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Archive for the ‘Ravenna’ Category

Last year, as part of our three weeks in Italy, we visited Ravenna.

 

There, in the Mausoleum of Gallia Placidia, is a wonderful mosaic of St. Lawrence. Above is my photograph, but you can find better ones elsewhere, such as this excellent site unpacking the iconography of St. Lawrence. 

From the Vatican website, a good article on today’s saint in the context of the permanent diaconate:

In his De Officiis (1, 41, 205-207) we have Ambrose’s particularly eloquent account of the martyrdom of St Lawrence. It was subsequently taken up by Prudentius and by St Augustine. Hence it passes to Maximus of Turin, St Peter Chrisologus and to Leo the Great before emerging again in some of the formularies of the Roman Sacramentals, the Missale Gothicumm and in the Caerimoniale Visigoticum (Bibliotheca Sanctorum, …..1538-1539).

Ambrose dwells, firstly, on the encounter and dialogue of Lawrence and Sixtus. He alludes to the distribution of the Church’s goods to the poor and ends by mentioning the grid-iron, the instrument of Lawrence’s torture, and remarks on the phrase which the proto-Deacon of the Roman Church addresses to his torturers: “assum est…versa et manduca” (cf. Bibliotheca Sanctorum …., col 1538-1539).

We shall dwell on the Ambrosian text of the De Officiis (Cap. 41,nn. 205-206-207), which is very moving in its intensity and strength of expression. Thus writes St Ambrose:

“St Lawrence wept when he saw his Bishop, Sixtus, led out to his martyrdom. He wept not because he was being let out to die but because he would survive Sixtus. He cried out to him in a loud voice: ‘Where are you going Father, without your son? Where do you hasten to, holy Bishop, without your Deacon? You cannot offer sacrifice

without a minister. Father, are you displeased with something in me? Do you think me unworthy? Show us a sign that you have found a worthy minister. Do you not wish that he to whom you gave the Lord’s blood and with whom you have shared the sacred mysteries should spill his own blood with you? Beware that in your praise your own judgment should not falter. Despise the pupil and shame the Master. Do not forget that great and famous men are victorious more in the deeds of their disciples than in their own. Abraham made sacrifice of his own son, Peter instead sent Stephen. Father, show us your own strength in your sons; sacrifice him whom you have raised, to attain eternal reward in that glorious company, secure in your judgment”.

In reply Sixtus says: “I will not leave you, I will not abandon you my son. More difficult trials are kept for you. A shorter race is set for us who are older. For you who are young a more glorious triumph over tyranny is reserved. Soon, you will see, cry no more, after three days you will follow me. It is fitting that such an interval should be set between Bishop and Levite. It would not have been fitting for you to die under the guidance of a martyr, as though you needed help from him. Why do want to share in my martyrdom? I leave its entire inheritance to you. Why do need me present? The weak pupil precedes the master, the strong, who have no further need of instruction, follow and conquer without him. Thus Elijah left Elisha. I entrust the success of my strength to you”.

This was the contest between them which was worthy of a Bishop and of a Deacon: who would be the first to die for Christ (It is said that in tragedy, the spectators would burst into applause when Pilade said he was Orestes and when Orestes himself declared that he was Orestes) the one who would be killed instead of Orestes, and when Orestes prevented Pilades from being killed in place of himself. Neither of these deserved to live for both were guilty of patricide. One because he had killed his father, the other because he had been an accomplice in patricide.) In the case of Lawrence, nothing urged him to offer himself as a victim but the desire to be a holocaust for Christ. Three days after the death of Sixtus, while the terror raged, Lawrence would be burned on the grid-iron: “This side is done, turn and eat”. With such strength of soul he conquered the flames of the fire” (Ambrose, De Officiis).

…..

The principle characteristic defining the Deacon in se, and his ministry, is that he is ordained for the service of charity. Martyrdom, which is a witness to the point of shedding one’s blood, must be considered an expression of greater love or charity. It is service to a charity that knows no limits. The ministry of charity in which the Deacon is deputed by ordination is not limited to service at table, or indeed to what former catechetical terminology called corporal works of mercy, nor to the spiritual works of mercy. The diaconal service of charity must include imitation of Christ by means of unconditional self-giving since he is the fruitful witness …… (cf Ap 1, 5:13; 14).

In the case of Lawrence, as St Ambrose explains, “no other desire urged him but that of offering himself to the Lord as a holocaust” (de Officiis, 1,41, n. 207). By means of the witness borne before his persecutors, it is evident that the diaconal ministry is not to be equated with that of service to one’s neighbour, understood or reduced solely to their material needs. Lawrence, in that act which expresses a greater love for Christ and which leads to his giving up his own life, also permits his tormentors, in a certain sense, to experience the Incarnate Word who, in the end, is the personal and common destiny of all mankind. This is a theological service of charity to which every Deacon must tend or, at least, be disposed to accept.   More

A good summary of his life from a site for deacons.

