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San Gennaro: A Traditional Catholic Neapolitan Feast
Please check also our Religious News from Italy
Religion is an all-pervasive force in Italy, and one cannot know the true nature of this country and its people without understanding the role faith plays in Italian life. Those travelling to Italy have no choice but to visit the churches, shrines and monasteries if they want to get to know some of the greatest art and architecture ever created.
Create your own pilgrimage adventure! Increasing numbers of seekers are taking off on pilgrimage to quench a spiritual thirst. That is why James and Colleen Heater from Nevada City, California wrote The Pilgrim’s France and The Pilgrim’s Italy, as an answer to their own quest when searching for sacred sites in these two delightful countries. They have learned much from their travels and want to share the following tips with those souls seeking more meaningful travel experiences.
Don’t bite off more than you can meditate on
Plan your itinerary to include rest and relaxation. You will receive the inspiration you are seeking if you choose fewer destinations and spend more time in each one.
Spiritual travelers and pilgrims of all faiths will appreciate the addition of up-to-date information on two revived ancient pilgrimage routes, the Via Francigena and the Cammino di Francesco.
Before Christianity gained a firm grip on the people of Italy, ancient Romans worshipped a series of gods and goddesses. There were so many gods and goddesses that each one had a particular role in governing various areas of worshippers' lives. For example, the goddess Juno was believed to watch over the women of Rome, and it was to Juno that they prayed for guidance, along with Minerva, who was known as the goddess of wisdom. Mars was considered an important god because he ruled over the wars, and Jupiter was the god of the sky.
Available in Inglese: Christmas in Italy
La festa del Natale e' considerata, quasi in tutto il mondo, la festa piu' importante dell'anno. Viene celebrata il 25 dicembre e per il popolo cristiano si festeggia la nascita di Gesu' Cristo.
Shrines, Chapels and other Secrets in the Mountains of Italy
Shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus, a small rag-tag group known as Christians began to make its mark in the heart of the old Roman Empire. Within the next few centuries this once highly persecuted religious sect became the official religion of Rome - effectively wiping out the old pagan faith. Since that time, emperors, popes, missionaries, crusaders and merchants have filled Italian churches with relics of martyrs and artifacts purportedly belonging to Jesus and the Apostles. The relic trade was at its height in medieval Europe and Italian cities felt that having the remains of a popular saint in their church would not only give them powerful intercessional powers but also draw more pilgrims - and revenue to the area. Consequently, Italian cathedrals, monasteries and shrines are home to a bewildering number of relics - many connected to the Crucifixion and some with miraculous properties.
The quiet Valchiusella valley, close to Torino in Northern Italy hides a secret below ground. Unknown to most visitors and for a time even the Italian Government this valley is home to a bewildering temple complex known as the Temples of Damanhur. The vast underground temples were begun thirty years ago by a man who now goes by the name of Falco, following his lifelong vision. From a handful of followers digging under a house, the temples and the movement known as Damanhur have grown considerably.
Visitors to certain Italian churches are often shocked by the display of a corpse, dressed in religious vestments and encased in a glass coffin at the high altar or in the crypt. What is most shocking is that many of these bodies are hundreds of years old and yet are still in excellent condition. These are the bodies of the mysterious incorruptibles, pious individuals whose remains do not decompose after death. The phenomenon of Incorruptibility is taken as a powerful sign of saintliness in the Catholic Church and most of these individuals have already been canonized. In the past when bodies have been exhumed, people were amazed to discover that the deceased looked as if not a day had past. While most relics of saints are reduced to bones or dust, the bodies of the Incorrupt are in excellent if not a perfect state of preservation.
The Many Tombs of Religious Figures in Italy
Italy may be home to large number of the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus. Some were martyred in Rome while others were brought to Italy centuries after their deaths. Several of these holy bodies found their way to Italy by less-than-holy means, usually by theft. There is also the fact that unscrupulous merchants, priests and crusaders helped fuel a trade in holy relics during the Middle Ages that left Europe with an enormous surplus of bones supposedly from the Apostles. Today the relics of the Apostles found in Italy may have more to do with tradition than fact; however the intercessory powers of these objects are just as powerful to the faithful.
The Tombs of the Apostles
It seems that the month of December is the time of gift giving regardless of your religious affiliation or nationality. This is especially true in the United States, where the image of Santa Claus is emblazoned everywhere starting in late November. Other countries have their own version of a benevolent older gentleman who gives out gifts in December known as Father Christmas. Whatever you call him, be it Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, or even Santa Claus, the kindly gift-giving figure of December has its roots in a real man, the original Saint Nicholas - known in Italy as San Nicolo di Bari.
"Prayer is the best weapon we possess, the key that opens the heart of God." These are the words of Padre Pio (now known as Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina) and they adequately encapsulate his approach to faith as well as his overall spiritual practice. Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy (a province of Benevento), into a southern peasant family. Today he is mainly known for being the first priest ever to bear the marks of the stigmata. That is, on his hands, side, and feet were the five wounds Jesus Christ received during the Crucifixion. Padre Pio was stricken with the stigmata in 1918 and bore the marks for over 50 years.
The BBC calls Saint Clare a 'cool saint' because she is the patron saint of television. Clare became this because she once saw mass celebrated on the walls of her dormitory even though she was more than a mile away. She saw this so clearly that she could name the friars who organized the mass the next day!
Don't forget to read Part I of this article to learn more about the Saints! Click Here!
Be Sure to continue to Part II of this article! Click Here!
Italy is home to some of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Christianity, attracting millions of faithful each year. For European pilgrims, Rome was traditionally the ultimate destination, and while the Eternal City is still and important pilgrimage site, there are many others throughout Italy that are equally important and immensely popular.
At the foot of the Alps, the tiny region of Valle d'Aosta is home to eleven mountain shrines, sanctuaries and hermitages. These small chapels are testament to centuries old Catholic practices based upon the local folk traditions. Penitent souls have made processions to these isolated locations for generations to give thanks for their prayers being answered. The interiors of these sanctuaries are covered with votive offerings left by the faithful, conveying just how many cures and miracles have been performed.
These small chapels and former hermitages, dotted along the rugged terrain of Valle d’Aosta often take several hours of hiking to reach. All of these sanctuaries share dramatic locations and spectacular views, giving the pilgrim an even greater sense of peace and tranquility as they pray.
Sanctuary of Notre-Dame-de-la-Guerison
No visit to Italy would be complete without stopping by some of the most beautiful cathedrals and churches in the world. Even if you're not religious, these architectural masterpieces demand your attention just due to their history and their majesty. Let's take a look at some of them and why you should include these stops in your tourist itinerary.
Your first stop should be in Monte Cassino at the Basilica Cathedral. Situated inside the Abbey of Monte Cassino located beween Rome and Naples, this historical place has seen the best and the worst of humanity over the centuries. The Abbey itself was founded in 529 AD by St. Benedict on the exact spot that used to be used by Greeks to worship the God Apollo. Over the years the Abbey itself has been destroyed and rebuilt no less than five times due to armed strife in the area, with the Basilica receiving damage over the years as well.
The Trek Continued
( Continues from Via Francigena )
Once pilgrims leave the Via Francigena and enter the city of Rome, there are traditionally seven churches that have been designated Pilgrim Churches. The two most important of these Pilgrim Churches are Saint Paul Outside the Walls and of course, Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Praying at the tomb of Peter, the Rock upon which Jesus built his Church is second only perhaps to praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher itself. The importance of praying before the tomb of Saint Paul has never been lost on pilgrims to Rome, without him the message of Jesus may never have reached the Gentiles with such success.