Beyond the Vatican

IMG_0350Before St. Peter’s Cathedral was built, before Vatican City was a sovereign state, the Popes did Pope things in other places, and one of those places was within five minutes of our flat.

Archbasilica of St. John of Lateran, another one of Rome’s grand cathedrals, is the oldest Papal Basilica in the world. It butts up next to a former Pope’s residence, the Lataran Palace. The twelve niches lining the sides of the sanctuary do not contain the Stations of the Cross, nor frescoes, but more magnificent statues, of the Apostles in various action poses with robes flowing in the wind.

Across the street are the holy stairs, the Scala Sancta which are supposed to have been the steps that Jesus climbed to Pontius Pilate for his trial. I assume that they have been moved here since I’m pretty sure that Jesus and Pontius Pilate were not in Rome. I am curious about such a relic since it is not in the Bible, from what I remember. Obviously many people are not as curious as I since they revere these steps and climb them on their knees, saying a prayer at each step. You can buy a book of prayers to guide you on your way, if you need help with that kind of thing.

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Another curious Pope thing was also in our neighborhood. The gentleman who gave us the keys to the flat told us the story of the woman Pope – Pope Joan. Apparently she disguised herself as a man and carried out her duties (and then some). She was in a parade where the horses were startled, jostling her enough to send her into premature labor. Her jig was up and she met her death, either from complications of her labor, or because she was killed when people discovered her true identity. Truth or myth, there is a small shrine dedicated to her on the spot where she gave birth. It’s not in very good repair, but apparently people still bring flowers on occasion.

Oh, Rome, how many more stories do you have to tell?

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2 thoughts on “Beyond the Vatican

  1. Love reading this post, especially since it’s Sunday. And, I also really like your comment about the fact that the Popes did “Pope things” in other places besides the Vatican.

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