NOT Kid-Friendly

Every so often, we get an email like this one: “Hi! We’re looking for a kid-friendly tour of Vat Mus 1the Vatican Museums!”

Let us translate this email for you: “Hi! We’re coming to Rome with kids and we haven’t thought for a nano-second about what they’re actually going to do and see there!” Continue reading


Moses and the Sistine Chapel

When visitors enter the Sistine Chapel, they naturally focus on Michelangelo’s ceiling, and with good reason. But that means the fabulous frescos on the side walls tend to get ignored. Botticelli Trials of Moses Continue reading

Ancient Heritage, Modern-day Violence

In the 1800’s, an Italian scholar amassed quite an impressive collection of antiquities, not only from Rome but from other ancient civilizations farther east. He probably never IMG_4973imagined in a million years that in a century to come, extremists would destroy many of the artifacts he didn’t manage to bring to Rome–and brutally murder at least one eminent archaeologist who vainly tried to protect and preserve them. Continue reading

A Very Different “Prince of Peace”

When Christians hear the term “Prince of Peace,” we naturally think of Christ. That’s because Christianity interprets Isaiah 9:6 as applying to Jesus directly:

His name will be called wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Interestingly, however, the man who was Emperor of Rome at the time of Jesus’ birth IMG_5110was also styled the “Prince of Peace” by his pagan subjects. Continue reading

An “Oratorio” in the Original Sense of the Word…

Classical-music lovers are all familiar with the oratorio, a musical presentation that is partly a concert, and partly an operatic performance. Few people realize, however, that this genre had its origins here in Rome, among the Priests of the Oratory (a.k.a. Oratorians). Their founder, St. Philip Neri, popularized the practice of combining the reading of spiritual texts with musical performances, as a means of evangelizing the St Elizabeth Trinitypeople of Rome in the 1500’s. Continue reading

How Do You Lose a Saint?

It’s hard to find a saint who’s “bigger” than Saint Jerome (347-420). Jerome isn’t merely a Doctor of the Church; he’s considered one of the Four Latin Fathers of the Church as well. (By the way, who are the other three? We can tell you…) Not only was Jerome a fantastic scriptural scholar who wrote prolifically, but he was also a monk who took very seriously the concepts of poverty, chastity, and obedience–and didn’t hesitate to call out those lukewarm monks who didn’t.

Jerome is best known for his Latin translation of the entire Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. Known as the Vulgate, it is still the “official” text of the Bible that the Church uses today. Jerome spent long years working on this project in a cave in Bethlehem, living the ascetic life of a monk. He did his translating on his knees, convinced that any task that involved the Word of God was holy.

St Mary Major Jerome Continue reading

Floating on the Water

In the center of the shopping-district of Rome stands a church that most tourists ignore. Pozzo 2After all, they’re wandering that part of the city because they’re looking for bargains, not because they’re looking for a miracle. But back in the year 1256, that’s exactly what the locals got. Continue reading

Definitely Worth Missing…

As everybody knows, there’s some first-rate art here in Rome. Some is located in the churches for which it was originally created, and the rest is found in the many museums located all over the city. As scholars, we tend to know where the art that’s worth seeing can be found.

That’s why this sign gave us pause.  It hangs in a parish church which in centuries past was established for the peopleIMG_4775 of Florence, which was a different nation at the time. What “works of Michelangelo and Bernini” have they got in there, and why don’t we know about them?  Continue reading

Elizabethan England Meets Rome

When you think about the Elizabethan persecution of Catholics, you don’t tend to think of Rome. But in fact many of the Catholic priests who were martyred during the reigns of Elizabeth and her successor James were educated right here in the Eternal City–and these days a special exhibition includes rarely seen documents and other artifacts from the period. Continue reading

The Marian Month of May

In the very center of Rome, there’s a surprisingly ugly church at the top of an endless flight of stairs.  (Btw there’s actually a back entrance, which doesn’t requiring much of a Aracoeli facadeclimb–and we know exactly where it is.)  Few tourists have any indication that the history of this church goes all the way back to the very beginnings of ancient Rome.  Continue reading

One of the Greatest Popes Ever!

Happy feast-day of Saint Pius V! If you’re not familiar with this great man’s many achievements, you’re in for a surprise. Pius V reigned in the late 1500’s, when the Reformation had already ripped the Church into shreds–and on top of that, he single-handedly saved the Western World from muslim domination. Pretty good for a simple Dominican, wouldn’t you say?

Pius V 2 Continue reading

When I Grow Up…

It’s easy to imagine the proud parents of this adorable little boy–particularly his doting IMG_4974mother, who was convinced for much of her son’s life that he was the gods’ gift to Rome.  As can be seen from the child’s portrait-bust, the wealthy Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and his wife Agrippina had produced a real cherub! But no parents really know how their children are going to turn out, do they?  Continue reading

A Rarity in Rome

A Rarity in Rome

The Impressionists were French painters, not Italians.  That’s why very few of their paintings are here in Rome.  Most of their work is found today in France (surprise!).

A Good-Friday Miracle: “I Can See!”

St. John the Evangelist, who was present at Christ’s Crucifixion between the two thieves, described what happened to Our Lord’s body after His death:

“Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the Longinus Berninicross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.  Continue reading

Holy Week in Rome

Holy Week began with yesterday’s Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.  Complicating things for visitors was the fact that daylight saving’s time began in Italy on the same day–Palm Sunday Vaticanand if they were unaware of that, they arrived an hour late!

Continue reading

Other Tour Guides Say the Most Amazing Things…

There are hundreds of churches in Rome, most of them containing multiple side-chapels.  And in one of those zillions of side-chapels hangs this lovely Crucifixion by S_Pulzone_Crucifixión_Santa_Maria_in_Valicella_RomaScipione Pulzone (1544-1598).

It’s very pretty, but on Rome’s art-circuit it really doesn’t merit a second glance.  After all, when it comes to Italian sacred art, Rome contains the best of the best! Continue reading