By Carol Glatz
By Nicole Pellicano*
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the past, a pilgrimage to Rome lasted weeks. It included visiting churches, touring the catacombs, following in the footsteps of saints and praying at historic sites in and outside the city. During the first Holy Year in 1300, the minimum requirement for a plenary indulgence was to pray at Rome’s patriarchal basilicas 15 times over the course of a number of weeks. Today, most visitors do not stay that long.
This extraordinary Year of Mercy is a way to stress the importance of forgiveness and renewing one’s relationship with God. The Holy Door, symbolizing the doorway of salvation (read more here), marks the “extraordinary” spiritual passage offered to the faithful during a jubilee year. Of the seven major Holy Doors in the world, four are in Rome. In addition to the doors at the four major basilicas in Rome, there are a number of other important religious sites a pilgrim should visit.
To make things easier for pilgrims short on time, we drew up a list of the top nine sites in Rome using a traditional pilgrim journey as a guide. For those who can’t make a trip to the Eternal City, follow the links for a virtual pilgrimage through Rome.
Stop 1: Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
Pope Francis leads ecumenical vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome last January. (CNS/Paul Haring)
Your first stop, a bit outside of the historic center of Rome, was built by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Rebuilt after a fire in the 19th century, the basilica’s bronze holy door survived the fire. St. John XXIII had the doors restored completely; the 54 bronze panels represent characters of the Old and New Testaments, including an image of the crucifixion of St. Paul. The door will open Dec 13, 2015.
During the 4th century what are believed to be the remains of the apostle Paul’s were place in a sarcophagus, which is now believed to be below a marble tombstone in the basilica’s crypt bearing the inscription “PAULO APOSTOLO MART.”
Read more about early Christian devotion to St. Paul and ancient pilgrimages to his tomb here.
Stop 2: Catacombs of St. Callixtus
Less than four miles up the road from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls are the Catacombs of St. Callixtus. Rome has more than 60 catacombs with (Read More)