Sunday, August 12, 2018

Do you believe in miracles? Santa Maria on the way

The skull of St. Agnes is behind the small 
green circle of leaves above the tabernacle.
It was hot, hot, hot and humid in Rome yesterday. I took an early train into Rome from Albano, having finished up a couple of significant writing projects the day before and having checked on the weather, which suggested it was only going to get hotter over the weekend.

When I got off the Metro at Spagna just before ten in the morning, I was struck by how empty the piazza at the bottom of the Spanish steps was. After the bustle of Termini station, it was so deserted it was eerie.  As I walked across the middle of the empty plaza, feeling like I walked into a Fellini film,  I suddenly understood why there was no one else there.  The sun was already high enough for the entire center to be in the full sun, with the heat radiating off the black basalt Sampietrini pavement. In the two minutes it took me to cross I was drenched in sweat and wishing I'd had the sense to pop up my Japanese umbrella/sunshade.

An actual dome in Sant'Ignazio.
I meandered my way from the Spanish steps to Piazza Navona and back again, walking nearly 9 miles as I did so.  I had back-to-school shopping to do along the via del Corso, mostly shirts and pants for the guys.  I ducked into various churches over the course of the day - a miniature pilgrimage as a counterpoint to the shopping.  I lingered in Sant'Ignazio with its faux dome, prayed in Sant'Agnese in Agone, which has a magnificent dome which you are NOT allowed to photograph, but where the attraction for me is a closet-sized Eucharistic chapel in the back with the skull of the martyr in the altar for all to see.  At the end of the day, walking down one of Rome's serpentine alleyways, I was suddenly confronted by a trumpeting angel, bearing down on me from the roof of Sant' Antonio dei Portoghesi, into which I took an unplanned peek. A baroque jumble screamed at me as I walked through the door.  I back right out again.

Sant' Antonio dei Portoghesi
I hadn't planned on a visit to Santa Maria in Via — Mary of the way — either, but ducked in on a whim.  Built in the late 15th century and completed under Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, SJ in the 17th century, it sits on the site of a miraculous well. The story is told that on a September night in 1256, the well in the stables of Cardinal Pietro Capocci's residence overflowed.  An icon of Mary imprinted on a tile was found floating atop the waters.  Pope Alexander IV promptly ordered a chapel built over the top of the well. [Bonus - today is the feast of St. Clare, who was canonized by Pope Alexander IV.]

The church is full of anachronisms.  There is a Caravaggio tucked into the corner of a side chapel, in a spot so dark I could not make out the subject (the sign on the altar rail is the only way I knew the artist — and I can't find any such painting on the list of the Caravaggio's in Rome, I'll have to go back and double check).  Why is there an enormous teleprompter stuffed into yet another side chapel?  And the plumbing for the miraculous well would not be out of place in a fancy wet bar.

The holy well in Santa Maria in via, you can see the sink and
the faucet on the right hand side where the young man is 
filling up a cup, just like at the coffee bar.
Yes, the well is still there, and cups are set out for the steady stream of people who want to drink from the miraculous water.  I now have a bottle of this holy water for a friend, and another bit to take home.

I wonder if anoint my aching ankle and foot in the water from the well, it will be healed. I'm almost afraid to do so.  If it improves, will that increase my faith (the point of miracles.) I don't think so.  It it doesn't get better, then what?  I still believe.

I'm sorely tempted to make the holy water into a holy ice cube and ice my foot. That will definitely make it feel better, and to the people of Bellarmine's Rome, would look as much a miracle as the floating tile did. But I suspect that is cheating.
Seen in the window of some very chic
shop by the  Spanish steps.
Ankle or no, I adored these flaming shoes. Just what I need to lecture about thermodynamics in. They'd be perfect for the combustion of organic compounds lab — except of course, no open toed shoes in the lab!  Pink or black? Black, I imagine!

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