June 16, 2013
We began our Sunday by singing, "I Owe the Lord a Morning Song," led by Bruce Baergen.
Our guide, Amelia, told us this was to be a day in Ancient Rome, which began in 753 B.C. There are two other Romes: the Christian Rome and the Modern Rome. "Sunday," she said, "is a good day to visit Rome, since there are not many Romans out and about!"
After singing a hymn in the Pantheon, we walked to Piazza Navona and the fountain of "Four Rivers" designed by Berlini. Then we went to the Colisseum, which is a nickname for the "Amphitheater Flavianus," one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is built of limestone and Travertine marble and was, when in use by the gladiators, covered by a huge linen canopy. The building was built in just eight years and was dedicated by Emperor Titus in 80 AD. Many slaves must have worked long hours in Rome to complete it in so short a time!
A busy, hot afternoon began in the second largest church in Rome: the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The word basilica means "house of the king." This one is distinctive in that it has five naves and no side chapels. The windows are of alabaster. There are portraits of 256 of the 266 popes adorning the upper walls. (Artists are working on the portrait of "Papa Francesco" (Pope Francis).)
We arrived at the Catacombs of San Callisto, one of three catacomb sites. The underground tunnels held the grave of 500,000 Christians, used in the third and fourth century when Christianity was seen as a threat to the Empire. There are 16 miles of galleries with five levels of burials.
Our last stop was the Mamertine Prison, where both Peter and Paul were imprisoned, according to tradition. So we all geared up to climb one of Rome's seven hills, then down to the prison. The cell was a dank hole in the ground. Now it has a small fresco-decorated chapel above the entrance to the cells. Despite our late arrival at 6:30 to the hotel, and having climbed many stairs, many of us were off to an evening out.
We along with others, taxied to Piazza Navona for dinner with fine service and music under the crescent moon and sparklers that were ejected into the sky and back. Some brave souls even walked the two miles (one-way) to and from the Piazza.
Ancient Rome in a day ... even though Rome wasn't built in a day.
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Welcome to this window on the 2013 Mediterranean Cruisetour. As Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president, and Loren Johns, AMBS professor of New Testament, and 43 other travelers explore the places where the Apostle Paul traveled, they will share photos and reports here. Come back to this space for what we hope will be daily snapshots in words and photos of what the group is experiencing.
Visit Menno Travel to learn more about the Cruisetour.