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Taken by The Beauty of Rome’s Basilicas

Brady Boles ’17  – Before coming to Rome, we had learned the importance of Rome in its power as a city and as an important symbol for the emergence and growth of early Christianity.  However, I had not truly appreciated the historical significance of the various pieces of architecture of the city and what they told about the emperors, early Christian figures, and even the everyday normal folk of the empire.  Everything about the trip was extremely fascinating, fun, and informative, but my favorite parts of the trip were the trips to Ostia and the various Constantinian basilicas.

It is hard not to have your breath taken away when walking into the various basilicas.  The size of each one was absolutely massive and you could feel the power of the building before you even walk inside.  As you walk inside, you feel even more overwhelmed, not only by the size, but also by the vivid Christian imagery and relics present within the building.  During my reflection, I appreciated the building’s ability to portray Constantine’s intention to show his power and leave his mark on history by building these massive basilicas.  For me, these structures highlighted one of the main themes of Ancient Rome, the importance of being remembered, being great and powerful, and carrying on the family name.

I was also taken aback by the artistry present in each of the basilicas.  Not only are the mosaics and paintings truly beautiful, but they had an impact on me in that they reflect how far Christianity has come in the previous centuries.  In the early centuries after Christ’s death, Christianity had been a private religion that had experienced persecution under several emperors.  Then in the 4th century, some of the biggest and most significant buildings had been built as churches for Christianity, reflecting the religions transformation into the more public, majority religion of the empire.  The basilicas beauty also marked the importance of artistic skill during those times and it really made me appreciate artists in general.  It also left me disappointed because in many modern cultures, including the United States, artists struggle finding any work.  These Roman artists had an important task of creating artwork that characterized religions and the Roman Empire and it really made me realize how much I take creativity and artistry for granted.

I also loved Ostia and the way it contrasted these basilicas.  It allowed us to take a day to experience life of the everyday Roman citizens instead of just remembering emperors and major Christian figures.  It was amazing to look at some of the homes of these people and to imagine what sounds, sights, and smells were present.  I also loved my site, the Piazzale delle Corporazioni. It was amazing to see how a simple portico transformed into the center of commerce for a booming empire.  It was rewarding to see the different mosaics in each of the offices that represented the growing diversity and grasp that the Empire had on the world.  Ostia reminded me that it is important to understand how the everyday citizen lived.

Aside from the course material, this trip was invaluable in that I got to live in a beautiful city for a week with great people, great food, and a great atmosphere.  I learned that aside from the language barrier, the Italian people are not so different.  They are proud of their history, live a fast -aced life, and love to have a good time, just like many of us Americans.  It was exciting to see the subtle and major differences in our ways of life, whether it be the food we eat or the chaos that is the streets of Rome.  I got to see and learn about some incredible things in Rome and enjoy them to the fullest thanks to the teachings of Dr. Hartnett and Dr. Nelson.  I also became closer with some of my Wabash brothers and was able to create memories that I will cherish for a long time.  I’d like to thank Dr. Hartnett, Dr. Nelson, and Wabash College for making this trip possible.


Rome Changes Personal Perspectives

Christian Beardsley ’16 – Today has been a very unique and bizarre day, one that I will never forget.  being a Christian, today was especially important and spectacular because it was personally very uplifting seeing the multitude relics, frescos, and mosaics.  Personally, my favorite ones were at the Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.  Coming into the church I was not too impressed at the overall state of it or anything within its walls; however, the side chapels would prove to hold many different things that would alter the simplistic mindset that I was in.  In the side chapel, we saw the nail of the cross of Christ, the thorns of His crown, and even the shroud of Jesus.  I was amazed when I saw all of these things and am very blessed to have been given this opportunity to have done so.

This trip has taught me many things along the days involving the beginning of Christianity and the early parts of the Roman Empire, even the culture of the people who live here.  Another thing I have learned was that there were many changes made to the monuments of the ancient times so that they could build over the old and start again with the new on top.  Christianity became a major religion and it was shown in the basilica and churches throughout the city.  Even among the churches, there were many frescos and mosaics from the past centuries, underneath the new structures, that depict key stories within the bible.  The stories would relate to the old and new testament and would also relate to that respective church in some way.

Rome is very different in terms of how people live and interact with others.  It is a very busy city, full of life during all times of the day.  There is never a dull moment to be had whilst here.  Overall, this trip has been a very unique and worthwhile experience, one that I will remember for the rest of my life.  It has taught me much and has provided me with useful tools and perspectives to look upon the world, such as enjoy the smaller things as well as the larger things of life and to just experience new things that may seem different.  I am very grateful to have this experience.


