Roma, day Three

We were going to go back to the Vatican to look in the Museum, but we woke up later than we should have, the opening hours were very limited, and we decided to save it till after Christmas day. Instead, we went on a tour of some other churches. San Giovanni, only ten minutes south of our hostel rooms, was the first legal church built in the city. It supposedly houses the heads of the apostles Peter and Paul. Yes, the heads. There are some lovely Popes buried there and even more lovely statues of the apostles--I think we took some pictures of Peter--which are, of course, very huge.

Across the street are the Holy Steps, which were apparently shipped over from Jerusalem and which Jesus walked up with his cross. The tradition goes that one can only ascend these steps on one's knees. Many people (mostly women, from what I saw, and several of them nuns) go there to climb the steps and pray, and the wood is worn with a thousand or so years worth of prayer. Not much of a sight for tourists, but a beautiful place for pilgrims.

From there, I cannot remember which one we did first, but we went to the Basilica of Maria Maggiore, and I didn't like it. It was gaudy without being beautiful, even though it bears many very very old mosaics, most of which I did not see because they are very high and we didn't feel like exploring.

We also went to St Peter in Chains, which houses, other than Peter's chains, Michelangelo's Moses. This was supposed to be the frontpiece of a massive tomb for the Pope, but Michelangelo was called away to do the Sistine Chapel and could not finish the job. The frontpiece is beautiful enough. Moses looks really complicated, like he's on the verge of doing something, and yet completely at rest. He looks both benevolent and concerned, waiting and active.... I don't quite know how to describe it.

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