Again: A short an interesting article on the iconography of St. Lawrence:

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Just a quick post on Ravenna. It is Sunday morning, we are going to Mass and then the palio festivities – it is supposed to rain this afternoon, so I don’t know how that will affect everything..but I just bought two umbrellas from the African umbrella peddler (he asked for 5 E, I got him down to 2 for 6 – go me. Maybe they will last the day. If there is no heavy wind.)

So, Saturday, we went to Ravenna. Learn why Ravenna is important here. One of the many, many art books my parents had when I was growing up was one on the mosaics of Ravenna, so it has always been on my radar.

We got a late start, and in order to get back at a decent hour, we couldn’t see everything I had wanted, but okay. We saw a lot.  I did take photos and will post a few here, but honestly, to get a sense of the glory of these mosaics, just find professional photos online – much more illuminating than my poor attempts!

Ravenna is quite oriented toward tourists. It’s popular in and of itself, of course, but also as a cruise ship excursion. So it was pretty crowded, but not uncomfortably so. We caught a 12:15 train from Ferrara and were there about 1:30. Found the tourist office, ate lunch, which came to a very reasonable 13.50 Euros for all of us (1 small foccaccio/salami sandwich, 1 pretty big salami/cheese/lettuce wrap, 1 big piece of pizza, 1 small black rice salad and 2 waters.), and then went in search of mosaics.

Baptistry of Neon. My photos cannot communicate the glory of these mosaics and the experience of standing surrounded by 1500-year old expressions of faith, still as vibrant as when they were first created. The tower is not the baptistry, but the bell tower next to the duomo, which is next to the baptistry. 

San Vitale. Built in the 6th century, famed for, among other things, the images of Justinian and Theodora as well as this image of a beardless Christ as judge. 

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.  Probably never actually used as a burial place, it is an absolute jewel.  Because it is small, you can see the mosaics at close range. This is St. Lawrence. If you look up more information on the site, you can see close images of the decorative mosaic, which is intricate, shimmering abstracts. 

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Sant’Appolinare Nuova Built by Theodoric, and therefore Arian in origin. Read more about it here. Fascinating visual litany of saints along the sides, men on one side, women on the other, mirroring, I would imagine, the division of sexes during worship, energetic magi, and a weird, but probably inevitable, given the dynamics of change and time, of Byzantine and Baroque. 

Interesting also,  but not for mosaics, was San Francesco, an ancient basilica with a flood crypt…and goldfish.

 

We did not, unfortunately, make it out to either the Arian baptistry or Sant’Appolinare in Classe. Both are outside of the historic center – the latter requiring a train or bus ride – and it just didn’t work out with a decent return to Ferrara.

It was too bad, because I would love to have seen both. But returning when we did, we were able to see other worthwhile sites.

Pink marble, extra rosy in the setting sun.

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Market day prep.

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People getting along at the end of the day.

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And…..music.

 

(Camera died at the end of the second one)

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— 1 —

We are in Ferrara, and as I wrote earlier today, it’s lovely. We saw how lovely all day today from the perspective of a bicycle seat. Well, three bicycle seats.

(Snapchatting away while they were back inside the apartment taking a short break. amywelborn2 on the Snapchats thing)

— 2 —

We rented bikes from this shop – nice people. I would say it’s in walking distance from our apartment (hey, I just did…), but everything in the city walls is withing walking distance of everything else.   The woman and man who were there didn’t speak English, so she called her son (I think) who did, and who went over everything with me on the phone to make sure I understood the terms – 7E/bike for all day. Not bad!

We started out riding on the old city walls (Lucca is another place in Italy where you can do this) and then moved into the town itself.

You know how bicyclists in the US are always griping about bike lanes? Well, there are no bike lanes in Ferrara, no one wears helmets, at any given time there are as many if not more bikes than cars on a stretch of road, people ride bikes carrying pizzas, with kids on the front or back, with a dog on a leash trotting beside, with a dog in their lap, texting (that’s the most impressive/frightening), men in suits carrying briefcases and big bunches of flowers, old women and men, women in heels, and all the time bikes and cars are sharing the road just fine.

It’s astonishing. I’ve never been in a place with so many bikes. It’s fantastic.

 

By the way, while many babies ride on seats mounted on the back, even more popular, it seems, is a seat in front of the rider with a windshield affixed to the handlebars. I’ll try to get a photo at some point. It makes sense.

— 3 —

I’ll admit I was a little nervous in the traffic, not so much for myself, but for my sons, but they did fine. Fairly early on, my older son’s bike developed a flat rear tire, so we just popped back by the shop and they replaced it.

