Daily Rome Shot 70

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. seeker says:

    The sermon for me was the couple a few rows ahead in a sparsely attended Mass in a beach vacation community in a freezing rain-pelted building. She was so diminutive and skinny I thought at first she was a child. He slowly and carefully helped her off with her coat and when she lowered herself onto a seat one away from him, he helped her move closer and took her hand in is. Without drawing attention he aided her to sit and stand, then up to Communion where he stood behind her and put his arms around her to guide the Host to her mouth.
    I nearly opted for Mass online because of the weather, the Franciscan Novus Ordo Mass without kneelers, and the well sung but awful music (looking at you Marty Haugen) at church on this island.
    I am sorry I don’t remember the sermon, but I can’t forget how the man moved with a measured patience and tenderness as he got her in and out of the car in a storm to get to church and then saw to it that she participated in the Mass. With humility, I reflect on how little effort I put into Mass, yet was shown Christ three rows ahead of me today.

  2. ThePapalCount says:

    TODAY’S ROME SHOT is the exterior of the Italian parliament. The lower house of the Italian government meets here. The senate meets in buildings between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, a walk-able distance away.
    This building is close to the Church of St Ignatius Loyola — not the Gesu Church but Sant Ignazio. A beautiful church whose exterior is totally unimpressive but the interior is stunning. You often walk by this” lower house of deputies” walking between Trevi and the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon/Navona areas There is usually a high security presence here especially when the House is sitting.

  3. ThePapalCount says:

    oh..let me add……the clock face features prominently in several background shots in the film Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. (you can also purchase theatre posters of this film all over the city featuring the two stars on a Vespa and the clock in the background)

  4. L. says:

    Attendance at our 8:00 a.m. Mass was pretty good considering the fact that there was snow and slick streets in our hilly neighborhood.

  5. Semper Gumby says:

    The obelisk in front of Parliament honors Pharaoh Psamtik II of the 26th Dynasty in the sixth century BC. Before the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, brought it to Rome in 10 BC it stood at Heliopolis in Egypt. The hieroglyphs on the obelisk are mainly a list of the Pharaoh’s many names (“king of Upper and Lower Egypt” “who seizes the White Crown and unites the Double Crown” “Golden Horus”).

    Augustus annexed Egypt to the new Empire. Several more obelisks arrived in Rome, and a pyramid, the Pyramid of Cestius, was built about the same time. Virgil and Strabo toured Egypt. Augustus’ daughter Julia decorated part of the villa at Boscotrecase (near Mt. Vesuvius) with depictions of Egyptian dieties such as Isis, Sobek and Anubis. Plutarch wrote “On Isis and Osiris.”

    The Isis cult was banned in the late 4th century by Theodosius.

  6. Semper: And… the significance of the obelisk and time?

    It could be that more than one star is available.

  7. Semper Gumby says:

    Pliny wrote about this obelisk in Natural History, 36:

    “Above all, there came also the difficult task of transporting obelisks to Rome by sea. The ships used attracted much attention from sightseers. That which carried the first of two obelisks was solemnly laid up by the deified Augustus in a permanent dock at Puteoli, to celebrate the remarkable achievement; but later it was destroyed by fire. The ship used by the Emperor Gaius for bringing a third was carefully preserved for several years by the deified Claudius, for it was the most amazing thing that had ever been seen at sea. Then caissons made of cement were erected in its hull at Puteoli; whereupon it was towed to Ostia and sunk there by order of the emperor, so to contribute to his harbour-works.

    “Then there is another problem, that of providing ships that can carry obelisks up the Tiber; and the successful experiment shows that the river has just as deep a channel as the Nile. The obelisk placed by the deified Augustus in the Circus Maximus was cut by King Psemetnepserphreus, who was reigning when Pythagoras was in Egypt, and measures 85 feet and 9 inches, apart from its base, which forms part of the same stone. The obelisk in the Campus Martius, however, which is 9 feet less, was cut by Sesothis. Both have inscriptions comprising an account of natural science according to the theories of the Egyptian sages.

    “The one in the Campus was put to use in a remarkable way by the deified Augustus so as to mark the sun’s shadow and thereby the lengths of days and nights. A pavement was laid down for a distance appropriate to the height of the obelisk so that the shadow cast at noon on the shortest day of the year might exactly coincide with it. Bronze rods let into the pavement were meant to measure the shadow day by day as it gradually became shorter and then lengthened again. This device deserves to be carefully studied, and was contrived by the mathematician Novius Facundus. He placed on the pinnacle a gilt ball, at the top of which the shadow would be concentrated, for otherwise the shadow cast by the tip of the obelisk would have lacked definition. He is said to have understood the principle from observing the shadow cast by the human head.

    “The readings thus given have for about thirty years past failed to correspond to the calendar, either because the course of the sun itself is anomalous and has been altered by some change in the behaviour of the heavens or because the whole earth has shifted slightly from its central position, a phenomenon which, I hear, has been detected also in other places. Or else earth-tremors in the city may have brought about a purely local displacement of the shaft or floods from the Tiber may have caused the mass to settle, even though the foundations are said to have been sunk to a depth equal to the height of the load they have to carry.”

    Thus Pliny. In the 1970s the German archaeologist Edmund Buchner while excavating in Rome theorized that this obelisk was situated to cast a shadow on September 23, Emperor Augustus’ birthday, into the altar of the nearby Ara Pacis. A reasonable theory by Buchner given his excavations revealed various lines and zodiac signs and the Imperial cult.

