November 8, 2009


        Italian souvenirs by Mirino

My unique visit to Rome was for a long weekend in September, nine years ago, for the wedding of a most worthy nephew and his beautiful and intelligent bride tedesca-italiana. It was a magical stay, not only because of the wonderful wedding, officiated in the Chiesa di San Lorenzo in Miranda (by an excellent, Liverpudlian priest) followed by a sumptuous reception at the charming and prestigeous Castello di Torcrescenza, but for other, more personal reasons, including what I have since cherished as a unique and precious gift.

The day before the wedding we wanted to see the Vatican which was within easy walking distance from our hotel. This was simply to see and admire the architecture, perhaps visit St Peter's Basilica if possible, and wander round the square. As it was pouring with rain, it wasn't thought likely that we would stay out for very long.

Strangely however, as we approached the Vatican, we were engulfed by an ever increasing flow of people with umbrellas, all intent on arriving, or being swept along and into, la Piazza San Pietro. There were so many people that the enormous square seemed smaller than it actually was. And all the coloured umbrellas seemed to join to represent the shell of a massive, festooned tortoise.

Despite the rain, or perhaps also because of it, there was an extraordinary, electric atmosphere. Of course all this was totally unexpected. Obviously Pope Jean-Paul II was due to arrive. Word was spreading however that because of the weather and his fragile health, the address he was supposed to make would probably be cancelled.

Suddenly, purely by accident, I found myself perfectly placed. The Pope had arrived. He was driven slowly past, just there, right in front of me. It was as though I could have touched him. I was totally spell-bound. He was so white and his skin had a luminous quality that reminded me distinctly of our mother's, on another special day exacly one year before when she lay as though in state, the majestic, Scottish lady that indeed she had been and appeared to be even more so then.

For me this was enough. It was the year 2000. The Great Jubilee year. He would make an address that I wouldn't be able to follow or hear in any case. But it didn't matter. Next to me there was an American. His eyes too shone with wonder. We stared at each other through tears because we must have understood that this, with the thick, grey curtain of rain bouncing like countless jewels off the hundreds of coloured umbrellas, was a blessing. An unforgettable moment which left us speechless.

I'm neither starry-eyed nor conventionally religious, and it's probable that we all make personal connotations at such times, but that moment made an enormous impact on me.
For the following wedding day, a fresh breeze had cleared the sky leaving only those glorious, cumulous clouds against cobalt blue that make such perfect, aspiring backgrounds for certain, renaissance, profile portraits of Italian nobility.
Everything was ideal and it was a great privileged to be there to follow all the proceedings, yet involuntarily I was also transported elsewhere, still in wonder of what I had seen and felt the day before.                                                            

The Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda was built within the remains of the Roman temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Begun in the year 141 by the Emperor Antoninus Pius it was built as a dedication to his late, deified wife Faustina the elder.
The temple was rededicated after the death and deification of the Emperor himself to become that of 'Antoninus and Faustina'.

The church- 'San Lorenzo in Miranda' may already have been established in the seventh century, but it 's officially dated from the eleventh century.

The Castello di Torcrescenza is named after the castle built in 1400 by the Marquis Francesco Crescenza who had it built on the site of the original ancient tower dating from the eleventh century. It is situated in Rome in a beautiful old park embellished with many fountains.


Text © Mirino (PW) November, 2009. Source Wikipedia. Image Piazza San Pietro with thanks to Wikimedia Commons. Photo Tempio di Antonino e Faustina with thanks to Dan Kramminga.


Da Pacem Domine - Monastic Gregorian Chant

Yes, I love Gregorian Chant. Ever since I was a young boy I have been fascinated by the whole world around it. I love when the monks glide softly into the church, their white or black cowls—depending on which monastic order they belong to—billowing behind them, when they line up in silence, facing each other in long choir stalls. I love when “bells peal and the chant begins—low at first, then swelling as all the monks join in. Their soft voices wash over the ancient stones, replacing the empty clatter of the day with something like the sound of eternity,” as American journalist Mark Landler put it in his June 26, 2008 lyrical piece in the New York Times.

Yes, I love Gregorian Chant and didn’t have to wait until 1994, when the Benedictines of Santo Domingo de Solis, in Spain, prompted the last big revival of it with an album that became a phenomenon, nor did I have to wait until May 2008, when the Cistercian monks of the Stift Heiligenkreuz, deep in the Vienna woods, released an album of Gregorian chants, “Chant: Music for Paradise,” which shot to No. 7 in the British pop charts—at one point outselling releases from Amy Winehouse and Madonna—and made those monks a crossover hit, the latest example of how a once-neglected 1,000-year-old part of the Roman Catholic liturgy, can be repackaged for a secular society that savors its soothing, otherworldly cadences.

Yes, I love Gregorian Chant, and would like to share this passion of mine with all of you, my loyal readers. So enjoy this one and stay tuned for more info and videos.. [Thanks: The Metaphysical Peregrine]