This kneeler can be found in the side aisle of a church right in the center of Rome. Thousands of tourists pop in and have a look at the place every week… but the odds that they appreciate the historical interest that this ordinary church-furnishing has are practically zero.
It’s not that the kneeler itself has any particular artistic value, or is unusual in any structural way. What’s interesting is how it was once put to use, decades ago. The gold plaque on top tells the story:
“The Holy Father John XXIII, ‘The Good Pope,’ when visiting this parochial basilica on January 11, 1961, knelt in devout prayer on this kneeler before the Altar of the Most Blessed Sacrament.”
Pope John XXIII is now Saint John XXIII, which means that a canonized saint once prayed in this very spot. The kneeler is still located in front of the Altar of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and is accessible to anyone–which means that you too can kneel in devout prayer on this very kneeler, if you like! You can follow in the footsteps (knee-steps?) of a Catholic saint.
But since nearly all the tourists who wander into this church are doing so on their own, without a knowledgeable guide to point this out… they invariably walk right by without a glance. Even the few who do take a look at the plaque on this kneeler are generally stumped, since your average tourist doesn’t read Italian!
It’s the small things like this which can make a big difference on your trip to Rome. You can read about them after you get back home, and say “Oh, we were right there and didn’t know about that!” or you can tour Rome with us–and we’ll make sure that you do.