    Recently, Buchner’s theory has been challenged. Some say the obelisk served as a simple meridian line. A team led by Indiana University professor Bernard Frischer recently developed a 3D simulation to estimate the obelisk’s original position and opined that the obelisk’s shadow falls on the altar of the Ara Pacis on October 9, the festival of Apollo (there are several weak spots in his paper and Frischer fails to make his case, despite the media publicity given his 3D simulation).

    Regardless, the obelisk was brought from Egypt to glorify the first Emperor (“deified” according to Pliny) and reinforce the Emperor cult.

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    The obelisk of Psamtik II is in the Piazza Montecitorio. It’s original location in Rome was the Campus Martius, where Augustus erected it in 10 BC upon its arrival from Heliopolis. Sometime around the 10th century the obelisk toppled over and was damaged. Pope Sixtus V in the 16th century unsuccessfully tried to repair and raise it. In the 18th century Pope Pius VI successfully raised the obelisk in the Piazza Montecitorio.

    Today the original site, Campus Martius, is home to the 8th century Church of Santo Stefano del Cacco and the 14th century Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

    Santa Maria sopra Minerva was built over the ruins of a temple known as an “Iseum” dedicated not to Minerva but to Isis. Santo Stefano del Cacco was built over a “Serapeum”- a temple dedicated to Serapis.

    The cult of Serapis syncretized two Egyptian deities, Apis (a bull) and Osiris (brother and husband of Isis), with two Greek dieties, Zeus and Dionysus. After Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in the 4th century BC a dynasty of Greek rulers, the Ptolemies, built a large Serapeum in the port city of Alexandria. The cult of Serapis spread to other Greek colonies and eventually to Rome.

    The cult of Isis differed from the syncretistic Serapis cult. The Egyptian goddess Isis had a cult for some three thousand years before the Greeks arrived in Egypt. Isis was one of the nine dieties that comprised the Ennead of Heliopolis. The Ennead were vital to the creation myths of the ancient Egyptians. Isis was the “throne goddess” and mother of each Pharaoh. Isis is mentioned frequently in the Pyramid Texts, the oldest collection of Egyptian funerary texts (these texts were spells and chants inscribed in hieroglyphs on the walls of tombs and on sarcophagi, intended to aid the dead on their journey to the stars). In these texts Isis was associated with the star Sirius and her brother and husband Osiris with the constellation Orion.

    Then, a few centuries before the Greeks arrived in Egypt the role of Isis in Egyptian mythology transformed markedly. Isis “absorbed” deities such as Hathor, Nut and Maat. Isis became identified with creating the world, the sky, victory and safe voyages at sea. The last two attributes proved popular with numerous Roman soldiers and sailors when the Isis cult spread from Greece to Sicily to the Roman mainland, particularly Pompeii, and along trade routes to Gaul, the Rhine and England (there was an Iseum in London). The cult of Isis, after some conflict, acquired acceptance in the Greek and Roman pantheons.

    Two examples: the Navigium Isidis, an annual Roman festival on March 5 honoring Isis; and Josephus, in The Wars of the Jews, describes the triumphant scene in Rome soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD:

    “Now all the soldiery marched out beforehand by companies, and in their several ranks, under their several commanders, in the night time, and were about the gates, not of the upper palaces, but those near the temple of Isis; for there it was that the emperors had rested the foregoing night. And as soon as ever it was day, Vespasian and Titus came out crowned with laurel, and clothed in those ancient purple habits which were proper to their family, and then went as far as Octavian’s Walks; for there it was that the senate, and the principal rulers, and those that had been recorded as of the equestrian order, waited for them.”

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    Some Roman coins featured the syncretistic Serapis, a deity that combined Egyptian and Greek deities:


    Serapis involved the Apis bull. A coin minted during the reign of Julian the Apostate with the Apis bull itself:


    In ancient Egypt the Apis bull was sacred as a sign of fertility and strength. There was one living Apis bull, carefully selected, at any given time. The Apis bull was well cared for and participated in the Pharaoh’s Sed festival. When the bull eventually died of natural causes it was buried at Memphis-Saqqara, not far from Heliopolis. The Apis bull was sometimes also worshipped in Iseums.

    In the late 1st century AD (basic elements may date to the 1st century BC, probably due to the influence of Serapeum) another competitor to Christianity arose in Rome: the mystery cult of Mithras. Mithraism also involved a bull, though in Mithraism the bull was sacrificed. The mystery cult was secretive, it held its rituals privately in “Mithraeum.” Mithraeum were generally caves, but there were also buildings, similar to lodges. A summarized description of a Mithraeum in Germany:

    “Richard Gordon wrote a summary for the Electronic Journal of Mithraic Studies, which is reproduced here as the EJMS site is now heavily corrupt and the .doc file now inaccessible.”

    “There seem to have been at least two building phases. In the first, the floor was evidently constructed of wooden boards.”

    “At a later point still, a secondary wall was built about 1m away from the ‘threshold’ (i.e. the W. end-wall) abutting onto the podia-walls. Between the ‘threshold’ and this secondary wall was a large block of stone, on end, that apparently acted as a step.”


    The mystery cult of Mithras had seven levels of initiation, and members were known as “syndexioi” due to a secret handshake that members used for identification.

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