These Roots Run Deep
Over these past few weeks in Rome, I’ve learned a lot about how strongly religion can impact a group of people. I visited some of the holiest places on the planet, including St. Mark’s Basilica and the Church of St. Cecilia. I watched as people kneeled with their heads bowed, offered up flowers and money to pay homage to their holy icons, and hummed holy words during mass in the evenings. However, it was not until today when I entered St. Peter’s Basilica where I grasped how much holy places like these mean to those who are deeply rooted in their faith.
As our tour guide, Maurie, led us through the daunting dark green doors that opened up to the main area of St. Peter’s Basilica, my eyes widened in absolute awe at what was before me. Impeccable golden designs covered the ceilings and lined the walls, creating a perfect symmetrical beauty that shimmered as the sun bounced off of it. Marble sculptures, paintings, and mosaics from artists like Michelangelo and Rafael left me speechless and completely captivated. About 20 minutes into the tour, I took a break from looking up and down and admiring the artwork to see how people reacted to this incredible place, and too see if our reactions were somewhat similar. I noticed an older woman kneeling down at the feet of an altar with her hands clasped in a perfect prayer, mumbling what I assume were holy words or gospel verses. When I walked away to go see the famous “Pietà” by Michelangelo, I turned my head to find a middle-aged man holding his rosary and smiling at the statue, completely content amidst the sea of anxious tourists desperately trying to snap a photo. I saw groups of nuns touching the walls of the Basilica and couples hugging each other as they looked up at the dome. Maurie even expressed towards the end of the tour that the Basilica is “full of masterpieces” and is the true symbol of the strength of the Catholic and Christian faith, built during a time when Christians were not accepted and often murdered for their beliefs.
By taking a few moments to look around and see how other people were reacting, I was able to have a deeper understanding of what St. Peter’s meant to people of Catholic and Christian faith. History, hope, truth, belief, strength, challenge, tradition, respect – the words flooded my mind after I exited Vatican City like running water. These words, to me, not only encapture St. Peter’s, but they also encapture the city of Rome – a place so full of history and tradition that it touches people in different emotional and religious ways.