Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roman Parking Ticket

On Saturday, while walking near the Pantheon, I saw a SmartCar being covered with PostIt Notes.

I approached the young man putting the papers on the car to find out what he was doing. His girl friend had a ticket on her car for illegal parking in the historic center. He was trying to soften the shock when she discovers that she has to pay a fine.

What do all of the papers say?
"TI AMO" - "I Love You."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Feast: St. Michael and All Angels

Today is the feast of St. Michael and All Angels.
This 17th century fresco of St. Michael the Archangel is above the sanctuary on the left wall in the Oratory of Saint Francis Xavier del Caravita, close to the Pantheon and the Via del Corso in the center of Rome.

The traditional prayer to St. Michael:
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.Amen.

In honor of this angelic feast, here are some of the Bernini designed angels on the Ponte Sant' Angelo.

Monday, September 21, 2009

SPQR: Santa Maria in Ara Coeli

This crest is displayed to the right of the front door of the church designated as the Church of the Senate and the People of Rome, Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. It is on the Capitoline Hill next to the buildings of the Roman City Government that are around the Campidoglio, the Renaissance piazza designed by Michelangelo.
This is the brick facade of the church, seen between the white marble of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II and one of the buildings of Michelangelo's Piazza. (For more about the church see the post below.)

SPQR are the first letters of the words in the Latin phrase Senatus Populusque Romanus, "The Senate and the People of Rome." It originally referred to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, and used as an official signature of the government, appearing on coins, civic inscriptions, and on the standards of the Roman legions. SPQR is the motto of the city of Rome and appears in the city's coat of arms, as well as on many of the city's civic buildings, public fountains, manhole covers, billboards and even some churches.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bambino Gesù: in a church with a chubby Pope and 52 chandeliers

On Saturday I climbed up 124 "penitential" steps to reach the front door of the Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. It is where the Temple of Juno once stood on the Capitoline Hill. In the 6th century there was a Byzantine monastery on the site. The Benedictines were here from the 9th to the 13th century and the Franciscans built the current building in the early 14th century.

The church is most famous for the wooden statue of the infant Jesus -- Santo Bambino. The story goes that the Bambino was carved by a Franciscan friar during the 15th century in Jerusalem. According to the legend, the statue was miraculously painted by an angel as its Franciscan creator slept. The image was transported to Rome upon the orders of the Franciscan Curia, headquartered in the Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. Caught in a storm during the voyage to Europe, the wooden statue was thrown overboard. It bobbed around the stormy seas (even avoiding pirates) and finally landed at the feet of the Franciscan monk who had been waiting anxiously on the shore.

The Bambino receives letters from all over the world. There are baskets of them on both sides of his private altar. After a certain time they are burned, without being opened.

The statue was stolen in February 1994, and never recovered. Now a copy is on display in the church, housed in its own chapel by the sacristy. At midnight Mass on Christmas Eve the image is placed on a throne before the high altar and unveiled during the singing of the Gloria. Until Epiphany the jewel-encrusted Bambino resides among the firgures of the precipio in the left nave.

These are some of the 52 Murano Chandeliers that adorn the church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.

Here is a 16th century sculpture of the chubby Pope Leo X (1475-1521) located outside the chapel of the Bambino. (He is the pope who sold indulgences to finance the building of St. Peter's Basilica.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Terrace of the Quadrigas

Third Saturday Field Trips or "Birdwalking" with Mr. Litman

This year I am offering my students an opportunity for optional weekend field trips on the third Saturday of the month. Today I took some 5th graders to get a view of "Rome from the Sky." We went to the Terrace of the Quadrigas (chariots with four horses) located on top of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II at Piazza Venezia.

Click here to see the view we enjoyed. (45 sec. video) We looked for our homes, counted how many clocks we could see, and unsuccessfully tried to count bell towers and church domes.

Bambino Gesù: the hospital

This last week I had the occasion to visit the Roman Children's Hospital of Bambino Gesù. One of my students was being treated for a stomach infection.

Bambino Gesù was founded in 1869, as the first children’s Hospital in Italy, by the Salviati family, at a time when children were not given any special medical consideration and were often sharing beds with adult patients. Other families of the city joined in to support the hospital, allowing it to grow from 12 beds in the center of Rome to its current location on the Janiculum Hill.

In 1924 the Salviati family decided to donate Bambino Gesù to the Holy See to ensure the future of the hospital. New buildings were created with additional operating rooms and outpatient clinics. In the 1960's, with the help of donations from the American Catholic bishops, the hospital underwent substantial rennovation.

Today the hospital has 800 beds and has an international reputation for excellent treatment and children's health research.

Here are some architectural details of the hospital environment, including a terra cotta Madonna and Child at the entrance to the John Paul II Pavilion.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Catacombs in Garbatella

On Sunday I explored a relatively new (and small) park in Garbatella, several blocks from our apartment on the Via delle Sette Chiese. Inside the park are two locked entrances to the Catacombs of Commodilla, discovered in 1905. The site is not too far from the Via Ostiense and the Basilica San Paolo fuori la mura. I hope it will be possible to arrange a visit to these catacombs in the future.

Commodilla is an unknown Christian matron, on whose property were buried Saints Felix and Adauctus, martyred during the persecution of Diocletian.

This 4th century frescoe was dicovered in 1953 on the ceiling of an underground corner of the Catacombs of Commodilla. It is of Jesus the Alpha and Omega and is the earliest representation of Christ with a beard. Before this time Jesus was usually depicted as a young beardless man. (Image is from

Flora (and fauna) in the park...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Back to School

I just finished the first three days of the new school year. I am again teaching 5th grade at Ambrit Rome International School and I have a great group of ten year olds.
We have begun an exploration of kite construction, which is an introduction to a unit of inquiry about energy. These are my students running with their first kites -- made out of sheet of copy paper and a BBQ skewer.