Monday, December 29, 2008

Nativity Scenes

Here are a sampling of nativity scenes (precepi) that I have seen during the Christmas season.

 A Madonna and Child surrounded by Angels on the corner of a building across from the Emergency Entrance of Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital on the Janiculum Hill.
The precepio in Richard Meier's Jubilee Church.

The precipio in Piazza San Pietro.

A fashionable precepio in Bologna.

The Holy Family in a skip loader bucket
on scaffolding above the Lungotevere.

Bread Machine

Babbo Natale brought Vincenzo a bread machine for the first day of Christmas. Here is his first loaf on the table for breakfast on the feast of St. Stephen, the second day of Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

I found this presepio in Bologna two weeks ago. It is part of an international collection of Nativity scenes assembled by the Augustinian friars at the Oratorio of Santa Cecelia.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 24

Door in a presepio by Mario Ceroli, "La Sacra Famiglia,"
on display in Piazza de Spagna.
I have enjoyed sharing Roman doors with you
during this Advent season. 
Have a Blessed Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 23

Door at Via del Teatro di Marcello, No. 40. This door is on the right side of the road that goes downhill from the Capitoline Hill to the Theater of Marcellus. (The road continues into the area of the Forum Boarium, and ancient cattle market of Rome.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

The hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel (in Latin, Veni Emmanuel) is a lyrical paraphrase of these antiphons.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 22

Door in Piazza Sant' Egidio. This piazza in the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere has not changed much in appearance since the 17th century and has been part of the "beaten track" since ancient times when it was on the ancient consular road known as the Aurelia Vetus, leading travelers and troops to the sea. At the center of the piazza is the small church dedicated to Sant' Egidio which has become the center of the Comunità di S. Egidio. The police car stationed permanently in the square is to there protect the Community from threats received several years ago when it was involved in peace negotiations in Mozambique and Africa and in the Middle East. 

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

"For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
"He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." Isaiah 2:4

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 21

The front doors to the Church of Santo Volto di Gesù. This 21st century church was built in 2006 for the Parish of the Holy Face of Jesus. It was designed by architects Piero Sartogo and Nathalie Grenon.
O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined." Isaiah 9:2

The Benedictine  monks had a purpose in the way they ordered the "O Antiphons." The first letter of the Latin title of each one when  taken backwards (Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia) form a Latin acrostic of "Ero Cras" which translates to "Tomorrow, I will come."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 20

Door to Casa di Santa Brigida. This house on the Piazza Farnese was rebuilt several times and is where the Swedish mystic St. Bridget and her daughter St. Catherine lived during the 1300s. It is next door to the Swedish National Church, and is today a guest house and convent for the sisters of the Order of the Most Holy Savior (the Bridgettines) founded by St. Bridget.

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

"I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open." Isaiah 22:22
"His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore." Isaiah 9:7

Professor Berger (see yesterday's posting) also writes of the monastic cellarer who unlocked the best wine for his treat as he called: 'O Key of David, come, and come quickly.' 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 19

Side door to the Basilica of San Clemente. At first glance, this basilica appears to be 18th century baroque. However, it has a very deep history. It is actually a construction of four levels spanning 22 centuries. The fourth, or lowest level, contains the unexcavated remains of houses burned during Nero’s fire in the 1st century BC. The third level was partially occupied by a large house known as a Christian refuge in the 1st century AD and later. (Next to the house on this level is also the remains of a Mithric temple.) The next level is the 4th century basilica, called St. Clement, that was built over the house after Constantine made Christianity legal. The church in use today is the top level and was built in the 11th century. This “newer” structure has been a place of worship for 900 years. Those 900 years have seen many embellishments that result in what you see today at the Basilica of San Clemente. (Last year during Lent, I posted some other pictures of the basilica. Click here.)

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

"A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Isaiah 11:1
"On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious." Isaiah 11:10

Florence Berger, professor emiteria at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, writes of one monastic community where on December 19th the gardener gave the community some of his finest dried or preserved fruits when he called on Christ: 'O Root of Jesse, come and deliver us and delay no longer.'

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 18

Door of the Quirinale Palace, home to the President of Italy. It was built between the 16th and 18th centuries as a summer residence for the popes, and was occupied after 1870 by Italian kings. In 1946 the Palace became the official residence and workplace for the Presidents of the Italian Republic. Many architects have participated in the construction of the palace. The portal was designed by Carlo Maderno, and above it is a window and balcony by Bernin, once used for papal blessings. In the piazza in front of the palace is a huge Graeco-Roman statuary group of two muscular horse tamers.

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

"[...] but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins." Isaiah 11:4-5
"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us." Isaiah 33:22

At Saint Benedict Abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire), the "O Antiphons" were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 17

Front door of the Church of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita. This is where my faith community gathers each Sunday morning (except August) for Eucharist. Caravita welcomes pilgrims from all faiths and all walks of life and on any Sunday, you can find an eclectic, international group of English–speaking people from the far corners of the world.

