Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Scala Sancta and Scavi Tour...
Two more highlights of the Rome+Vatican leg of the Euro trip - a somewhat private tour of the Vatican Necropolis and the grave of St. Peter and ascending the marble stairs believed to have been walked on by Jesus Christ on his way to Pontius Pilate.
The Scala Sancta and Sancta Sanctorum. Across the basilica of St. John the Lateran is a nondescript building that houses the Scala Sancta or Pilates Stairs. It is believed that the Scala Sancta is the actual staircase Jesus Christ ascended on his way to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate for his trial. The stairs were taken to Rome in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine's mother St. Helena. The marble stairs have been encased in protective wood and may only be ascended on one's knees. At the top of the stairs is the Sancta Sanctorum, the personal chapel of the early Popes. Ascending 28 steps on one's knees sounds easy but as I soon found out, it wasn't. As a Catholic and a Christian pilgrim, being blessed with the experience to climb the stairs was a tiny way of honoring the Passion of Jesus Christ. It was a deeply profound and spiritual experience. It also doesn't hurt that a plenary indulgence is granted to those who ascend the stairs on their knees (or so I've read).
St. Peter's Tomb and the Vatican Necropolis. I read about the Scavi Tour while doing research for the trip. Organized by the Vatican Excavations Office, the Scavi Tour is a rare opportunity to visit the Vatican necropolis and St. Peter's burial place. (Only 250 people are allowed into the Necropolis per day!) If there's a lesson to be learned, it's persistence. I wrote to the Excavations Office on 21 March and 22 March to register for the tour. As expected, all slots were taken. I decided to write again a few days before our trip. To my immense surprise, I received an email saying that we have been registered for the tour! Persistence and a lot of prayer. Haha! There were about 10-12 of us in the group. We were led by one of the curators of the Excavations office. It was an exciting tour because it felt like being in a National Geographic documentary or the movie Da Vinci Code. In some chambers, the mosaic tiles decorations are still intact. It is really amazing when one realizes how old the structure is. No photography allowed though.
Good thing I threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Hopefully, I'll be back in Rome one day and I'll get to visit the last of the four papal basilicas and complete my papal basilica pilgrimage.