ROME, LAZIO, ITALY – While in Rome during the summer of 2012 I was on a mission to seek out her most ancient churches, interested especially in those which would have held witness to the city through the 10th century A.D. Santa Maria in Trastevere definitely qualified, with a groundbreaking of 340 A.D. – one of the oldest remaining churches in Rome.
I wandered in one hot evening and found a mass underway, nearing its end. Pushing past the tourists hesitating in the entrance, I was able only to participate in the traditional ‘baci’ greetings (literally translated: ‘kisses’ – my favorite part of mass) and take in the closing remarks. A procession of priests with incense billowing around them passed through the aisle, chanting. The incense smelled of soap, of dried flowers, of age – of all churches in Rome. Tradition surrounded us. There were lovely beams of light coming in through the high windows behind the altar, creating a marvelous scene. As the basilica began to empty, I moved forward to capture that image of glory and gold. The chiesa remained busy, awed sightseers wandering around with their bright eyes turned upward, mouths open.
I sat in a pew, writing in my notebook until the light disappeared.