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In this first episode of a special seven-part series, we take you on a spiritual journey through the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome to learn more about the history, art, architecture, and spiritual wealth of each of these storied places of worship, beginning with St. Peter’s Basilica.
“The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.” - Thomas Merton
For centuries, pilgrimages have been an important part of the spiritual life.
Pilgrimages are a way to deepen our inner spirituality and find a closer relationship to God.
Since the 4th century, Christians from around the world have been coming to Rome, walking on various pilgrim routes, such as the Via Francigena, to visit and pray at the many tombs of saints and martyrs.
In 1553, St. Philip Neri began making a one-day pilgrimage to the seven Churches of Rome as an act of private devotion.
The seven churches included in his itinerary were:
Basilica of St Peter in the Vatican
Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls
Basilica of St Sebastian Outside the Walls
Basilica of St. John Lateran
Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem
Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls
Basilica of Saint Mary Major
Others soon began to make this pilgrimage, and it became a communal practice, stopping along the roughly 20-kilometre road to pray, sing songs, and reflect.
Today, the faithful continue this pilgrimage, walking along the historical route to each church.
St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican
The first station of the Pilgrimage to the Seven Churches is St. Peter’s Basilica, the biggest and the most important church in Christendom and the spiritual center of Christianity.
The first Basilica was built by Pope Sylvester with the support of Emperor Constantine in 324 over the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle.
The Basilica and the Square that we see today is a result of the contribution of many famous artists and architects under the guidance of several Popes over the centuries.
The beauty and the grandeur of St. Peter’s Basilica help us to contemplate the omnipresence of God, the creator of all beauty, to participate in the great experience of faith, thus inducing a desire for heaven.
Sr. Gini George
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