 — 4 —

We made a few stops. We spent some time going through the Este castle, which stands right in the middle of town, still surrounded by a moat. We got some food, we went through a couple of shops, including Tiger, which became a favorite in Madrid – it’s like a cross between Ikea and Dollar General.  This also got our attention.

We went into the Cathedral, the ceiling of which must be in danger of falling because most of it was covered with netting.

— 5 

This is some of the graffiti in the prison room.  The right hand photos are of ceilings in various rooms of the castle. The tissue-like paper is holding cracks together. I don’t know if they have plans or funds to restore before the whole thing starts falling apart. The top photo is from one of the game rooms – the paintings are of Greek-Roman games – wrestling, etc. The bottom right is of a huge mirror positioned so that you can study the ceiling paintings without getting vertigo. 

We rode and rode, back up on another section of the walls. I think we got the bikes about 11 and returned them around 6. So that was a full day.

 

 

 

6–

Later, my younger son and I took a walk up to the spot where the palio will be held on Sunday. I didn’t take photos – but it’s a large, oval shaped piazza. The sand is laid down and hoofprints told us that practices had been occurring.

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On the way

 

— 7 —

Food today: lunch was foccaccia-type pizza slices from this bakery, eaten standing up on a side street with our bikes leaning against a wall. Dinner was salami, speck and mortadella from the salumentari/grocer a few doors down, cheese and bread from another grocery, and melon. And later, some gelato.

Tomorrow…Ravenna, I hope.

REMEMBER – if you are interested in photos and clips from this trip that I’m sending out several times a day, follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (amywelborn2).

NOT ITALY RELATED – read me here at Catholic World Report on “Walker Percy at 100.”  That’s tomorrow – Saturday, May 28 – that he was born where I now live, in Birmingham, Alabama. 

 

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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(For part I – go here)

None of this – except the Rome part – is set in stone. All of it – except the Rome part – can change up until the last minute, the reason being that all of the accommodation arrangements are mostly refundable up until the last minute. Except for Rome.

I am using mostly AirBnB to search out places to stay. It’s supplanted VRBO for me for a couple of reasons. First, I like the layout of the site and the search mechanism better, and secondly, the layers of protection against fraud seem stronger at AirBnB. You have to supply a good bit of information to the site in order to be approved to book accommodations, and the owner part is far more transparent than what you find at VRBO.

Why not hotels? Because for three people, which includes two kids, European hotels tend to suck. Anything reasonably priced is going to have far smaller rooms than what we’re used to in even say, a Motel 6. In most places, you can get an apartment with at least one bedroom for less than what you would pay for a hotel, and believe me, by the end of the day, we need space. I need space.

So no, staying in an apartment in Europe is not a luxury choice. Oh yes, this is our Rome apartment. It’s actually the more economical choice if you have a group and if you are staying long term – even a week.  If I were traveling by myself, I would go the B and B & hotel route, not only because I wouldn’t need the space, but also for safety considerations. But with the family? Apartment all the way.

Anyway, that wasn’t supposed to be the point of this post – I’m going to a post later on trip prep. The point was to let you know that as I talk about our “plan” – almost anything I talk about can change to a few days before departure.That’s a freeing thought.

(Except for Rome – the reason being that the owner of that apartment, which I have rented through AirBnB – uses the strictest cancellation policies on the site. So, sure, I could cancel, but I’d have to pay half or all of the cost anyway.)

When traveling like this, I try to minimize movement, and it is always my goal. This trip – I say. This trip we are only going to move..ONCE. Or twice. Okay, three times.

And I almost always fail. In theory I embrace the ideal of Slow Travel – that you gain more from travel by slowing down and digging deep rather than racing around checking boxes off a list. I have found this to be so very true. But when you’re going to a completely new place, the temptation to See All The Things is strong.

The weird thing to consider for me as I began was the complete freedom we had. Yes, we would be flying into Bologna, but there’s absolutely no reason we needed to stay there. Bologna is one of the major train hubs in Italy. We could have landed and jumped on a train to anywhere – Puglia or Calabria in southern Italy, which I’ve always wanted to see…we could hop across to Croatia. Liguria and Genoa. Naples. I admit that I even looked up airfare to Athens for my mythology-crazy kid. I mean, not for him to go alone, but for all of us. I was initially tempted by the crazy low RyanAir fares, but then got realistic about that scam and just generally settled down and re-embraced those Slow Travel ideals I claim are so important to me.

Slow-ish.

So yes, I said to myself – you’re flying into Bologna. That’s the fare you grabbed. There’s a reason. Just stay there. It’s meant to be.

Originally, that was exactly the plan – stay in one place in Bologna for a week, the train down to Rome for a few days, then to Tuscany Things.

But wait. Ferrara has a Palio.

A palio is an athletic competion – usually races – deeply rooted in history, between neighborhoods in a city. The most famous palio is in Siena. It is held twice during the summer, and is quite the thing, with horses racing around the piazza.

