Riding the metro into Rome, we took a short walk up the Aventine Hill to see the sights in that area. Our first stop was the Benedictine monastery of Sant' Anselmo. Here's the basilica from the outside.
And here's a mosaic inside the church. The mosaics in San't Anselmo are unique because there are no backgrounds, just the figures.
In the same piazza is the actual country of the Sovreign Military Order of Malta, otherwise known as the Knights of Malta. The Knights fled to Rome after Napoleon conquered Rhodes, and have maintained a presence in this area ever since. Here's one of the gateway decorations with the well-known eight-pointed cross.
And here's the famous view looking through the keyhole of the gate. You can't enter, but it is very popular to take a photograph looking through the keyhole. Due to the bright light, the photo doesn't show that you can see the dome of St. Peter's right at the end of the tree-lined path.
Next we went to the church of Sts. Boniface and Alessius. This church was originally built in the 4th century but has been added on to, restored, renovated, etc...until 1860 when the present version was completed.
Here under the main altar are the relics of Saint Boniface and Saint Alessius. There are also relics of St. Thomas of Canterbury.
There's an interesting story connected with Saint Alessius, which needs to be told to understand this photo. The son of a wealthy Roman patrician, he fled a royal wedding to live a life as a hermit in the East. He lived there for many years but finally returned to his father's house a poor beggar and hermit. His own former slaves, not recognizing him, gave him alms and offered him the small closet under his staircase to sleep. Saint. Alessius remained a hermit in this closet, unknown to his family until after his death. This photo shows the staircase he lived under, enclosed in a glass case above an altar dedicated to him.
Next we went to the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, where the skull of Saint Valentine is.
Here's a shot of the interior of the church, which as you can see, is very old. It hasn't been restored much since the 9th century.
In the gift shop was this 8th century mosaic. It's thought to have been brought back from the East by those fleeing the iconoclastic persecutions.
In the piazza of the same church is the famous Bocca della Verita. This was an ancient drain cover, and legend has it that if you tell a lie while putting your hand in its mouth it will bite it off. Augustin solved that problem by putting his hand in its nose :D.
Across the street on the Aventine Hill is the ancient Temple of Hercules, one of the best preserved Roman temples. It dates back to the 2nd century BC, and owes its state of near-perfect preservation to the fact that it was converted to a church. Like the Pantheon, those ancient Roman buildings that were either converted into churches or maintained by the Church (such as the Aurelian Wall) are the ones that have been best preserved.
Directly across the street is the arch of Janus. This massive barrel vaulted arch is four-sided and was a major crossroads leading out of Rome.
On our way back through Rome we passed through the Roman Forum, where a new dig was being conducted.
We arrived back home in time to make a delicious dinner of pork chops, grilled pineapple, and a spicy pineapple salsa.