Article and photos by Dr. Edna Rehbein, Ph.D., Texas State RRC Director
Over Spring Break, I traveled to Rome to visit my niece who is studying there at John Cabot University. JCU is a liberal arts university in Rome with students from various countries. My niece, Vickie, is perfecting her Italian and studying Communications there and has had an incredible semester. The weather was perfect – a brisk 50 degrees most of the time. I made a point of actually sitting and observing the crowds, the local artists and musicians, and the incredible fountains and artwork that are found in every direction throughout the city. Piazza Navona is my favorite. It has three incredible fountains.
You cannot help but wonder what life must have been like there in the 1500 and 1600s when the majority of the statues and artwork were created. The statues, fountains, and churches are massive and ornate with incredible attention to every tiny detail carved into the marble.
My favorite statue is Bernini’s St. Teresa in Ecstasy. If you have seen the movie, “Angels and Demons”, you will recognize the statue from the movie.
And just when you finally come to grasps with the contributions and history of that period, it hits you that Rome’s history actually goes back many more centuries and that the Roman Forum and the Coliseum represent another highly advanced era that dates back even earlier in time. There are some gorgeous trees called the “umbrella pines” that grow on the Palatine Hill. They look like they have been pruned so they only have branches at the top, but that is actually how they grow and they tower over all the ruins.
I was especially fortunate to be in Rome at a time when 100 documents from the Pope’s Secret Archives are on exhibit in the Lux in Arcana Exhibit at the Capitolini Museum. The exhibit includes documents from kings, czars, sultans, and other world leaders from several centuries. Included are, the original depositions of over 200 Knights Templar in the 1200s; King Henry VIII of England’s letter requesting the Pope to grant him a divorce; Martin Luther’s excommunication document; letters from Galileo, Bonaparte, St. Bernadette, St. Theresa, and even the Pope’s appeal for the release of prisoners from the concentration camps of WWII. This exhibit was truly incredible. It will be on display through September of this year. No photographs allowed indoors, of course.
Going to Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, hearing the Pope bless the masses in various languages, watching the fervor of the crowds in St. Peter’s Square, seeing the massive Castel Sant’Angelo, and celebrating the “festa della donna” – International Women’s Day – a day when all women are treated special – were all pretty nice as well. But while these sites were incredible, you cannot visit Rome without enjoying its culinary delights and the warm hospitality. We had gracious service wherever we went. The food and gelato were awesome.