Caravita was built between 1618 and 1633 as an oratory for the Jesuit Colegio Romano. and was completely rebuilt, between 1670 and 1677, by Giovanni Antonio de’ Rossi.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart preformed at Caravita in 1770 when he was a teenager. During the 17th and 18th centuries the church served as a center for lay ministry with particular attention to caring for the sick, the homeless and the imprisoned. Today, that tradition continues with the Jesuit Centro Astalli whose offices are located on the lower level of this church - a center of welcome and assistance for refugees and immigrants.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

"The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord." Isaiah 11:2-3
"[...] he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom." Isaiah 28:29

The "O Antiphons" are antiphons used at vespers in the evenings of the last days of Advent. The origin is unknown, but by the 8th century they were in use in Rome. For the final days of Advent, this calendar will include the "O Antiphon" appointed for the day. The Latin text is from the Breviarium Romanum and the English text is from the Church of England's Common Worship. Biblical quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 16

Door of the Villa Medici, now the French Academy. The Villa was built in 1564 above what is now the Spanish Steps. The French Academy was established in a different building in Rome in the 17th century by the “Sun King” Louis XVI and moved by Napoleon when he occupied Rome, after buying the villa from Florence’s Medici family.

Come unto Him, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. - His yoke is easy and His burthen is light.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Alto Air and Chorus

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 15

Door inside the Porta del Popolo. Usually when one enters this gate, one is swept away by the Piazza del Popolo, with the second oldest obelisk in Rome (taken from the Circus Maximus) and twin churches at the far end. To the left of the gate is the Augustinian parish of Santa Maria del Popolo, with the wonderful paintings of St. Paul’s Conversion and St. Peter’s Martyrdom by Carravigio. The marker above this little door identifies the district as the ancient Roman neighborhood of the Field of Mars.

In context, this door is dwarfed by the large gates of the Aurelian Wall that open to the piazza from the Via Flaminia, the ancient road to Northern Italy.

He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Alto Air

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 14

Door on Piazza di Spagna. This is the entrance door to the apartment building where the English poet John Keats died, four months after his 25th birthday, in February of 1821. Keats had moved to Italy from London for a better climate because he was suffering from tuberculosis. The window of his room overlooked the Spanish Steps. Today the apartment is a museum dedicated to Keats and Shelly. Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelly, who died in 1822, were among the many Romantic English and American poets, writers and painters who lived in the area.

Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Alto Recitative

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 13

Bronze doors of a 4th century AD temple in the Roman Forum. Medieval sources and the current sign says it is dedicated to Romulus, the son of Maxentius. Recent evidence seems to indicate that it was originally a Temple of Jupiter and rededicated by Maxentius to his son who had died young. The building was eventually converted back by Constantine into a temple for the cult of Jupiter and the Penates, the Roman household gods.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, thy King cometh unto thee! He is the righteous Saviour, and He shall speak peace unto the heathen. 
From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Soprano Air

Friday, December 12, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 12

Door on Via Caio Cestio, No. 13.  Across the street at No. 6 is the entrance to the Non-Catholic Cemetery, often called the Protestant Cemetery or English Cemetery. Among those buried in the cemetery are John Keats, the poet Shelly, Goethe's illegitimate son August, American architect William Rutherford Meade (of McKim, Meade & White) and Richard Henry Dana, the author of Two Years Before the Mast.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: - Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill towards men.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Soprano Recitative and Chorus

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 11

An unrestored door of Palazzo Barbarini. The Barbarini family was one of the great families who built Rome. The palazzo was commisioned in 1623 by Maffeo Bararini who was Pope Urban VIII. Carlo Moderno was the original architect, but because of his death in 1628, the project was completed by Borromini, with Bernini designing the facade.

There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. - And lo! the angel of the Lord cam upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. - And the angel said unto the, Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Soprano Recitatives

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 10

Open door below the Torre della Scimmia (Tower of the Monkey) on the corner of Via della Scrofa and Via dei Portoghese. There is a medieval story that a pet monkey of the Frangipani family escaped out of the window one day with the family’s newborn baby under its arms. The father prayed to the Virgin Mary, promising that he would place a lamp at the top of the tower that would forever burn in her honor if the baby was returned to the family unharmed. The monkey brought back the baby and for centuries an oil lamp burned on top of the tower. Today the lamp is an electric light bulb. (In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1860 novel The Marble Faun, the heroin stays on the top floor of the tower and is responsible for maintaining the light.)

