The Seven Pilgrimage Churches of Rome

Take a tour of the Seven Churches. Today it is synonymous with wasting time. A few centuries ago, instead, it meant “venturing” into one of the most beautiful and significant journeys of the Christian faith. Where? Obviously in Rome.
7 special appointments A Spasso con Sara to discover the 7 churches of the famous “tour” codified by San Filippo Neri in the mid-sixteenth century.

 

Capital of the Christian world

Rome. The city where Peter and Paul, princes of the Apostles, died. Their tombs and those of the other martyrs of the Christian faith. And then the churches, places of worship and precious caskets of relics that testified to the earthly life and Passion of Christ.

Upper part of the Gothic baldachin of the papal altar of the Basilica of St John in Lateran. Here would be the heads of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the city of Rome (Credits: Bruno Brunelli on Flickr.com).

The Eternal City was, from the first century AD, an essential destination for the followers of the Christian faith. Small guides (see the famous Mirabilia Urbis) and prayer books in their hands were the “compasses” with which pilgrims walked around Rome.

 

Page of one of the Mirabilia Urbis (Credits: sothebys.com).

 

The itinerary of San Filippo Neri

Among the itineraries they followed, there was the Seven Pilgrimage Churches. The route, entirely on foot, included a route codified by San Filippo Neri in the 16th century.
Having moved to Rome to devote himself to the evangelical mission, the Florentine priest transformed the “walk” of the Seven Churches into a real tradition that, from a few dozen participants, quickly reached hundreds of people (even 6000 under the pontificate of Pius IV, according to sources between 1560 and 1565).

 

St Filippo Neri (Credits: www.giornalecittadinopress.it).

 

However, the famous pilgrimage was not invented by him. The Saint, in fact, linked himself to the ancient medieval tradition of the pilgrims to the tombs of Peter and Paul and that, on the occasion of the first Jubilee of History, the one called by Pope Boniface VIII in 1300, had indicated the stages that the devout traveller was required to make once he arrived in the Eternal City.

 

Representation of pilgrims travelling in 1300, during the first Jubilee of the Christian world (Credits: viestoriche.net).

 

Filippo’s itinerary (sometimes followed during the days of the Roman Carnival to divert the faithful from earthly temptations) covered a ring route of about 20 km (16 miles), touching the following stages: St. Peter in the Vatican, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. Sebastian, St. John Lateran, the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, Santa Mary the Major.

Map with the itinerary of the Seven Pilgrimage Churches of San Filippo Neri. 1) Saint Peter in the Vatican 2) Saint Paul Outside the Walls 3) Saint Sebastian 4) Saint John Lateran 5) Holy Cross in Jerusalem 6) Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls 7) Saint Mary the Major (Credits: xacobeo.fr).

 

The journey was usually divided into two days. The most “trained” could make it in just one day, from the first Vespers to the first of the next day.

Today the Seven Pilgrimage Churches is held twice a year at night, in September and May, usually just before the 26th of May, the feast of San Filippo Neri.

It can also be considered an act of devotion typical of Friday or Holy Saturday, which involves entering seven different places of worship to pray near the dead Christ.

 

The Seven Pilgrimage Churches today (Credits: www.vallicella.org).

 

Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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