Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June 21 - Rome

This morning we had an early morning Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Lithuanian Chapel - in the grotto underneath the Basilica and very near to the tomb of St. Peter.

About the Cappella Lituana:

The story of this chapel, located next to the chapel of Partorienti, started on May 5, 1967. Bishop Vincent Brizgys, auxiliary of Kaunas (Lithuania) but resident in Chicago, in the name of the Lithuanian nationals scattered in different countries asked to create in the grottoes a chapel dedicated to Mary Mater Misericordiosa, venerated in Vilnius since 1570, especially in the imposing gate of the city called Gate of Aurora, dedicated to the memory of the Lithuanians martyred for their faith and for their country.

It was decided to build the chapel at the beginning of the peribolos, between the entrance to the pier of St Andres and the chapel of Partorienti. In order to create the necessary space, excavations were conducted through the wall of the peribolos into the area that during the Renaissance had been filled with earth to level the floor of the basilica.

During the excavations which ended in autumn 1968, a number of discoveries were made. First of all, a decorated corridor of Paul V (1617) was found. It had been built before Bernini modified the area and then was filled in. The upper part of a stairway was found that during the construction of the basilica linked the higher level of the southern transept with the original lower level of the nave. Under the floor level of the old basilica they found 9 a cappuccina tombs and 3 marble sarcophagi.

The image of the Vergine lituana placed on the back wall, dominates over the chapel. Below is the inscription: SVB TVVM PRAESIDIVM CONFVGIMVS MATER MISERICORDIEA (Under your protection we take refuge, Mother of Mercy). The work in mosaic was realized by the Studio of the Fabbrica di San Pietro. The silver facing forming the crescent and the cloak of the Madonna, the crown and the rays around her head, was made by Angelo Bortolotti from Rome.

In the left wall, close to the entrance, is an opening where ancient architectural elements are visible. This is a section of the original corridor leading to the sacred grottoes. Still visible, are some of the frescoes by Giovanni Battista Ricci da Novara (1617): fake marble with geometrical patterns, while on the vault is the fresco of the Cross and the symbols of the Passion together with decorative motifs, similar to the ones found in the peribolos.

The bronze figure of Christ called Rupintojelis or Provider, is very dear to the Lithuanian tradition. The statue is the link between the ancient space and the modern chapel. The exhausted Christ is sitting on a rock, with his face resting on His forearm, in an attitude of silent suffering. The work was made by Alcide Tico after thorough studies of analogous Lithuanian models.

We then paused near the tomb of St. Peter to ask his intercession:

O glorious St. Peter, because of your vibrant and generous faith, sincere humility and flaming love, our Lord honored you with singular privileges and especially leadership of the whole Church. Thou art the Shepherd of the sheep, the Prince of the Apostles, unto thee were given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church." Raise us up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the apostolic assistance of blessed Peter, Thine Apostle; so that the weaker we are, the more mightily we may be helped by the power of his intercession; and that being perpetually defended by the same holy apostle, we may neither yield to any iniquity, nor be overcome by any adversity. Obtain for us the grace of a living faith, a sincere loyalty to the Church, acceptance of all her teachings, and obedience to all her precepts. Let us thus enjoy an undisturbed peace on earth and everlasting happiness in heaven. Amen.

We then had time to visit St. Peter's Basilica on our own for a bit before heading off to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.  Following our visit there we had the chance to walk through the Holy Door.  

Afterward Father Bateman took the group up to the North American College, the American Seminary here in Rome, for one of the most spectacular views of Rome.

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