Italian Pilgrimage


Page 5 - Sunday, November 5, 2000

Today we are up at 6:00 AM.  We will be off to St. Peters Square for Sunday mass with the Pope.  After mass, we will be getting on the tour bus and going to Assisi.  First though is packing, putting our luggage in the hall and then going to breakfast.  Breakfast is hard rolls, pastry, ham, cheese, cereal, milk, coffee, tea, juice, hot chocolate and cappuccino.  After breakfast we check out of the hotel, settling up any bills (wine) that we had.  We depart the hotel at 8 AM.  On the bus, mama Rita passes out the tickets for mass.  As we head towards the Vatican and St. Peters on our way to an illegal drop off, we pass many other groups of tourists and pilgrims walking to St. Peters Square.  We get dropped off no further away from St. Peters than 3 or 4 blocks.  We arrive in St. Peters Square around 8:30 AM and quickly grab seats.  We are among the first few thousand to arrive, so we get seats relatively close to the front.  As we waited for mass, we spent time looking around and taking pictures.  There was a constant string of individuals 2 at a time going up to the dignitary area.  One of these individuals would be carrying a banner.  There must have been over 50 banners placed.  There also were other dignitaries going up to the front.  People were waving their national flags.  The choir was singing.  All in all, it was quite a spectacle before mass.  During mass, different readings were said in different languages.  The mass proper though, was said in Italian.  During this mass, the Pope proclaimed Thomas More of England as a Catholic saint.  Communion was a treat.  Priests came into the aisles with hosts.  People climbed over chairs, moved chairs, folded chairs, walked on chairs, etc. to take communion.  It seemed like there could be a better system.  The Pope blessed the crowd in several (10 - 15) languages.  After mass, he got in the popemobile and went up and down the aisles again blessing the crowd.  The pope conducted this 2 hour ceremony rather well.  While I could hear the age in his voice and he was extremely slow moving, he did every ceremony that the mass required.  Overall, this was a very emotional event for much of the crowd.  I don't know how many attended mass, but I would guess it was well over 20,000 people.  Upon leaving St. Peters Square, Pat and I went to have lunch at a restaurant recommended by mama Rita.  After lunch, we had time before we were to meet at a designated spot.  So we went shopping for gifts/souvenirs.  Soon, mama Rita began to gather up her flock of people.  We headed back to the illegal drop off point to illegally board the bus.  We then headed for Assisi.  Assisi is 3 - 4 hours from Rome.  There was one technical stop for restrooms and drinks along the way.  Pat and I had a beer.  Assisi is in the mountains while Rome is near the Mediterranean Sea.  As we headed into the mountains it got cooler.  We passed several communities that at a distance could have been still in the Middle Ages.  There were many interesting sites along the way.  At the base of the mountain where Assisi is located, we went into a Cathedral called Our Lady of the Angels.  We met a local guide who led us through the church.  No pictures were allowed inside the grounds.  Tradition has it that St. Francis and his followers built huts on that site to live in.  Inside the church, there is a chapel that was built by St. Francis.  The church was built over and around this chapel.  We toured the grounds.  There is a thorn less rose garden that grows a variety of roses that will only grow in that garden.  They die when transplanted to other sites.  Tradition has it that originally these were normal roses with thorns.  They became thorn less when St. Francis severely vexed over some issue through himself onto the bed of roses.  Miraculously, the thorns disappeared.  Also, there is a corridor on the grounds where there are 3 doves.  There are always 3 doves (never more, never less) in that corridor with no known entrance/exit.  From here we went to Assisi (a 10 minute drive).  Since Assisi is a walled medieval city, the bus needed to park outside the walls.  It was a several hundred yard walk to the hotel (Subasio Hotel)  in Assisi.  As mama Rita said, this is a historical hotel.  Before dinner, the  local guide who gave us a quick tour of St. Francis's Basilica.  No pictures were allowed in the Basilica.  We were running late, so the tour was quick.  We did see the tomb of St. Francis and the famous murals in the upper church.  The earthquake damage is very evident.  The murals are not planned to be restored as the pieces were broken into very small fragments in the efforts to get the injured out of the Basilica after the earthquake.  We went back to the hotel and checked into our rooms and then had dinner.  The hotel room was an upgrade from Rome.  It had a king size bed, oil paintings, a glass chandelier, a large bathroom with a bathtub.  Overall, a very pleasant surprise.  The person that took us to our room said that a very famous person had spent several months in the room that Pat and I were in.  I wish I could remember the famous person's name.  Dinner was pasta, vegetable, some kind of meat (chicken/turkey/pork/veal???) and dessert.  And more wine.  I must say that the pasta was very good.  After dinner, Father Thomas led those of us who were still able to walk on a tour of Assisi.  Father Thomas, who is a Franciscan, spent several years in Italy in the 1980's.  He knows various locals very well.  Assisi is special to Father Thomas.  I went on the tour, while Pat walked into the bathtub.  After the walking tour, I joined Pat in the king size bed.


And now for the days pictures.  Please click on any of the thumbnails below to view a larger version of the picture.


The 3 pictures below were taken as we were walking to St. Peters.  The 2nd picture shows the pope's apartment (top floor on the right hand side).

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The eight pictures below were taken while we were in St. Peters Square but before mass started.  The last 2 pictures are close ups of portions of St. Peters roofline.  The second picture is a banner hanging down from a balcony in the center of St. Peters.  The placement of it can be seen on the 3rd picture.

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The next 12 pictures were taken during the mass.  They were taken at various times during the mass.  In the last picture, the popemobile can be seen.  In picture number 10, a Swiss Guard can be seen.

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The following picture is of a hill top community taken from the bus on the way to Assisi.

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The following 4 pictures are of the Cathedral at the base of the mountain where Assisi is.

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  The following 4 pictures are of our hotel room in Assisi.

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The following 5 pictures are night scenes in Assisi.  The second picture is of a Roman temple that is about 2,000 years old.  It has been converted into a church.

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