Year 11 students see the sights of Italy’s Eternal City.
An early flight from Heathrow ensured that we arrived in Rome early enough to check into our hotel and then head straight out to explore! We had lunch in the Trevi Fountain area before catching the metro to Colosseo to see the Arch of Constantine, the Coliseum, ancient Rome, the Forum and the Mamertine Prison, where St Peter and St Paul were held before their martyrdom in Rome. We also managed to fit in the Basilica of St Peter in Chains.
On day two, we were all suitably impressed by the magnificence of St Peter's Basilica, the centre of Vatican City and the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. We also headed to Via Nomentana to visit the Generalate, the home of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Rome.
The Sisters welcomed us warmly and we had a tour of the house as well as an opportunity to spend a few quiet moments in the Chapel, reflecting on the fact that Thornton is part of a worldwide community of Jesus and Mary Schools. We visited the grave of Mother St Clare, who, in 1917, founded our very own Thornton College. We were privileged to meet Mother Cecilia, who, at 114 years old, is the fifteenth oldest person alive. She amazed us with her lively wit and her accurate memories of Thornton.
The third day brought yet another adventure – the Catacombs of St Priscilla, the underground burial chambers of the earliest Christians in Rome. We saw the earliest ever picture of the Virgin Mary with Jesus, etched onto the roof of one of the tunnels. Lunch in Pantheon Square enabled us to see inside the magnificent Pantheon structure and to do some souvenir shopping. It was then time for an afternoon visit to St John Lateran Basilica, the cathedral Church of Rome and the nearby Holy Stairs, which pilgrims must climb on their knees in an attitude of prayer and respect. Many of us chose to climb these stairs with other pilgrims.
On our final day we were up early to claim a good spot in St Peter's Square, directly under the window of the papal apartment, for the Angelus at midday. Thousands of pilgrims gathered for noon and were overjoyed to see and hear Pope Francis ‘in the flesh’. A visit to Castel St Angelo in the blazing sunshine with stunning views over Vatican City brought an end to a wonderful trip.