Thursday, 3 July 2008


One of my fondest memories of seminary was our visit to Rome in March 2007. Rome is a place I've always wanted to visit and when we went there, I felt as if I was home myself.

The thing that I will never forget was our visit to the Scavi. For those who've never been or who do know know what it is, Scavi literally means excavations (sorry if I'm wrong). After Puis XI died, the people of Milan wanted to honor his memory (as he'd been their bishop before his election as Supreme Pontiff); they built a huge marble tomb and sent it to Rome to be fitted underneath St. Peters Basilica. According to George Weigal it was simply too big...

I always find Italians funny people - in Lourdes they won't share lifts with you and in Edinburgh they've all but taken over - so it was no surprise when Weigal mentions that it being to big might have just been a Roman pride issue as the Milanese are apparently quite efficient. Whatever the reason, Pius XII ordered the floor to be lowered to allow for the new tomb... What was found was an entire Roman set of streets and tombs and the remains of St. Peter.

When you walk in the Scavi you feel literally as if you've been transported in time. You walk along what was a Roman Street (Vatican Hill) and you see early tombs and also the graffiti which was everywhere. Modern Rome is full of Graffiti so it's good to know not much has changed in 2000 years. I actually got a telling off from the tour guide as being curious I climbed into one of the excavations (just to have a look you understand). She was quite good about it really, she came up quietly and asked if I understood the significance of where I was... Needless to say my head was held low of a few moments.

What makes the whole thing stunning is that above is St. Peters and you are down walking around the final resting place of St. Peter the Rock. When the excavations were taking place Rome was occupied by the Nazi's, so the archaeologists must have worked there largely in secret. I wonder what they were thinking as they slowly discovered that lost city underneath the Holy Roman Church.

When you exit the Scavi you come into the tombs of the Popes, personally speaking I've never been so moved in my life. You are amongst the men who guided the Church through the good and bad and who were chosen by God to lead his Church. My own favourite is John Paul II's tomb. The steady line of people passing through makes it hard to stay there for any period of time, but I managed to get to the side of the stream of people and kneel for what seemed like a few moments (but was closer to 15 minutes) and pay my respects to the man who helped me come home.


Anonymous said...

Sort of off-topic:

I'm going to Rome this October, and am so excited about it!!

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to going to Rome some day but I have promised myself a fortnight at least rather than the trad (ooops!) "city break".

It didn't "click" for me that you were in seminary....