Continued Exploration of Rome

Shamir Johnson ’17 – After waking up at a very early 7:30 it was time to make our way to the Catacombs of Priscilla, also know as the Queen Catacomb.  It is named Queen Catacomb because it is said to have the most martyrs and 7 popes. Here we were able to get a picture of early Christian tombs. The tombs consisted of 3 layers of cemeteries which stretched 13 kilometers.  The travel there was a bit lengthy because catacombs are only on the outskirts or outside the sacred boundaries of Rome.  The location also helps protect from disease in the aorta of Rome.  Nonetheless, in the Catacombs we were able to see authentic frescoes of Mary holding Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Three Magi, and others.
After leaving the Catacombs we made our way to the Church of Santa Costanzo and Mosoleum where the tombs of Constantine’s mother and daughter were both at one time and are honored.  The Mosoleum was interesting because of the contrast from the other basilica we have visited these last few days, because of the circular structure the focus is at the center where the altar is located and immediately continues in a vertical way rather than a horizontal focus that is the norm for basilica.
Immediately after leaving the basilica we stopped by “Heaven”. Don’t be be confused this was not the name of the restaurant, but just an implication of how good the food tasted.  It was a buffet with meats, and cheeses, and pastas, and pizzas and green vegetables, and salads, and fruits, and vegetables, and deserts, and espressos.  After indulging in the fruits of the heavens with our swollen bellies we made our way to a few Churches all which seemed to be in a ten-minute radius of each.  I hope this gives you an idea of how many basilicas and churches Rome holds. It’s mind boggling; when you pass six churches in a ten minute walk. The churches each housed relics as well as offered visual aids in learning more and more about the Roman Christian and Early Christian architecture. Overall, after a little reflection  it is another good day in the books as I  impatiently wait for tonight’s feast. Ciao!!

History, Culture Combine to Make Rome Special

Cameron Brown ’17 – During my first two days in Rome, I have had a wide range of experiences. For example, on the first day here I was able to finally able to see and go inside the Pantheon. Being able to see, in person, one of the most iconic buildings in Rome was an amazing experience. It gave me the opportunity to experience first hand some of the architectural patterns, including the circles and squares that are repeated throughout the structure, that I learned about in a Roman architecture class last year. In addition to seeing this and many other structures, I was able to try out various cuisines. The first meal I tried, of course, was the pizza in Rome. This, as well as everything else I have ate so far, tasted amazing.

In addition to the food and sightseeing, just walking around the city is an experience. The culture in Rome is completely foreign when compared to the culture in America, as exemplified by the drivers. From the perspective of Americans, they are absolutely crazy. However, there is something in the confidence of the drivers that creates a feeling of safety in the midst of the chaos. I was surprised to find that while public transportation is prominent in Rome, it does not seem to be the prominent method of transportation. If you look out onto any busy street you will see a mass of mopeds weaving in and out of traffic as well as lanes.

I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity, as I have wished to come to Rome for as long as I remember. The culture, food, and even the drivers here have opened my eyes and given me an experience that I will not soon forget.


Imagining Life in Ancient Roman Times

Logan Anglin ’17 – Today in Rome,  I was able to experience what it was like for an ancient Roman Citizen to live in everyday life back in the 1st-4th century. We visited a church and sat through and experienced a traditional Italian Catholic mass. In particular, for the bulk of the day, visited the city of Ostia, an ancient Roman Civilization located near the coast of the Mediterranean. What was really important about studying this city was that unlike Rome, there had been no renovations or building on top of preexisting Ostia buildings. So by examining this city, we were able to see a relatively uninterrupted since the time of its busy existence.

For starters, just let me say how amazing it was to see this city and try to imagine how they lived and participated in everyday life. As we walked down the street made of large stones, there were worn down places only about 4-5 inches thick, which we learned were the result of years and years of wearing down and erosion made from the wheels of carriages. Immediately we began seeing direct evidence of a time in history where these ancient people actually lived here. This was the first real point in my trip where I was able to fully grasp the idea that this was an actual civilization that thrived and dominated the world nearly 2,000 years ago. All of the ruins we saw were simply amazing, like a time machine into the past. Especially since I plan on majoring or minoring in Classics, this helped me realize my true interests within the ancient world.

