At 5.00 a.m. on Friday 27th, November Mr. Conry’s Rhetoric Latin class, along with Mr. O’Hara and Mr. Leahy S.J., assembled in terminal of two of Dublin airport to set off for Rome. The early start was worth it as we were in our hotel, located a mere 300 yards from Marcus Agrippa’s Pantheon, before midday. The group comprised Hugh Horan, Sean McMahon, Jack Savage, Andrew Corrigan, Barry Murphy, Tomasz Wisniowski, Stephen Gildea, Joseph Martin Top (top row above), Mr Niall Leahy SJ, Mr Stephen O’Hara, Mr Adam Conry, Gavin Dowling and Edward Carroll (bottom row).
Due to Mr. Conry’s military scheduling, there was little time for loitering, and instead we were whisked off to the Vatican Scavi. There we met an American seminarian, who took great delight in leading us through the Roman necropolis beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. We were regaled with stories of the excavations in the 1940s and 1950s during which archaeologists unearthed what many believe to be the bones of St. Peter. We then climbed up from the archaeological site into the main chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The evening’s sightseeing consisted of a trip to our neighbouring landmark, the Pantheon. Here Sean McMahon and Andrew Corrigan gave a presentation to the group, before bringing us on a guided tour around the temple. It was hungry work, and by 19.30 mutiny had become a distinct possibility so it was decided to adjourn for supper: the Italian cuisine is almost as impressive as their archaeology!
Rooms full of Caravaggios
On Saturday morning we rose early and were amongst the first visitors to cross the threshold of the Galleria Borghese, where we saw astounding sculptures by Bernini, rooms full of Caravaggio’s works and ceilings covered in beautiful frescoes. We saw Bernini’s marble statue of Aeneas carrying his father on his shoulders and leading his son out of the flames of Troy. We also saw, and translated the inscription on Bernini’s sculpture of Daphne and Apollo, which captures Daphne half-way through her metamorphosis: in frondem crines, in ramos bracchia crescunt (her hair grows into foliage, her arms into branches). We retired for a pizza and then took a leisurely walk to the Ara Pacis Augusti, where Gavin Dowling and Jack Savage gave a presentation.
On Saturday evening we met with Fr. Gerry Whelan S.J., who said Mass for our group in the chapel of the Gregorian University. Fr. Gerry joined us for dinner afterwards and for a late night tour of Trajan’s column, where Barry Murphy and Tomasz Wisnioski gave a presentation beneath the floodlights. After this we paid a visit to the Trevi fountain and sampled the local ice cream.
On Sunday we were granted a sleep in till 8.00. before rising and setting off for the Colosseum, the Forum, the Palatine Hill and Trajan’s Markets. We were led on a guided tour of the Colosseum, which was supplemented with a presentation given by Hugh Horan and yours truly. Ed Carroll and Stephen Gildea spoke after this and guided our group through the Forum and up onto the Palatine Hill, where we wandered about the ruins of Domitian’s Imperial Palace.
Sunday evening concluded with a trip back in time to Trajan’s markets and a walk across the oldest bridge in Europe, the Pons Fabricius. All in all, it was a fantastic trip and everyone really enjoyed it. Many thanks to Mr. Conry for organising the trip and to Mr. O’Hara and Mr. Leahy for their help. It was with regret that we said ‘exeamus hinc’ on leaving behind this wonderful city, its architecture, history and ice cream!