evening Prayer. Alas a few pilgrims fell behind the Leviseur march and were lost. So the start was somewhat delayed! But we did eventually get to enjoy this most stunning of sacred spaces. After which beer was absolutely necessary before the walk back to the hotel.
Not that Father Nicholas or myself returned to Trastavere. We had an appointment with Francis, a seminarian from the English College who worked hard prior to our arrival booking the services and smoothing our plans. His reward was supper at a restaurant close to the college. Every night was party night in Rome – the picture below having been taken the evening before. Tomorrow I will conclude the review with tales of our final day and a reflection of what we took home…