Once we got this far in the pilgrimaging some of us had actually had to go back home. The rest of us kept going though - today out to San Sebastiano (picture 1), Pilgrim church no 5, located about half an hour out on the Via Appia Antica. Since burials weren't allowed inside the city most of the old martyrs and Popes were buried outside the walls, and the martyr we're visiting today is St Sebastian (picture 3), buried in the church that bears his name.
Born in the 3rd century he was a soldier in Emperor Diocletian's army and a Christian. When he refused to deny his faith he was tied to a tree and shot by archers but miraculously survived and confronted the Emperor who then had him stoned.
The church in itself is beautiful, like churches are, and situated just over the tomb of St Sebastian and the catacombs built up around it. The catacombs contain both pagan roman and Christian tombs, some of the older ones, family vaults, with incredibly well preserved frescos and urns with the ashes of dead romans. Walking through the catacombs' sometimes narrow and labyrinth like passages was, at times, quite uncomfortable, but a quick prayer to Our Lady took care of that.
Leaving San Sebastiano and walking back in the direction of the city we passed a field with cute, lovely and jumpy lambs (picture 4) before coming to the church of Domine Quo Vadis. Built on the spot where St. Peter was suddenly stopped from fleeing persecution in Rome by Our Lord asking "Lord, where are you going?" Peter answering: "I am going to Rome to be crucified again". The church was built in the 17th century and is, certainly when you compare it to the basilicas in the city, very small. On the floor, in the middle of the church, is a copy of the foot prints (picture 5) left in the ground by Jesus on the occasion described above. The original (picture 2) is now kept in San Sebastiano. So how cool is that - Jesus' feet!!!? Coming back to the hotel that afternoon my own feet felt like stone as well - lovely long walk, underground excursions, sheep and then by far the most aweinspiring footprints - I too would stop in my tracks and go back to Rome!
Call for an End to Civil Strife - Alcaeus, fragment 70, lines 9-12 (tr. David A. Campbell, with his Greek text and apparatus): ... and may we forget this anger; and let us relax from the h...
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