I especially was able to appreciate the ruins because I have taken four classes of Latin at Wabash College. I was able to practice this skill in the churches, signs, and all over the ruins. It was more of like a jigsaw puzzle, using what we have learned earlier in the semester as a base of knowledge, then by examining the ruins and the Latin associated to it, we could better understand what the Roman’s would have been doing here in these exact spots many years ago.

At one point in our tour with Dr. Hartnett through Ostia, he assumed the role of what a typical ancient Roman vendor would have done. The busy streets were lined with shops with large doors that offered good views of their insides and what they had to sell. Some of these buildings were very well intact and we were able to walk up the stairs into the second and third floor. These floors were meant as the living spaces for the store owners who worked on the first floor.

At one point in the tour, we were told to imagine what we would have seen, felt, tasted, touched, and heard if we were living at the time. We imagined very busy streets, with smells of all kinds of tasty food, smoke, and trash. Smoke would have filled the air as everyone cooked their foods without gas. The most populated streets were probably jam-packed with people, constantly bumping and shoving into one another. Everyone was probably constantly shouting as the acoustics in the buildings were not very good, and with so many people, you would probably have to yell in order to hear each other. The types of food to eat consisted of all kinds of breads, fish that was caught just a few miles over in the Mediterranean, and types of fruit or vegetables.

Even though this was my only second day here, it’s already been a trip of a lifetime as I have seen and learned so many things in the short time being here. It is hard to imagine that only 36 hours ago, I was in back in my dorm room at Wabash in Indiana.


Trying to Absory Rome’s History

Wesley Virt ‘17 – Today, I was in awe with my surroundings. I was amazed at the ingenuity, creativeness, and mysteries that surrounded the sites we visited. Today we visited the Epigraphical Museum, the catacombs under St. Peter’s, and St. Peter’s Basilica. At the Epigraphical Museum I realized that Roman life is extremely diverse. After looking at artifacts in this museum, I saw various aspects of Roman life that I never thought existed. This included hair dressers, freedman (who were free in a unique sense), and musicians. I could see these unique characteristics of Roman life portrayed through artifacts that were collected in this museum. One artifact that stood out to me was a stone carving that dealt with a freedman who had two patrons to serve. I can’t image being a slave set free and serving not only one patron, but two patrons for the rest of your life!

After this museum, we made our way St. Peter’s Basilica. We received the special opportunity to go underneath the basilica where we got the chance to see the necropolis and the tomb of St. Peter. I could not believe the intricacy of the paintings in the necropolis. These people buried in the necropolis under St. Peter’s really cared about what other Roman citizens thought about their life after death. After visiting the city of the dead we ventured back up to the land of the living to view the present day basilica.

In the past, I have gotten the chance to visit the Cathedral Basilica in Missouri. So I naturally assumed that St. Peter’s would be about the same as this other basilica. I don’t think I could have been more wrong. While both of these churches were massive, St. Peter’s had so many details in every part of the church. It was an overwhelming experience just standing in the Basilica. As Dr. Hartnett warned us before entering the basilica, “If you try to absorb everything in St. Peter’s you will get a headache.” This couldn’t have been more of an accurate statement! Overall, I had a great day. I realized how much history lies within this city piled layers and layers deep.


Being in Rome Brings Classroom Alive

Michael Haffner ’16 – On Monday night, we were able to gain a sense of the modern culture in Rome.  We attended a Lazio vs Florence soccer match.  It was quite an experience as it showed us how serious Italians take soccer and how united the Roman fans were.  Each citizen knew the “fight songs” and the chants almost as well as Wallies know Old Wabash.  

While we slept with horns and screaming Italians still lingering in our ears, we awoke early on Tuesday. We began our day at the epigraphical museum.  The museum itself is rich with early religious and social activity.  Multiple students gave presentations at the museum highlighting a topic they had researched earlier in the semester. The museum aided in putting all of the ideas and topics we have learned together.  For instance we viewed a statue found at the Syrian sanctuary in the Janiculum.  This allowed for us to visualize not only the rituals that a cult would undergo, but also to see how cults and religious views transitioned as the statue was found in the second century and emblems of a different cult were found at the same site in the fourth century.  

It’s hard to fully understand how a cult or any religious group functioned in Rome, but small statues and artifacts aid in providing clues as to what may have been occurring.  I have learned not only to keep an eye out for details but also to keep an open mind.  

Oftentimes, the reasons for why a temple was built where it was or why the road slants in a certain direction are not obvious. One must be open to new ideas as new information is still being found.  In the afternoon, we were given a special tour through the Vatican and we were able to see where Peter may have been buried and St. Peter’s Basilica.  While viewing other catacombs, we were able to gain a sense of how families would worship their dead family members and what sort of rituals would take place involving the dead.  

