One of my favorite sections in Omnes print magazine is called "Corners of Rome." The column showcases the hidden secrets of Rome, did I say hidden? No, they are not really hidden, but require attention and a certain sensitivity to find them. I am chronicling my own experiences in the corners of Rome. Time will tell the content.
I refer to the column because the other day I revisited one of those corners. June is a "hard" month in Rome. Temperatures start to rise and the humidity seems to have a multiplying effect on it, the exam period for university students is in this month, etc. The hardest part of June comes when friends who have finished their studies return to their respective countries. We try not to say goodbye, we dare to say with certainty, "see you later".
Just as my friends do not say goodbye as such, we try to say goodbye to the places we have always visited. We do not go to the Fontana Di Trevi to throw coins, hoping for a return, but we are grateful for the memories we have lived and, of course, with a tinge of desire to return.
We do not sing the famous Arrivederci Roma. We only went to visit her one last time. We were inspired by Lucia, in Manzoni's classic, The bride and groom. Lucia, leaving her village, makes a litany of things she says goodbye to. Goodbye mountains, goodbye streams, goodbye houses.... "Farewell, mountains rising from the waters, and raised to the sky; unequal summits, known to him who grew up among you, and imprinted on his mind, like the faces of our own family. Farewell! Streams, whose murmur distinguishes, as well as the sound of the domestic voices of our nearest friends. Scattered villages, that whiten on the slope, Like flocks of sheep grazing, Farewell!"
We, like Lucia, said goodbye, not to the mountains, but to the obelisks, not to the streams, but to the fountains, the houses, the roofs, the domes.
Farewell to the obelisks, which stand cheerful and firm as a trunk..., farewell to the domes that rise in the splendor of the sun, the sunrise and sunsets... Farewell to the fountains that let the water rise from below and flow upwards....
There was a place that contained in it, all our farewell wishes. It is St. Peter's Basilica. I know of a Spanish romantic who, contemplating the beauties of Rome from a rooftop, referred to [the place where the pope stays] as the most precious jewel of Rome. He wrote of Rome's splendor in these words:
"O quam luces, Roma. Quam amoeno hic rides pospectu quantis ecllis antiquitatis monumentos. Sed nobilior tua gemma atque purior Christi vicarius de quio una cive gloriaris."
"Oh, how you shine, Rome! How you shine from here, with a splendid panorama, with so many marvelous monuments of antiquity. But your noblest and purest jewel is the vicar of Christ, of whom you glory as a unique city."
The romantic was St. Josemaría Escrivá.
We went to St. Peter's Basilica to say goodbye. We saw the fountains, because Rome is the city of fountains. We saw the fountain of the Tiaras near the colonnade in St. Peter's Square, a beauty! The water of the three tiaras refreshes many pilgrims in these days of high temperatures. We didn't stop here to say goodbye, but went to a perhaps lesser known fountain. It has an inscription that I like:
"Quid miraris apem, quæ mel de floribus haurit? Si tibi mellitam gutture fundit aquam."
"why are you surprised by the bee that extracts honey from flowers, if [when] it pours sweet water for you from its throat?"
Sources are what Chesterton would call the "lungs of Rome". The fountain is a paradox. Water flows upward and not downward. The water is in a state of resurrection here, the water is propelled upward and rises. The same is true of the obelisk in the square before entering the basilica. They look like pillars that have planted their roots in the earth. A large, firm trunk, without branches. It seemed alive.
We bid farewell to the saints in the basilica, both those in the stone and those in the tomb. I remember the Brazilian boy named Zezé in "My lime orange plant". The boy was not sure if it was good to be a saint because he thought that saints were always static and calm in their place on the stones. As much as he wanted to do his own thing, standing still was not an option for the young man. What he didn't know was that they were more alive than static. Unlike Zezé, the stone saints were the companions of Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre Dame in Victor Hugo's novel.
We went to the tomb, to the crypt, recited the Creed and felt every word alive.
Rome is a city of tombs, catacombs and crypts. One has the impression that the tombs are full of life. The dead are alive. The past comes to the present. Rome is eternal because it knows how to come out of the tomb.
Then, the dome of the basilica. It was like being on top of the world, or rather, on top of the capital of the world. When you look down from the top of the world, everything seems different, everything takes on a different meaning. Esmeralda marveled at the view of Paris from the top of the basilica of Notre Dame when Quasimodo offered her that moment, which she considered priceless.
It is from this peak that one begins to say goodbye. One begins to see with the eyes of the birds, a wide vision. It is here that one begins to see again what Rome is. Rome is the eternal city because it is the city of resurrection. Fountains that let the water rise, stone saints that seem majestic and alive, tombs that fill with life. The tomb is not the last place. The dome is just above it. Everything speaks of life. Everything is alive.
Rome is the city of resurrection. This is what we felt from the top of the dome and could see in retrospect. Rome makes us eternal because it does away with narrow-mindedness, a closed mentality and resurrects us with a greater soul - the magna anima. Rome is eternal because it is the city of resurrection and makes us universal, makes us Catholic. One leaves Rome with a resurrected personality.