Saturday, April 19, 2014

San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome

San Pietro in Vincoli is a fifth century church built to house the chains (vincoli) with which Saint Peter was bound in Jerusalem. The chains were given to Pope Leo I, who compared them to St. Peter's chains from the Mamertine Prison. The two chains miraculously fused together. The church has been rebuilt several times but has the original Doric columns in the nave.

San Pietro in Vincoli


The ceiling fresco is the Miracle of the Chains by Giovanni Battista Parodi in 1705.

Miracle of the Chains fresco

The reliquary with the chains is right under the main altar, where they also set up the most modest nativity scene we saw in any Roman church (our Roman visit was back in early January 2014).

Main altar

Jacob by the chains and the nativity

The nativity

The chains

The church is also known for Michelangelo's Tomb of Pope Julius II. The original plan was for a vast tomb with over 40 statues, but other projects (like St. Peter's Basilica and The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel) got in the way. Michelangelo did sculpt an amazing statue of Moses as part of the tomb.

Front view of Tomb of Pope Julius II

Moses looking at you


The statue is famous for the fineness of its working and for the two horns on Moses's head. In Hebrew, the words for "beams of light" and "horns" are very close, and naturally it's easier to sculpt horns than beams of light.

Several other grim but fascinating tombs line the church's interior walls.

Tomb with skeletons

Tomb of Cardinal Aldobrandini

Mosaic of St. Sebastian

More decorations at the back of the church

Friday, April 18, 2014

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is a church founded by St. Helena in AD 320. She was the mother of Emperor Constantine (the first Christian emperor) and had just returned from the Holy Land. While there, she discovered relics from Christ's crucifixion. She built the church in her private palace (which was then on the outskirts of town). It soon became a place of pilgrimage.

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome

The relics include some of the wood from the cross (croce means cross), one of the nails, two thorns from the crown of thorns, and Pontius Pilate's sign declaring Jesus's crime, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." The sign is often abbreviated on crosses and crucifixes as INRI, which are the initials of the Latin version, Iesus Nazarensus, Rex Iudaeorum). Photography is not allowed in the church but they did have this holy card showing the reliquary of the piece of the True Cross.

Reliquary of the fragment of the True Cross

I guess I should have checked the back and found one in English!

One chapel has a photographic, life-size reproduction of the Shroud of Turin on the wall. In the corner is a crucifix showing the wounded body of Christ as He appears on the shroud. At first, we were reluctant to let either Jacob or Lucy see it since it might have been disturbing for them. Jacob asked insistently to see it, so we let him. He was fine. Lucy was not interested and was probably too young (four and a half to Jacob's six years old). Jacob kept chatting about it and how Lucy might have had nightmares if she had seen it.

In the crypt is a statue of St. Helena, which was originally a statue of the Roman goddess Juno. The second artist replaced the head and arms and added a cross to make Constantine's mom.

In the vestibule outside they had a Christmas tree (along with their "no photography" sign).

Christmas tree!

Too bad this sign wasn't in English

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, Rome

For the end of Holy Week, we present some churches from Rome each day, up to and including Easter Sunday!

Sant'Ignazio di Loyola is a 17th century church built to honor the founder of the Jesuit order, St. Ignatius of Loyola. He was a leading figure in the Counter Reformation and the church reflects the exuberance and zeal of Catholicism in that time.

Sant'Ignazio di Loyola, Rome

The interior is full of paintings and sculptures and frescoes. Just walking in is breath-taking.


Ceiling fresco (click to enlarge)

Jesuit preacher

Amazing side altar of the Annunciation

The church was supposed to have a dome but it was never built, so a forced perspective painting achieves the proper effect as visitors enter.

View of the "dome" as you enter

The "dome" from directly below

The main altar has the Baroque exuberance of the 17th century.

Main altar

Frecso above the altar

Several monuments are in the church as well, including a fantastic one to Pope Gregory XV who commissioned the church.

Pope Gregory XV memorial

St. Robert Bellarmine

A large model in a side chapel depicts various church fascades from around the world. Jacob and Lucy were naturally fascinated by this as well as the small nativity in the church (we visited around New Years 2014).

Model of churches

Detail from model

Nativity with magi approaching

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Green Man Cottage, Redmile, England

We wanted to rent a house that was near Leicester and found one in the small town of Redmile, England. The house is the Green Man Cottage, which appealed to us since the description included a playground and a pub nearby.

Green Man Cottage, Redmile

The house is very comfortable and fit the four of us perfectly. We loved the wood stove in the living room even if it wasn't strictly necessary in March.

Living room

Even better was the little care package for new arrivals including plenty of stuff for breakfast: a loaf of bread, some jams, tea, coffee, local porridge, and fresh eggs from the chickens next door (can't get more local than that!).

A delightful surprise!

The house had plenty of Green Men decorating it too, like the fellow looming over the food.

One green man

Another green man (who's really green-colored!)

No one really knows how the tradition of decorating a building (secular or ecclesiastical) with faces surrounded by leaves (if not made from leaves) started, but green men are popular in many different cultures. They seem more dominant here in England. People think the symbolism represents rebirth or fertility or springtime. After a very cloudy, damp, and dark winter I can see the joy in celebrating the coming of springtime.

In the back garden, we were surprised to see a more famous icon of British culture, though we did not see the inhabitant wandering around.


View from the back garden of the house

The nearby church has both a graveyard and a playground next to it. We chose to visit the playground, which may have been Jacob's favorite part of the trip. He liked playing basketball with a hoop his size and climbing the rope ladder not attached to the ground (it looked very difficult). Lucy loved riding the camel. Jacob and Lucy rode the camel at one point and sang the Wise Men song "Riding on a Camel" from their Nativity play last Christmas.

The playground

More of the playground

Jacob's basketball skills in use

Jacob makes the tough ascent

Lucy on a camel

Sadly, the local pub was closed. Fitting in with the nativity theme, there was no room at the inn!

The Peacock Inn, ready for new management

No rooms at the Inn!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Random Bits of Leicester, England

Here's some more of Leicester!

The car park where King Richard III's bones were found is undergoing massive renovations (as is quite a bit of the surrounding area). We visited in March 2014 and the place will probably be a lot more impressive in a year or two (perhaps right now if you are reading long after I write it).

Richard III's burial ground

We wandered around to see other sites. In the pedestrianized downtown area is the clock tower, providing vital information and a fun spot to rendezvous if people get separated.

Clock tower

Over near the castle grounds is St. Mary de Castro, the church where Geoffrey Chaucer got married in 1336. It looked like it wasn't open so we just took a picture from afar.

Trees and scaffolding do not a good picture make

Near the church is the Magazine Gateway, so called because it was the main gunpowder and weapon depot for the town during the English Civil War. Prior to the war, it was known as the Newarke Gate, an entrance into the city from the neighborhood of Newarke. The sign says that Richard III's body was probably carried through this gate after his death on Bosworth Field.

Magazine Gateway

We had lunch in town at a local pub which was rather unremarkable, except for Lucy's enormous hot dog.

Lucy was very gleeful

Plenty of shops line the streets of Leicester, but two in particular caught my eye. The Very Bazaar is just a cool name for a store; Shakespeares Head sounds a bit threatening, as if local Richard III supporters want some payback for centuries of Tudor propaganda passing itself off as great art.

The Very Bazaar

Shakespeares Head--maybe it's just a public toilet he used?