Overall, the class has been an enjoyable experience which I think is enhanced with the immersion experience. It is one thing to be told that the colosseum is massive and once hosted murders, wild animals, and martyrdoms.  However, when one actually stands in the building and visualizes what took place, it becomes a humbling experience.  I am very grateful to attend a school where these types of courses are offered as I feel they open students eyes to different ways of studying these topics.


Remarkable Day in Rome

Marcus Kammrath ’16 – Today was the best day of my life. Multiple bucket list sites were checked off of my list today. We started with our light breakfast at the hotel and set off promptly at 8:15 to get our day going. We started at the Roman Forum, the heart of the entire Roman Empire. There we were able to see remains as well as still standing arches, basilicas, and other public buildings. The shear size of these buildings can not be given justice from a photo.

After the Roman Forum we made our way along the triumphal march to the Arch of Constantine and the Flavian Amphitheater! Here we looked a lot at not only the Roman uses for the amphitheater but the early Christian uses as a place of martyrdom. After there we booked it to the train station to catch the train to the Vatican Museums. The amount of graffiti all over Rome, but especially in the subways, is a work of art itself. A good majority of it is really well done and pretty interesting to look at. Thankfully they know better than to try and tag the areas we were in today!

When we got to the Vatican Museums we met with our security guard and headed to the section usually closed to the public (traveling with Hartnett and Nelson certainly has advantages) we listened to the four presenters discuss their various sarcophagus’ and the statue of the Good Shepherd. But wait! There’s more. Have you ever heard of the Sistine Chapel? Yeah we saw that today as well! Me and the group I was walking with had to pretty much pick our jaws up from the floor as we looked up thinking the tourist question of the day “How could one man do all of this?”

We finished at the Vatican Museums shortly after but not until Brent and I discovered the Pope-mobile museum! Complete with a “blessed” Ferrari F1 racing wheel. Had the day ended there we still would have had the day of our lives but it didn’t. Our final stop of the night was the Olympic stadium. To see the Roman Serie A soccer club Lazio play Florence in what was supposed to be a close, hard fought game but ended in a lopsided 4-0 win for the good guys riding a Miroslav Klose 2 goal performance. Thankfully Dr. Hartnett says we will be calming down a little early tomorrow after St Peter’s. A good nights rest is well deserved by all! Best wishes everyone!


Rome’s Great Art Makes First Impression

Daniel Miller ’17 – Today we started our Immersion experience. From the moment we stepped off the plane we knew we were not at little Wabash College anymore. Some highlights from today were going to all the great Basilica’s throughout the city and seeing the Pantheon. The paintings in the church’s are extraordinary. The enormous amount of wealth accumulated by the churches here is just something that you can not put into words.
I was especially impressed with the paintings on the ceilings of many of the church’s. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference in the buildings. Going to the Pantheon was another wonderful experience. The sheer size and beauty is something everyone should witness in their own eyes. It was also wonderful to see the tomb of Raphael in the Pantheon. He is one of my mother’s favorite artists and I know his work well. The fact it is just wedged into the middle of the city makes it look even more impressive.
At the Pantheon I also had my first Gelato which was the best desert I have ever had. To end the day we ate at a Pizzeria. It was the best Pizza I have ever consumed. The sausage is nothing like I have ever had. It also was a great time to hangout with the guys and unwind after the long day. I look forward to going to Ostia and the Vatican in the coming days. This week is going to be an experience I will never forget.

First Day in Rome Opens Eyes

Brent Poling ’16 – Just had a wonderful first day in Rome!! So far I have been up for about 32 hours straight with the plane ride over here and being super busy the entire day. The trip from the airport to the hotel was a very interesting one to say the least. The people here are very busy and seem to get mad very easily at Americans. But once we were able to get to the hotel we took a long break before exploring some of the city.
The first day here we were able to see many small temples, a few churches, and even many ancient monuments. My favorites so far were the Column of Trajan, the Pantheon, and the Roman Forum. We spent a few hours scouring the city getting to see many of the major historical monuments from at least a close distance. I am very excited to be able to get to go see each of them up close when we go into more depth with the individual structures.
The last thing we did was got some pizza for dinner.  The cuisine here is different from America, it seems to be that every meal you have has at least two courses. Also, there were many small shops scattered around the town that you could just walk up into to get coffee or gelato. It was very hard to get used to the differences of the city as a whole, but it is one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had.