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 9

The Byzantine doors of the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura.  The doors were donated by the Consul Pantaleone di Amalfi and produced in Constantinople by an artist named Theodoro in 1070. They were the main doors to the basilica before the fire of 1823. This fire almost completely destroyed the basilica and caused great damage to the doors. The reconstructed basilica was given a larger central door and in 1966, when the Restoration Laboratories of the Vatican Museum finally repaired the damage, the Byzantien doors were placed in the Holy Door opening facing inward to keep them from being exposed to the elements. They were further restored in 1999 by Sergio Angelucci, in preparation for the Jubilee of 2000. There are 54 panels on the doors, depicting Old and New Testament scenes as well as the martyrdom of the the apostles.

Detail of one of the panels

For Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall rise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee, and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. - The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
From Handel's Messian: Part I
Bass Recitative and Air

Monday, December 8, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 8

The front door to Ambrit Rome International School. The school where I teach has been in the facilities of the Vigna Pia since 1994. The 42-acre property was originally an agricultural training center established by Pope Pius IX in 1847. During the Italian revolution it was occupied by French troops. In 1859 Pius IX opened the facility as a residential school for young people released from prison. From 1916-1918 the Vigna Pia was operated as an Italian Military Hospital. In 1921 Pope Benedict XV gave the property to the Congregation of the Holy Family of Bergamo who continue to this day to use the Vigna Pia for youth work and parochial activity.

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain: O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold you God! Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
From Handel's Messian: Part I
Alto Air and Chorus

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 7

Door of the church of San Marcello on Via del Corso. This door is set in the late 17th century concave facade designed by Carlo Fontana. The original church on this spot was built in the 4th century to honor Pope Marcellus I, who was sentenced to forced labor by the Emperor Maxentius. This was the site of the ancient Roman post office, and Marcellus was presumable working here as a slave. Construction of the present building began after a fire destroyed the original structure in the 16th century.

Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Alto Recitative

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 6

Door in the Jewish Ghetto on the Via Portico di Ottavia. The Ghetto was established in 1556 as a walled enclosure where all unconverted Jews had to live, and stay from sunset to sunrise. In 1864 the walls were torn down but Jews were still forced to live there. In 1870 the new Italian state abolished all restrictions for Jews.

And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I

Friday, December 5, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 5

Door of Palazzo Sciarra on Via del Corso. This palazzo was built in the 16th and 17th centuries for the Sciarra branch of the Colona family. It was designed by Flaminio Ponzio.

But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner's fire.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Bass Air

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 4

Door to the Villa of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. This villa on the Aventine Hill was designed by Piranese in the 18th century. The Order of Malta was founded in 1113 as the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem or Knights Hospitallers, to protect and care for pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Looking through the keyhole of the door you see this view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

Thus saith the Lord of Hosts:-Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; and
I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come.

From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Bass Recitative

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 3

Door to the Collegio Romano. This school was built by the Jesuits in the late 16th Century. This was the first of hundreds of Jesuit schools and universities around the world, including Loyola Marymount, my alma mater, Fordham University in New York City, and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. When the Italian state annexed Rome in 1870, it took over the school. It is now a city high school.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together;for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 2

Bronze Doors of the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano. These 3rd Century AD doors were installed in this basilica during the mid-17th Century renovations carried out by Francesco Borromini. He took them from the ancient Senate Building (called the Curia) in the Roman Forum. There are now copies of these doors on the Senate Building.

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight and the rough places plain.
From Handel's Messiah: Part I
Tenor Air

Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent Calendar: Roman Door 1

Last year I enjoyed posting a daily Advent Calendar of Roman windows. This year I will continue with an Advent Calendar of Roman doors. I remember enjoying Advent Calendars as a child and I shared them over the years with my own kids, Emily and Peter. Each day in December we looked forward to opening a little door and revealing a picture, and sometimes a verse, relating to Christmas. I hope you will enjoy these doors of Rome. 

This is the door to our apartment building on Piazza Oderico da Pordenone. Vincenzo is bringing in a fig tree for our balcony. Soon we will be bringing in a Christmas Tree!

Prepare ye the way of the Lord: make straight in the desert a
highway for our God.

From Handel's Messiah: Part I

Lunedì Letterario

(Pallas Guide)
By Mauro Lucentini
(and his wife Paola, and sons Eric and Jack)

This 700+ page guide, originally published in German and Italian, has replaced Georgina Masson's Companion Guide to Rome as my "Birdwalking Bible." Lucentini has organized the book (and the exploration of Rome) into a series of eleven "themed" walks, with numerous detours, as well as information about over a dozen places outside the walls. Each walk has two sections: one to read at home before you go, and the other to read on the spot. This allows the reader to absorb background information before going to visit someplace, and then to be presented with the relevant facts about each site on the spot without being overwhelmed with information that would be needed to explain it thoroughly.

During December I am using this book as my primary resource for obtaining information about the doors of Rome that I am sharing on this year's Advent Calendar.