Historical must sees

Old Jan 9th, 2008, 07:36 AM
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Historical must sees

We are planning a trip to Italy - 3 nights in Amalfi, 4 nights in Rome and 3 nights in Siena - in March. We are a family of five - college and above - and BIG history buffs. We are particularly interested in ancient, Biblical historical places of significance.

"Off-the-beaten-path" is good, the thrill of being in the exact spot where history was made. Based on the places we are visiting, does anyone have any "must-sees" that might not show up in the travel books?

Thanks very much.
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 07:45 AM
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Biblical?

Unless you buy into the theory about the Holy House of Loreto (and I can't remember much reference to a physical houses in the bible), you're left with little more than the claimed sites of Peter's and Paul's executions - and even they aren't actually mentioned in the bible either.

Have I missed something here?
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 07:52 AM
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May be the catacombs, not in the Bible, either.
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 08:54 AM
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Since you are looking for more biblical historical sights, you may want to check out some of Rome's many beautiful churches.

The Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano has the Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs) that are supposed to be the ones walked up by Jesus Christ during his passion. Another bascilica, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, includes several articles including pieces of the holy cross.

You will definitely want to take the scavi tour of the acropolis located beneath St. Peters Bascilica. This is where it is believed that St. Peter is buried and the tour itself is fascinating. If you don't already have reservations, get them!

Rome is a history buff's dream! Besides the obvious (colliseum, forum, etc.) you may want to check out the Baths of Caracalla and, if you have time, Ostia Antica.

Best wishes,
Tracy
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 10:01 AM
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Agree that Rome has very few Biblical sights - for that you need Israel and other areas of the middle east.

If you're talking about remains of early Christianity - there are tons of places in Rome- many listed above. But you should be aware that many of the remains were in fact collected by the mother of the Emperor Constantine after 300 ad (she went on a mad shopping spree around the empire buying up everything anyone claimed to be a relic of almost any saint and dragged them all to Rome).

There are many remains of early Chrsitianity (catacombs, Coliseum etc) as well as the underground parts of many of the older churches.

We especially enjoyed the Basilica of San Clemente - which allows you to climb down through the ages of the churches built one on top of another - until you reach the Temple of Mithras (god of the Roman soldiers) from around 200 AD at the lowest level.
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 10:26 AM
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To echo what everyone else is saying, if you are looking for "biblical" sites, you are visiting the wrong part of the world.

Rome is full of sites of ancient historical importance, of course, but they just aren't "biblical." Think about the early Christians being thrown to the lions when you visit the Colosseum. (Of course many historians say it never happened, but it's an enduring myth.)
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 02:01 PM
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These 3 should be of interest as others have mentioned.
St. Peter's necropolis scavi tour http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34888402 Catacombs http://tinyurl.com/j9w3d
Saint Paul's Sarcophagus http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34569997
A little tidbit about that church http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34914599

This thread also has info http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...=2&tid=3479087
Also I'd like to add this to my post there about the Alexamenos Graffito (I found this in my notes I don't recall the source).
"Jews expelled from Eqypt and wandering the desert exhausted and dying of thirst followed a herd of wild asses to water".
Tacitus said; "The Jews consecrated an image of the animal that saved them in the Temple of Jerusalem".
Regards Walter
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 02:20 PM
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Thanks to those who have offered suggestions. I realize that we are not visiting Israel and the Middle East. But there is much early Christian history that happened and has connections with Italy, particularly Rome. Some of Paul's letters were written to the early Christians in Rome. He journeyed to Rome traveling up through the southern part of Italy. Several of his epistles were most like authored while in prison in Rome and Peter and Mark likewise were in Rome. Caesar and Rome ruled the world at the time of Jesus' birth.

Apologize for not making myself more clear. Just want to know what was happening in and around the places we may be visiting during this time period.

Does anyone know location for where Paul was imprisoned?

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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 02:23 PM
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Thanks Walter!

I was writing when you posted and I think you gave me the info I needed about Paul.

All of this is very interesting to me! Would be grateful for any other info you may have.
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 02:42 PM
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Paul was imprisoned in the Mamertine Prison, entrance through the Roman Forum.
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 03:49 PM
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The Eyewitness guide to Rome has a very useful walking tour of churches that have mosaics, which I really enjoy viewing. Those churches are also some of the oldest churchest in Rome. Here are some: Santa Pudenziana, the oldest church in Rome, with mosaics from 390 A.D.; Santa Pressede (Chapel of San Zeno); San Clemente; San Martino ai Monti; Santi Quattro Coronati.

Obviously, these churches are not directly connected to biblical sites, but it will give you a great viewpoint on the early Christian church. (For example, early mosaics used a lot of the same features as Roman (pagan) themes; Jesus and others are clean shaven, wearing Roman togas, in the same poses as Roman senators.)

I don't have any specific books to recommend, but anything about early Christian history should help.
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 03:57 PM
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The Eyewitness guide to Rome - is that just something you pick up in a hotel lobby? Like our City Scenes?

