Friday, April 27, 2007


Oh mom is happy about this one. She found limes in the grocery store! Soooo out comes the blender, over comes the neighbor lady, and mom made margaritas.

Cutting up the limes.

And enjoying the finished product on the patio.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Trip to Genazzano

Yesterday we met our friend Pietro and two seminarians for a trip to the town of Genazzano. I woke up that morning not knowing where we were going, so it was a big surprise to hear where we were going. Before I procede with the story, here is a picture of the town of Genazzano, about 1 1/2 hours outside of Rome.
Now for why Genazzano is so special. There is a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary there, in a beautiful church. To be brief, I am copying down excerpts from the University of Dayton's website that explain how the picture came to be at the church. Here is the story, in italics.
The image as it is known in the West is traced to the year 1467 to Genazzano, Italy, a small town ca. thirty miles southeast of Rome. It is presently located in a side chapel, built between 1621 and 1629, in the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, whence the image derives its name. Measuring approximately 15-1/2 inches by 17-1/2 inches, the painting is a fresco executed on a thin layer of plaster or porcelain not much thicker than paper. One writer describes it as a fresco painted on a material resembling egg shell. It appears suspended in mid-air in its frame, with approximately an inch of space between it and the wall behind it.
There are two strands to the story of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Most sources refer to the ancient intertwined holy legends of an Albanian image, Our Lady of Shkodra (Good Counsel) and the Italian image in Genazzano. The Albanian Catholic Bulletin Vol. 9, 1988, pp. 12-14 gives the following brief account.
The story of our Lady of Shkodra (Good Counsel) is in part the story of Albanian Catholicism....O Nane, Zoje e Shkodres, Lutu per Shiqipni (O Mother, Our Lady of Shkodra - pray for Albania) was prayed to in Albania's darkest times of foreign occupation and religious persecution.

The holy legend of the ancient icon...was told from generation to generation and even recorded by Church commissions. Albanians nourished a particular devotion and love for the Virgin Mary, Zoja e Bekueme (The Blessed Lady). Numerous churches and chapels were erected in her honor throughout the nation. Shrines of Mary were placed on the mountain slopes and lowland crossroads. These were decorated with flowers and tree greens as a sign of homage and devotion.

One of those churches dedicated to Zoja e Bekueme lies beneath the old Illyrian fortress of Shkodra. This church was a center of special devotion because of its beautiful painting of Our Lady. The icon hung on the wall over the main altar. Because of the "motherly expression and uplifting sweetness in her gaze," the Zoja e Bekueme was regarded by Albanians as "an angel come to life." The fame of this painting and stories of protection received by numerous petitioners drew large crowds to the church.

Particularly at the time when the Ottoman Turks were advancing in the 15th century, the church of Zoja e Bekueme became a source of consolation and encouragement. Her patronage was urgently sought following the death of the Albanian warrior Gjergi Kastrioti (Skanderbeg), in 1405. Skanderbeg had often prayed before the painting, seeking advice and strength for his army. Nonetheless, the Turks quickly conquered Albania. The last stronghold of Albanian resistance was Shkodra.

The story continues: "One day during the siege of Shkodra two escaping Albanians stopped at the Church to pray to Zoja e Bekueme for their safe journey. While praying fervently, they suddenly noticed the painting moving away from the wall.... The two Albanians, Gjorgji and De Sclavis," followed the painting, as if it were a bright star, all the way to Rome, where the image disappeared. They heard rumors that a miraculous image had appeared in Genazzano. They ran to the nearby town and there discovered the painting of their beloved Zoja e Bekueme." The two "settled down and made Genazzano their home."
It is here that the second strand of the story begins.

When Pope Sixtus III (432-440) called for help in renovating Saint Mary Major, the people of Genazzano contributed generously. Property was given to the town area that had contributed the most. Eventually a church was built with the title Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Augustinians were entrusted with the church in 1356. Joan Carroll Cruz writes:
With the passage of time the church became decrepit and ill-kempt. During the year of the miracle, 1467, a local widow named Petruccia de Geneo felt herself called to spend her meager funds on needed repairs. Her friends and neighbors thought her plan presumptuous and declined to support her praiseworthy endeavor. After the widow had spent all her money on repairs, work had to be halted due to the increased cost of both materials and labor. When the people saw this, they scoffed and ridiculed her, laughingly calling the unfinished work "Petruccia's Folly." Her efforts were nevertheless rewarded in a marvelous manner.
On St. Mark's Day, April 25, 1467, the entire population of the city was participating in the yearly festival in honor of the day's patron. At about 4 o'clock in the afternoon the merrymakers began to hear the strains of exquisite music. Then, while they silently gazed at the sky for the source of the singing, they saw, in an otherwise clear sky, a mysterious cloud that descended until it obliterated an unfinished wall of the church. Before the thousands of awe-struck revelers, the cloud parted and dissipated, revealing a portrait of Our Lady and the Christ Child. This was resting on the top of the unfinished wall that was only a few feet high. The church bells of the city rang of their own accord, attracting people from outlying areas who hurried to investigate the untimely ringing.
All of Italy came to visit the blessed image; cities and towns came in pilgrimage. Many wonders occurred, many favors were granted... The very beautiful image of Mary appeared on the wall without human intervention.
So great was the number of healings that a notary was appointed to make a register of the more important cases. This record, which is still preserved, notes that from April 27 until August 14, 1467, 171 miracles occurred.

