The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Roman Virtual Tours

Anyone who has traveled to Rome knows that churches abound in the Eternal City. Indeed, there are over 600 Catholic churches in Rome, but the typical pilgrim or tourist might find the time to explore perhaps a half-dozen during the usual brief three- or four-day visit. On our last trip, during which we spent ten full days in Rome, Diane and I made a real effort and yet visited just 16 churches. (I counted them.) I suppose we could have visited more, but we were determined to enjoy a relaxing stay and kept a rather loose schedule. And, too, there are so many other wonderful places to visit, besides churches, in Rome.

We also walked almost everywhere, which is the best way to avoid putting on weight when sampling the city along with its wonderful food, espresso, cappuccino, gelato and wines. Walking might have slowed us down a bit, but in addition to being wonderful exercise for us old folks, it also let us experience the city and its people up close and personal. And by walking almost everywhere we avoided the expensive taxis that can put quite a dent in your daily budget. (Anything that drains euros from the funds available for food and wine is a bad thing.) On occasion we took advantage of public transportation and tourist buses, but only to see far-flung places like the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Rome is a wonderful city for walking so long as you keep a sharp eye out in high-traffic areas, wear comfortable walking shoes, and have a good city map or, even better, a hand-held GPS.

Of course, most Catholics will never have the opportunity to go to Rome. But now, through the miracle of the Internet, you can do the next best thing: you can bring Rome into your living room. Just by downloading and using Google Earth, for example, you can experience much of Rome and its beauty almost as if you were there personally. Using the street view function you can move through a good portion of the city and enjoy it from a pedestrian's perspective. Google Earth is also an excellent tool for planning your own personal, self-guided walking tours, especially useful when visiting an unfamiliar city. And you can't beat it for checking out that "budget" hotel and its neighborhood before booking your room. If you're one of the few who have never used Google Earth, download it now. You're in for a treat.

But even better than Google Earth, at least for touring Roman churches, are the virtual tours that have been developed for the Vatican's website. The latest church to have its own online virtual tour is one of Rome's oldest churches, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Below is a brief video describing the tour:

...and you can access the tour itself by clicking on the link below:


Basilica of St John Lateran

Virtual tours of the other major basilicas of Rome have been available online for some time now, and can be accessed by clicking on the links I've provided below.

Basilica of St. Peter

Basilica of St. Mary Major

Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

In a previous post I mentioned the online virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel. Because of the crowds one usually encounters when visiting the Sistine Chapel, this virtual tour is, in some respects, actually better than a personal visit. Not only can you take your time, but you can zoom-in on Michelangelo's artwork.

There's a lot of garbage on the Internet, but there's also so much of real value. One need only look for it.

God's peace...

(Note: above photos all taken in September 2008)

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