Wednesday

Spanish Steps

One of the most characteristic places in Rome, and perhaps the most beautiful. Before descending the steps, you will note the Church of SS. Trinità dei Monti, beyond which a road leads to the Pincio, passing the Villa Medici. This affords an admirable evening stroll, just before sunset, as from the platform of the Pincian Gardens you get a magnificent view over Rome. It was on the site of these gardens that Messalina, the wife of Claudius, celebrated her orgies. Here also were the famous gardens of Lucullus, the giver of many feasts, debauches, races by torchlight, and every kind of frivolous amusement.
At the foot of the Spanish Steps flower-sellers make a fine display of their wares, but the beautiful artists' models referred to in old guide-books are not now noticeable.

S. Maria del Popolo

This church, a favourite burial place of cardinals and great personages, is almost a museum. Its outstanding feature is the Chigi Chapel, constructed under the direction of Raphael, and containing notable mosaics, frescoes and works of art by several notable artists.

Friday

S. Maria Maggiore

This is the greatest and most beautiful of Roman churches. It was founded A.D 352 to commemorate a miraculous fall of snow, which covered the spot of ground and no other,on the 5th August – a rare event at that season. This legend is celebrated every year on this date by the fest of La Madonna della Neve, when, during a solemn high mass in the Borghese chapel, showers of white rose-leaves are thrown down constantly through two holes in the ceiling.

In this splendid 12th century building there are in the Nave and Triumphal Arch mosaics of the first importance. The magnificent ceiling, dating from 1498, was gilded with the first gold brought by Columbus from America, presented to Alexander VI by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.

In the right transept is the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, a gem of Renaissance art; while in the left transept is the Borghese chapel containing the tombs of Paul V and Clement VIII. Nothing can exceed the costly decorations used in this chapel.

A famous scene of violence occurred in this church in 1075, when Pope Gregory VII was attacked while celebrating mass on Christmas Eve and made prisoner. He was rescued, however, by the populace the next day, and with great courage returned to the basilica and finished the interrupted mass.