In a thorough, detailed study, Joao S. Cla Dias writes, "...the fresco has unexplainably remained suspended in the air close to the wall of the chapel in the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel for over five hundred years." Cla Dias' work contains several documents about the miraculous character of the image itself, including the amazing fact that the painting is not mounted or attached at the back. There are also indications that the image appears to bear different expressions according to particular situations.

There is a vast registry of miraculous happenings related to the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel and to its copies. Conversions, healings, and specially requested graces are among the numerous accounts of extraordinary occurances related in connection with the image.

With that said, here is the facade of the church.

And here is the interior. The marble and gold decorations were amazing.
And here is the miraculous painting, on a side altar of the church.
Here is a closer picture of the painting. if you notice, the brown area above the painting is the wall behind the panting. You can't see it too good in the picture, but even once you looked down on the panting you could see the gap between the painting and the wall. It truly is suspended in midair.
Here is the church bell that rang on its own when the image came to the church.

After we left the church we stopped outside for the parade celebrating the anniversary of the liberation of Rome by the Americans at the end of World War II.
We went back into the church for a few more minutes, and I took this shot of the arches and the ceiling.

Once when there were enemy troops in the city, a soldier outside was gambling and lost all his money. He began cursing God and ran inside the church. Seeing a large painting of Christ crucified he began hacking at it with his sword. He was immediately killed, and his sword was twisted by an unseen force. The sword was preserved, and years later a blacksmith straightened it. Immediately after he was done, the sword twisted back into its previous shape. It has remained like that, and is inside the church next to the painting the soldier damaged.
We went back outside and got some fried goodies from a street vendor. They had grape leaves with mozzarella cheese inside, fried cauliflower, fried potatoes, and the equivalent of elephant ears.
Genazzano is a medieval town, so we walked across the street to the castle which has been restored. Here is a shot of mom standing on causeway between the town and the castle with the hills in the background.
This is a picture of the castle crennelations.
And here is a shot of everyone on one of the balconies inside the castle.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Basilica of St Paul outside the walls.

On Tuesday we went into Rome again to visit the basilica of St. Paul outside the walls. This magnificent church was begun in 386 but not finished until much later. This is a shot of the facade of the church with beautiful mosaics on the tympanum.

This is a picture of the beautiful Corinthian columns that line the side of the church. The columns enclose a beautiful garden that you pass through before you get to the entrance of the church.

A detailed shot of the mosaics, and the massive statue of St. Paul in the center of the garden.

Anthony and Jozef standing in the garden.

There is another massive statue of St. Paul in the portico.

Anthony and Jozef near the massive granite columns near the entrance to the church.

This is the interior of the church. Note the amazing coffered ceiling and the arch in the background. The mosaics on the arch date to the 13th century.
This is the site where it is believed St. Paul is buried. On December 6, 2006 archaelogists discovered a sarcophagus that they believe contains his relics, due to a marble placque bearing the words "Paul - Apostle and Martyr". However they are still deciding on how to exhume and open the sarcophagus.

This is a shot of the ceiling of one of the side chapels.

The baldacchino is a masive Gothic masterpiece built in 1285. The columns that support it are porphyry

This is a close-up of the mosaics on the triumphal arch. They are done in the Byzantine style, created by Venetian artists in 1220. Christ is flanked by the apostles Peter, Paul, Andrew and Luke.

This is one of two altars made of malachite and lapiz lazuli, both gifts of Tsar Nicholas I.

An interesting feature of this church is the windows which are not glass, but very thinly cut pieces of agate.

Another night in Rome

It was Jozef's and Madeline's last night in Rome on Monday so we went into Rome for the last time and got some gelato. We found a great new place called "Gelato C" where the "C" stands for cento or "hundred". Meaning that they have 100 different flavors in the shop, all hand made. It was some of the best we've eaten, and dirt cheap too. They did have some unusual flavors though, such as these two below. Anyone care for tomato ice cream? Mortadella and Pistacchio?