What I discovered is that Siena’s is not the only palio. Other Italian cities have them, including Ferrara, with celebrations starting in the beginning of May and culminating in the race itself, which is held on May 29 this year. When we would be in the area.

Okay. This might change things. I started poking around, and encountered some advice which indicated…you know, Ferrara is a really nice, smaller city, and perhaps that could be your base for the week.

Well, that ate up a few days of my life, trying to sort that question out, and here’s where I came down:

  • Arriving  from the US, I didn’t want to have to travel far to our accommodation. I wanted to land, grab a taxi, and be there. Staying in Ferrara the entire week would mean adding another leg – albeit a relatively short one – to that journey. Given that our flight is not getting in until very late afternoon – I think it’s around 5, in fact – that wasn’t attractive.
  • Oh, well just spend the first night in Bologna, then move? Not what I want to do either – be exhausted from travel, and then have to pick up and move the next morning.
  • Any food tour that we would do starts in Parma, which is a 40 minute or so train ride from Bologna, but more like 90 minutes (connecting in Bologna) from Ferrara. The food tours start early, because the Parmesan cheese production takes place in the morning. So..if we stayed in Ferrara and did a Parma-centered food tour, I’d be rousing everyone at 6 or so and stressing about getting to Bologna, then to Parma….nope.
  • If we wanted to check out Florence briefly before the longer time in Tuscany, it’s a 30-minute train ride from Bologna. We could even just pop over there for an evening.
  • But..in Ferrara’s favor, it’s closer to Ravenna, which is a must-see, and Commachio – which is not a must-see, but of interest.
  • Ferrara is also a smaller city – and if I have discovered anything about myself on my very limited European travels, it is that I love these mid-sized European cities that have a medieval or Renaissance core. There is a deep sense of community and history as well as a lovely way of life and a casual, easy and authentic level of culture and sophistication that is quite lovely to be a part of, even for a few days. Padova (Padua), for example, was my favorite place in our big trip of 2012. I could live there. Seriously.
  • Also in Ferrara’s favor is, of course, the palio and being actually in the city for the days running up to the race and being right there for it.

So as much as I would have liked to spend a solid week in one place without moving, I decided that we’d split the week between Bologna and Ferrara. The boys aren’t little anymore, and moving is not that much of a hassle at all – and they do actually enjoy the adventure of seeing a new apartment – they always find something to intrigue them.

So…Ferrara it is. While there, we will go to Ravenna for a full day and take in the mosaics – I might hire a guide for that. I think it would be worth it, especially for the boys. It will be far more fruitful time than me with a guidebook standing there trying to point out things I’m not even sure I see. I’d like to go to Commachio and see the town, built on canals and into the sea, sort of like Venice…sort of, and I’m intrigued by a place whose fishing economy is built on eels. Not tempted to try them, though. No shame.

But in general, I would like to just enjoy Ferrara read more about the city here – and the festivities, rent bikes, ride in the city and around the city walls and perhaps outside into the countryside, and just…stroll.

**

Thank you for reading to the end!

This process is an obviously absorbing one to me. In planning a trip like this, I am balancing my interest with the boys’, trying to figure out how to see things in a way that is not rushed, but takes in, as much as possible, a way of life and makes plenty of room for the unexpected.

It reflects an approach to life , in general. We balance the needs and desires of different people, we plan a bit, but we leave space and are open to encountering whatever enters that space.

There is so much to see, but only so much time to see, and only so much we can absorb. Have you ever had museum fatigue? Where your initial interest in the paintings and sculpture flags as you walk through gallery after gallery and all the Madonnas start looking the same? That’s what I try to avoid in a more general sense. You can’t see everything and trying to do so is just exhausting. You have “seen” a lot, but hardly actually seen anything.

For, truth be told, the most memorable moments of our travels have been the slowest ones. They’ve occurred sitting in piazzas, eating and drinking and interacting with the people who live there, the boys joining in a soccer game, halting conversations about common experiences in two different languages. They’ve occurred in the unexpected corners, the places we hadn’t planned to go but somehow ended up finding.

It’s my approach to life. Get your bearings. Have some general goals, a few things you’d like to achieve during the day, but be open, because you never know what will happen, and most of the time the unexpected will be what you remember, and at every step, planned or unplanned, God waits.

In a way,the hours I dedicate to researching these trips seems to belie my philosophy of openness. But it really doesn’t. I don’t take this time in order to map out an hour-by-hour itinerary. We don’t do that. That is not my style of life , much less travel.  No..I think I just want to be aware of as many of the possibilities as I can, so when the moment comes, I’ll be able to point us in a direction that we all can enjoy and learn from…while leaving plenty of space for whatever else would like to be part of our life that day to enter and show us something new.

(For all Italy 2016 trip posts, go here)

 

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