Would love to see the mosaics! Thanks.
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 04:04 PM
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The Eyewitness Guides are travel books that you buy at bookstores (or borrow from libraries) - just like Fodors or Frommers. They are known for their glorious color photographs and good maps.

http://www.amazon.com/Rome-Eyewitnes.../dp/075661550X
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 05:55 PM
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We used the Eyewitness Guide for Rome on all three of our visits there. The pictures and information of some of the main historical sites, including some of the churches, make it more than worth it. I didn't find a lot of in-depth coverage of Rome itself, so I did supplement this with another guide book.

Tracy

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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 07:16 PM
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If you are interested in Early Christian sights, get Fodor's "Holy Rome" which was published for the 2000 Jubilee Year. It is available on Amazon. While in Amalfi, be sure to see the tomb of the Apostle Andrew in the crypt of the Duomo.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 10:54 AM
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Very helpful. Thank you.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 11:05 AM
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You will not find a great deal of "Ancient History" in Siena, although the original settlement was Roman.

There is a great deal of Medieval history. The entire city still lives and works within the Contrade system. The Famous Palio is just the obvious manifestation of this. Senese are very passionatee about their locality within the city.

Even the churches are tied into these traditions, with babies often being initiated into the contrada at baptism.
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 01:34 PM
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You might want to study where Roman Saints were martyred for that "exact spot" experience.

Off hand I know of one, *somewhat*.

And that is St. Sebastian on the Palatine Hill.

The exact area is closed-off to the public but there is a *possibity* of one location where he confronted the Emperor.

I am an Atheist but I do believe that historically most of these people existed and I can buy many of the events but have to pass on the miracles .

Go to www.vroma.org:7878/3034
OR http://tinyurl.com/24327h
In the lower left corner there is a large blank rectangle area with the Temple of Jupiter Stayor in the lower right corner.

Forget the Temple, that large rectangle is an artificial platform.
It was built by Domitian (Late 1C) to level the ground with his palace which is above it on the map.

In this rectangle he built the 'Gardens of Adonis', likely porticoed all around, with fountains, statues, trees, flowers, shurbs, etc.

There was also a stairway down from this Garden to the Clivus Palatinus (modern name). This is a photo of the Clivus
http://sights.seindal.dk/img/orig/8217.jpg
The artificial platform is to the right, it's like a wall.

Anyway when you are in this area look for a stairway/staircase going up.
Honestly I can't remember it but I have that location for one in my notes.

[Off the top of my head]
St. Sebastian is in (charge?) the Emperor's Pratorian Guard and is preaching Christianity to prisoners.

Emperor Diocletian (284AD-> ) is vastly persecuting Christians when he finds out about St. Sebastian whom he knows.

He is taken to the Gardens of Adonis and tied to a tree or column and shot with arrows.

My guess is; This wasn't a firing squad-type execution, like 6 men at 20 paces and aim for the heart.
Roman soldiers and Romans in general are quite sadistic and love to make a game of death.

It was probably at a great distance with each bowman testing his skill, laughing, joking and a good chance of betting against other.
Probably most shots were misses.

He is left for dead and later a female Christian goes to retrive his tied-up body.

Well stranger things have happened and it's said he was still alive.

Over time she nursed him back to health.

When he is better he goes to accoust the Emperor.

It's said he was hidden 'on a stair'/'in a staircase-stairwell' and as the Emperor passes with his guards he steps out to face the Emperor.

The Emperor orders him killed and he is taken back to the Palace where he is beaten to death by the Guards.

I don't recall where I got this info but it is in my notes (I sound so organized but my notes are usually just written in my Oxford Archaeological Guide wherever I can find a blank space.
Anyway I found this info it either in a google search but I'm somewhat certain it is from a documentary.

The Emperor would return to his Palace the vast majority of times by going up the Clivis Palatinus in a litter surrounded by his Pratorian Guards.

These Guards know St. Sebastian very well and a few of them probably shot at him.
So it's logical that he must remain hidden until the Emperor is abreast of him.

So it's a great location and any stairway into & up this artificial platform would be somewhat hidden.

But best of all it would seem to the Emperor that he's desending from the Gardens above where he was killed weeks or months ago.

St. Sebastian knows that this is his final act in life and he has had time to plan his grand approach to the Emperor.

What better or more ideal location to confront, surprise and probably scare the Emperor than right there.

I thought it was an interesting story and that location possibly has a shred of truth in it?

Regards, Walter

p.s. This online book might interest you http://tinyurl.com/2ozybb
That page starts with Nero but you can go forward and backward from there.
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 02:02 PM
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For some non-Christian ancient history there is also the area just north of Rome where the Etruscans (pre-Romans) lived. Some of the etruscan places to see are Tarquinia, Viterbo, Tuscania. Look for it in an Italy guidebook.

For Rrenaissance history, Florence is great. If you know about Savanarola and the Bonfire of the Vanities, and his later burning at the stake, you must go to Piazza della Signoria in Florence where both events occurred.
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 04:05 PM
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Don't miss San Clemente. You travel downstairs through the history of Christainity down to the Temple of Mithras. When I was there one rainy afternoon, I had the place to myself, a beautiful contrast to many of the Roman sites.
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