Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, Siena, Italy
Crowds gathered at the entrance to Cattedrale dell'Assunta, Siena, Italy
Bridget and Joseph near the entrance to the Baptistry of San Giovanni, Siena, Italy
View of the Duomo from our room at Alma Domus, Siena, Italy
Medieval Siena, jewel of ItalyFinding our way into Siena by car involved four failed attempts; but following the soccer ball icon to the stadium proved to be a successful entry method, much to our relief. An ancient city, Siena offers no passage for visitors' vehicles. Massive parking areas lined the outer city limits; from there we ventured on foot (about a mile) to find our room at the Alma Domus, directly below St. Dominic's Basilica. Our simple room had four comfortable single beds, a mini-kitchen, table and bathroom with micro-shower. The view of Siena's famous Duomo from our window filled our room with grandeur.
Sickness struck again, this time with Peter as the victim. Though I offered to take my turn as resident nurse, Tim again requested the duty; both as a day of rest and as an honor to do a job I most often get to do while he's at work. My amazing husband; we are so blessed by his fatherhood. Peter and Tim stayed in the room, resting and recovering for most of the day.
Joseph and I ventured out to discover the treasures of Siena, beginning at the house of St. Catherine which was just below (perhaps even attached to) our hotel. In this place, this holy place where St. Catherine prayed and lived, Joseph and I enjoyed solitude and silence, taking in the tremendous beauty of the murals depicting scenes from St. Catherine's life. My favorite (below) depicts St. Catherine receiving a wedding ring from Christ, accompanied by our Blessed Mother, witnessed by saints and angels.
St. Catherine of Siena, bride of Christ
St. Catherine cut her hair and put aside her fancy clothing as an act of modesty, to shun the worldly attention of potential suitors and devote her life to Christ.
The youngest of twenty five children, St. Catherine of Siena consecrated her virginity and her entire life to Christ at the age of seven. From her her earliest years she spent hours every day in prayer, and could see guardian angels! She received the habit of a Dominican tertiary at the age of seventeen, and though she died in her early thirties, made (and indeed continues to make) a tremendous impact on the lives of countless individuals and upon the Holy Catholic Church. St. Catherine's writings are ever pertinent; her wisdom far reaching and magnificent!
"O inestimable charity! Even as You, true God and true Man, gave Yourself entirely to us, so also You left Yourself entirely for us, to be our food, so that during our earthly pilgrimage we would not faint with weariness, but would be strengthened by You, our celestial Bread. O man, what has your God left you? He has left you Himself, wholly God and wholly Man, concealed under the whiteness of bread. O fire of love! Was it not enough for You to have created us to Your image and likeness, and to have recreated us in grace through the Blood of Your Son, without giving Yourself wholly to us as our Food, O God, Divine Essence? What impelled You to do this? Your charity alone. It was not enough for You to send Your Word to us for our redemption; neither were You content to give Him us as our Food, but in the excess of Your love for Your creature, You gave to man the whole Divine essence . . ." --Saint Catherine of Siena
These walls were made for climbing!
Sadly, Siena (like Venice) operates turn-style paid-only admission to several prominent Churches. Perhaps the majority of visitors to these sacred places are simply seeking great views of the breath-taking art; but for pilgrims who come to pray and worship, being turned away at the entrance for lack of admission is shocking and very disturbing to say the least. As members of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church; we belong to the living body of Christ. How then, could we be denied entrance during business hours?
We were allowed free entrance to these "pay to enter" Churches for Mass; though on one occasion the guard pretended he did not know what we were talking about, "Not open, not open!" When he finally relented and let us enter for Mass, he repeated at least three times, "Sacristy ONLY, no Cathedral!" Perhaps he is employed to make sure our attendance at Mass was not simply a ruse at getting free admission to the "art gallery?" He was by far the least welcoming "greeter" we have ever encountered at the doors of a Church. The crowd for Holy Mass was small; the crowds amassing for admission at tour time large: something is definitely wrong with this picture.
Please join our prayers for our Church that the lively faith of her members will increase and the secular attempts to commercialize her sacred-ness and capitalize on her beauty will be overturned like the tables of the money changers in the temple area!
- Lacking the enthusiasm to tromp all over Siena searching for a restaurant at dinner time, we decided to eat at the very closest restaurant (a few steps from our room).
- The entire restaurant (inside and out) was unoccupied; the waiters were hanging around, visiting with one another.
- When we asked to be seated, we were shocked at the reply: "Do you have a reservation?"
- By 8PM, the place was completely packed, and we were the odd foursome seen deserting our table at the beginning of the Italian dinner hour (having completed our meal, we were heading for the room).