The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is a short walk from the main train station in Rome and as we had plenty of time before our onward journey to the airport on our way back to the UK I left Mr. P. having an espresso coffee in the station area. (It was 8.30 a.m. and we had been up since 6.00 a.m. to catch an early commuter train that took us into Rome. As usual our brother-in-law drove us to the station in the provincial town).
I walked purposefully through the streets as I didn't want to leave Mr. P. for too long. There are few seats these days inside the train station complex except in the food and drink area where there are some bar stools probably because of the tightened security and the wish for travellers to move about and onwards as quickly as possible. There are other new security features in place since we were there in October with a perspex wall which creates a barrier between the platforms and the vast entrance hall with its food and drink outlets, bookshop and shopping arcade, ticket offices and stairways down to the Metro. There's one exit and one entrance where guards check your tickets. They need to be stamped with the date and time in the machines that are located on the platforms. In fact, the tickets were checked at the barrier and by the inspector who was standing on the platform by the train before getting the special express to the airport. They are checked and clipped by the inspector during your train journey and if you haven't stamped them in the machines you will have to pay a fine. This has never happened to us, although I know someone who didn't know the system who was. Consequently I make sure I have our tickets ready and that they get stamped even if it slows us down and the train is just about to leave the platform. Fortunately those machines to stamp the time and date on the tickets seemed to be working efficiently, which is not always the case! (We buy the two sets of tickets up to Rome and to the airport at our local station as you could queue for quite a while at the ticket office at the Termini main station. We do the same by buying at the airport when we arrive).
In the first photo you can see two small tents and barriers around the church. We had to queue up and have our bags and ourselves scanned and there was also a heavy police and military presence around the station and on both sides of this church with groups of security officers and vans. The five minute walk and then the visit took much longer than I had planned, but it was worth it to see inside a church I've passed by before and never entered although it's one of the major basilicas in Rome. It comes under the extra territory of the Vatican and it's often visited by the Pope in his role as Bishop of Rome.
When I leave the busy streets and enter one of these vast and beautiful buildings it's the special atmosphere that strikes me first. There seems to be a certain kind of light because of the height of these buildings and this particular church particularly glowed because of the artificial lighting in the side aisles on either side of the wide nave. This highlighted the frescoes, mosaics and gold gilding. Tradition has it that the first gold that was brought from Latin America was gifted to Pope Alexander VI by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and it was then used to decorate the wooden coffered ceiling. The main altar was in shadow except for the lighting that focused on a painting of the Holy Family. No doubt the altar also is lit up by candles when a service is taking place. As I began to take in the detail I knew that I would like to return if the opportunity arose as there was not enough time to look around or to sit for a while and reflect on this visually rich and important pilgrim church.
As this post is for Five on Friday which is kindly hosted by Amy at Love Made My Home blog I've chosen five of the photos I took in Santa Maria Maggiore and I'll share some more photos and detailed information about the church in another post.
Thank you once more for visiting and also leaving a comment if you have time. I'm still behind with catching up on my reading of your blogs and leaving comments, but I'm sure I'll get back to normal blogging soon.
Meanwhile I wish you a good day and a restful weekend,