However they also had the GOOD flavors such as these. This is just their chocolate section. Mmmmm! The cioccolato intentissimo had the consistency of brownie dough.

Some of the good flavors we tried were Limoncello (Andrew), Chestnut and Rosemary (Madeline), and Baccio (Anthony). You guys will definitely have to come get some. 5 scoops for 2.50!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Night in Trastevere

The first guests at the Gran' Hotel De Piante have arrived. Jozef got evicted from his room for not paying his rent, (well actually, the semester is over so he had to leave, but saying he didn't pay his rent makes for a better storyline) and his sister Madeline flew into Rome for a couple of days before they go to Spain for a few weeks. So anyways, Jozef, Madeline, Alex and I decided to go into Rome Sunday afternoon/evening to see the sights at night. Unfortunately many of the churches and museums were closed or closing just as we were getting into the city, but we did find several other interesting things to see/do.

Here we are getting onto the bus.

We stopped by our favorite restaurant in town, "Le Fate" to see Massimo the owner, and his sons Andrea and Fabrizio. Here is a picture of us with Andrea.

Then we walked around Trastevere at night, seeing a couple street performers and checking out some booths.

Alex and Madeline got an ice cream, although I can't figure out how Jozef ended up paying for it. (I'm sure Jozef can't either.)

Then we stopped in a bar for drinks. Here's Jozef and Madeline. I can't figure out why the picture's rotated though. I rotated it before I uploaded it. Hmmm......I guess just turn your computer sidewise (or your head).

Couldn't resist taking a picture of this scooter with two Confederate flag stickers on it. Yipeeeees!

And this is a picture of us on our way home, the SECOND to last train out of the station hehehee.

Friday, April 20, 2007

One thing after another

Yesterday we went on another trip into Rome. We had originally intended to visit just the Trevi fountain, eat some gelato and see the church of the Gesu', but one thing led to another, and we passed many interesting things on our way that we had to stop in and see. So here is a photo-journal of everything we did yesterday.

We did start off by seeing the Trevi fountain in the morning. The Trevi fountain is the end of a 14-mile aqueduct that provided water to ancient Rome. The statues include Neptune riding a sea-shell chariot pulled by two horses, one symbolizing the calm sea, the other the tempestuous sea.

Philomena and Augustin each threw a coin into the fountain. Approximately 3,000 euros are thrown each day into the fountain. They are collected every day except Sunday and used to fund a supermarket for Rome's poor. An interesting piece of trivia....there is a man who makes it his practice to appear on Sunday and clean out the fountain of coins as best he can without draining it. The city recently attempted to put an end to this, but he defended his case in court, and because the fountain is public property, he was found not-guilty. The reasoning was that he was doing nothing different than a person who picks a coin up off the street. In any case, he made 156,000 euros last year.
This is a detail of the fountain with mom sitting in front of it.
Right behind the fountain is the church of Sts. Vincent and Anastasia. We had to duck in, and are we glad we did! Look at this beautiful interior.
A detail of the ceiling.
We left the church and passed by a streetside artist painting pictures.

We found out that the forum was free to visitors, so we decided to go. However near the entrance to the prison we saw the Mamertine Prison where St. Peter, St. Paul, various popes, and Vercingetorix the Gaulish chieftain were imprisoned. This is the interior of the Mamertine. To the left is the column that St. Peter was chained to. To the right is a small altar, with the cross upside down because St. Peter was crucified upside down. The relief in the back shows St. Peter baptizing his fellow prisoners.
The cell is very small, very damp, and not very high.
This is a small spring in the prison, that appeared after St. Peter prayed for a source of water to baptize his fellow prisoners.
Anthony and Alex show the height of the prison's ceiling.
After we left the Mamertine, we emerged into the sunlight and came to the Imperial Forums. The Imperial Forums contain a series of fora and temples that were constructed by various emperors from 46 BC to 113 AD. This is a picture of Anthony near the arch of Septimus Severus. On the relief, you can see a series of sculptures showing Septimus Severus' victories against the Parthians.

This is the underside of the arch showing the detailed carving.
This is a view of some shops and a temple.
I'm not sure what this part of a pillar is, but it had some legible words on it, including the name "Constantius".
It is amazing that you can do as Philomena is doing and sit on a piece of column nearly 2000 years old.
This is a shot of the temple of Saturn. This temple also functioned as the empire's treasury and was where all the gold and silver of the Roman empire was stored.

We got a call from Jozef and agreed to meet him at Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill. This is a statue of the Madonna and Child in the portico of the church.
The interior of the church showing the coffered wood ceiling.
One of the side altars, with a beautiful fresco of various Dominican saints.
The dome in the side altar.
The Aventine hill features a public park and a beautiful overlook that you can get a great view of the city from.