Ciao Roma

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By Luci Lizares

Thursday, May 22, 2014

WE ARE still euphoric of the canonization of the 2 Popes and with that comes the story of the Vatican.

The Vatican is an independent political city-state, the smallest in the world, and its official name is the State of the Vatican City since 1929. During the 1929 Lateran Treaty, the Vatican was identified as a new entity, not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States that had encompassed much of central Italy from 756 to 1870. The Papal States were mostly absorbed into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.

But the era from the 9th-10th centuries through to the Renaissance, the Roman Catholic Church reached the pinnacle of its political power. The reigning popes governed the regions surrounding Rome, and the Papal States ruled Central Italy for more than a thousand years until the Italian unification. For much of this period, the popes resided in several palaces within Rome, having returned to the city in 1377 after a 58-year exile in Avignon, France. When Italy achieved unification, the Vatican refused to recognize the Italian King's right to rule, and refused to leave the Vatican compound. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 resolved this dispute.


Much of the architecture, paintings, and sculpture in the Vatican were works created during the golden years of the Papal States, sorry to say, most from plunder. It was also during these times that the great artists Michelangelo, Raphael, and Sandro Botticelli and more came to Rome to express their faith and dedication. St Peter’s Basilica is a testimony of this. But the power and influence of the Vatican did not diminish with the loss of the Papal States.

The Vatican exemplifies many significant elements of Italian art, culture and history. The architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world, is majestic and outstanding. The priceless art works that abound are opulent. The 266 famous and infamous popes of the Vatican are likewise as colorful as the frescoes done by Michelangelo in the Sistene Chapel. But the days of the disgraceful, controversial popes are gone. The Holy See has seen the best of Popes this past millennium. With Pope Francis today, the Person of the Year 2013, the Vatican stands steadfast as a vibrant shepherd to the more than 2 billion Christians spread all over the world.

The line to enter the Basilica was almost a mile long. So we did all our prayers just outside.

After prayers and thanksgiving, we went to the next agenda: shopping at the St. Peter’s Square. What to look for? The Filipino store of course… It was no sweat finding it. We just had to search for the Philippine flag and there it was.

So what do you buy when you’re in the Vatican? Rosaries would be the number 1 item. Whether they are for personal keepsake or for gifts, rosaries are always a most treasured present. I made sure that I bought enough for “pasalubongs” and Christmas gifts. Indeed, everyone was happy to receive a rosary with the picture of Pope Francis. Also quite popular to give are medals. They are lighter to carry and not as costly but if blessed and from the Vatican, it is an appreciated token.

I noticed in the Vatican compared to the 90’s, practically the religious you see are not in their habits. Now, only the Roman collar or crucifix is the telltale sign. It was wonderful sight walking in the Vatican or while taking a refreshing snack in the perimeter and see the men and women of God looking like men and women of God. Gone indeed are those days!

Next to the Vatican, definitely, it has to the most famous and largest fountain in Rome, the Trevi Fountain. The place was crawling with people, but, we managed to find our niche, wished for a return trip to Rome and tossed that euro. Do you know that at night when the workers come to clean, they collect about 3,000 euros and dollars? I should change the time of my next visit!

Off we went to the Spanish steps. This beautiful Roman Baroque stairway of 138 steps was built in the 18th century upon the request of Pope Innocent XII. Its ramp and stairs intersect and open out like a fan and connects the square below with the Trinita Church above. The Spanish Steps is a favored gathering of locals as well as tourists. The Carabinieris were ubiquitous. And they could not escape these Filipino paparazzis for a photo op. FYI: The Carabinieris use BMW R1100-RPT motorcycles. WOOOO!!! And another shocker…their uniforms are done by Armani… I want to cry for our cops!!!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 22, 2014.


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