A 2000 Year Old Wall

One of the coolest things in Rome, in my opinion, is the Basilica di San Clemente. What appears to be a normal church – at least normal by the standards of Italian churches – turns out to be the location of a part of history quite unique to the city. Rome is the lasagna city, as the new Rome is built on top of the old one. This is why there’s no subway system: every time they dig, they find some 2000 year old ruins and have to call the archeologists and stop the excavations. Another name for it is the eternal city, as it’s history has been preserved so well.

This basilica models this theme perfectly: it is built on top of an older church, which is built on top of some aristocrat’s house where they held cult meetings during ancient Roman times. So you can quite literally walk through time and see how Rome has progressed through the years in its architecture, theology, culture, artwork, etc. It’s truly amazing. Jake Lynn and I walked through most of the ruins together and spent most of the time trying to understand what the cult believed in. We’re still lost, but that’s okay. The rest of the time was spent trying to wrap our heads around how old the stone we were standing next to was. Our conversation looked something like this:

*touches the wall*

“Dude, this Stone is literally as old as Jesus.”

“Yeah, like when people lived here, Jesus to them was some guy from Nazareth.”

“2000+ years ago…”

“Wow… what does that even mean?”

“It’s 100 times as old as us.”

“It’s 10 times older than the founding of our country.”

“It’s almost 150 times as long as we’ve been in school.”

We stood there with our hands on the wall for a good 10 minutes going back and forth about ways we could understand what 2000 years meant. We probably looked like idiots to the rest of the tourists – but what tourist has ever looked like a rocket scientist? Once we finally felt like we had a good grip on what something that old meant, we realized how much history had been going on before that house was built. We didn’t even try to wrap our heads around that. The realization we came to was we are playing a role in a story so much larger than our own lives, and that was humbling and empowering at the same time.

We’ve seen a lot over the course of the last month. We’ve learned about how to respect the memory of those that are oppressed and how to maintain the knowledge of what can go wrong based on what has gone wrong; we’ve seen how even the biggest castles can’t defend us from Gods plans; I jumped out of an airplane and experienced one of the most beautiful places on Earth; we climbed to the top of the Alps, we felt the gentleness of the breeze on the sea and the peace of Riomaggiore; we learned from some of the greatest minds in history about art and its significance to the world as well as how generations can change and shape a culture, enjoyed world class gelato in the countryside of Tuscanny; and our experience came to a close in Rome. It’s amazing how much we have accomplished on this experience: it’s more than words can really convey.

But very little of that matters to the majority of the world. Few people are going to care that I skydived, or ate a bunch of gelato, or went in a bunch of museums. What matters is that we spent the last 3.5 weeks getting closer to each other and figuring out ways to relate to people who would have no connection to us from the outside. The reality is, we are all human beings, and human beings have been around for a while. And since everyone had to come from somewhere, there’s a good chance we all have a connection to every single person on Earth through the history of humanity and its struggles.

I have no idea who walked through that ancient Roman ruin when it was in its prime back in the day. But I do know that they were human beings, that they had families whom they loved, kids they were trying to raise, bills to pay, and a job to do it with. Something some random dude in Riomaggiore told me was that his son had just finished traveling around the entire world, and the one thing he learned was that it doesn’t matter where you are, or how far from your house you stand. People are people. They all have so much more worth than any adjectives can prescribe them.

We have this shared humanity that spreads across time and space, and it’s necessary to recognize the intrinsic value that we all hold. When you think about all of this, it’s hard to treat anyone with anything other than love and respect.

So as Cultural Routes 10 comes to an end, I feel all of the same bittersweet emotions as everyone else. And I think that we all recognize how powerful the knowledge we’ve gained is, and how much influence we can have in helping the world out by working together.

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Florence, “Florentia” – flowering

Wow!

Before this week, I really had no idea what beauty Florence contained aside from the general grandeur of Italy. But Florence is the city where the Renaissance began, funded by the Medici family, alive with art, architecture, churches, and tourism.

Originally named “Fluentia” for being between two rivers, Florence was later named “Florentia” meaning “flowering.” And wow, Florence sure blooms!

Some CR9 Familia took the time to share some memories of Florence with me, and the art, history, and churches overwhelm, in the best way possible! I cannot wait to visit the Duomo, touching the exterior made of decorative pink, green, and white marble, embracing the architecture and art within the largest dome built in brick and mortar that took two centuries to create. And also, wow, there is a clock made by Paolo Uccello outside the Duomo that ends its 24th hour at sunset everyday without fail. I cannot wait to see that!

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As I was researching the names Jacey, Kendall, Andrea, and Sarah were telling me, I could not stop from being in awe at the sheer culture in Florence created by art. That is something so foreign. How is a whole city centered around art and churches? There is so much richness that I cannot wait to be immersed in with my amazing friends.

Here are some things I can’t wait to do (if we can find them):

  • Stand in the cute, colorful shops held up by stilts on the Ponte Vecchio
    • The only bridge to survive WWII
    • The first bridge built with less than semi circles underneath to support it
  • Analyze and learn from the collections within the Galleria dell’Accademia
    • The David!
  • Be in awe looking at the sculptures inside the Bargello
    • Including works by artists including Donatello, Giambologna and Michelangelo
  • Embrace the Boboli Gardens’ grandeur landscaped with sculptures!
    • I love nature!!
  • Haggle in the leather markets
    • Muster the courage and don’t back down, or just be bold like Sarah G.
  • See the Basilica of San Lorenzo, a church in the center of Florence’s main market district
    • What effect would a church in the middle of a market have? How is the church’s culture affected by the market?
  • Admire Dante’s Church and hopefully hear how Dante and Florence are super connected
    • I definitely have to look more into Dante before going!
    • Wear appropriate clothing covering shoulders and knees
  • Admire the frescoes in the Strozzi Chapel
    • They depict Paradise and Hell according to Dante’s schemes
  • Enjoy Edorado gelato made free from chemicals, GMOs, and colorings
    • Milk from pastured-raised cows and eggs from free-range chickens

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That’s a pretty long list, but Florence has so much to offer! With history spanning centuries, I cannot wait to be immersed in a city created by and for the arts. And by no means do I know a lot about art, but I can appreciate it, and I am so ready to embrace art, and embrace it with friends who are super passionate and know a lot about the art. My goal is to come to a better appreciation for art’s culture, beautifully-crafted churches, and beautifully-crafted people.

While we’re waiting, I looked at some past blogs, and Amorino, a gelato chain in Europe, was mentioned in some. After a little digging, I found the closest Amorino… a bonding trip to Fort Worth’s very own Amorino (2.2mi away from TCU!!) may be in store for the familia! Probably not as good as Europe’s gelato, but a great taste to prepare us for all the goodness in store!

Thanks for reading!

With love,

Lauren Rasmussen