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Sorry, I forgot to include the mosaic on the facade of the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca.


Also the exterior of the duomo.


And the facade of the basilica of San Michele. The church holds the tomb of St. Davino the Armenian.

San Davino of Armenia Lucca San Michele basilica

And this painting of Saints Rocco, Sebastian, Jerome, and Helen by Filippino Lippi.

Filippino Lippi San Michele Lucca


I also had the chance to visit three of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre, on the Ligurian coast. They each have a millennium-old church.









Also, I got to visit Rome and the major basilicas there.

St Peters sunset

St John Lateran

St Mary Major

I happened upon the Rome marathon and tried to encourage the runners with shouts of “Bravi!”

Rome marathon

I did not stay at this particular hotel on the Via Cavour:

Rome Hotel Richmond

St Peters

I spent a long time standing in front of St. Peter’s, thinking about all that the place has meant to me, over the decades. I was here in winter 2001, when McCarrick and Bergoglio became Cardinals. And I was here just days before James Grein spoke to a New York Times reporter about McCarrick abusing him, in summer 2018.

I will have more to say about all that, and about how the city of Florence appears in Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well, not to mention the role that the Tuscan city-states played during the Western Schism in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and Friar Girolamo Savonarola…

Becky Ianni Baltimore Sun
Baltimore Sun photo

But first let me remind you, dear reader, about the talk by Ms. Becky Ianni in our “I Survived, and I Have a Vision” speakers’ series. She will speak this Saturday, September 25, at 5:00pm, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Fort Hunt Road in Alexandria VA.


Outside the ancient Tuscan city of Lucca, you can visit the tomb of St. Gemma Calgani, d. 1903.

Inside the 16th century walls… the basilica holding the tomb of Lucca’s founding bishop, an Irishman, Saint Frediano. Also a stunning medieval baptismal font.

This basilica also holds the tomb of sweet St. Zita.

The cathedral (duomo) of Lucca reminds me of Notre Dame.

The cathedral is consecrated to the memory of St. Martin of Tours.

St. Regolo rests here.

And they have a Christ-the-King crucifix that they say bears the likeness of the Holy Face veil, which would make it the most accurate sculpture of the Lord’s face.

Saints on the Arno

St. John Chrysostom died 1614 years ago tomorrow. They have a relic of his earthly remains in the Duomo in Florence.

Many saints rest here, in whole or in part, in Florence.

St. Barnabas…

Pope St. Mark (with other martyrs)…

St. Cesonio, martyr…

And hundreds more.

They keep many of the relics in museums, and present the reliquaries as works of art. With the relics in them. Seems disrespectful to me.

But I stopped and prayed anyway, and it didn’t seem totally out of place. Most of the museums of Florence are attached to churches and once were monasteries.

Don’t visit the centro historico of Florence to pray without a few Euros in your pocket; it is not a town where you can just step into a church and pray for free.

…In Pisa, in addition to the patron Saint Raniero, the Duomo holds Blessed Guido della Gherardesca.

The church of St. Martin holds St. Bona di Pisa.

And the town memorializes Blessed Guiseppe Toniolo with his own little piazza.

Pisa & Florence

When the wind blows hard, it requires some effort…

But without wind, no problem…

Germans, Mexicans, Filipinos, and plenty of Americans taking each other’s pictures in such poses.

Seems unfair to the tower, which still does its duty: holding the bells aloft, to summon Christians to Mass in this magnificent Duomo next door.

St. Ranieri presides over the south trancept.

Pisa’s “Palazzo Blu” has a collection of interesting paintings like this one, artist unknown…

Which brings us to another town, further up the Arno…

Arno in Pisa
Arno in Florence

The cloisters of Florence abound with paintings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

This last one adorns the wall of a cell in the Museo San Marco, where Fra Angelico produced the most breathtaking collection of paintings I have ever seen, for the spiritual benefit of his Dominican brothers.

One cell has this painting, which has inspired me for over twenty years. I never knew where the original was, until now…

The ghost that haunts Fra Angelico’s San Marco most intently, however, is Fra Geronimo Savanarola. He ruled as prior at the time of his arrest and execution in the Piazza della Signoria.

I will have more to say about Savanarola when I get home and have a real keyboard to work with. I think he is both less of a hero and less of a villain than his lovers and his haters make him out to be. He was, without a doubt, an eminently learned Thomist.

The thing he did that I find most charming: he appealed to an ecumenical council against the corrupt Borgia pope and proposed that Florence replace Rome as the Holy See.

(Savanarola wasn’t as kooky as you might think there; an earlier pope lived for a decade in Florence–and presided over an ecumenical council there– earlier in Savanarola’s 15th century.)

…I did not realize until I saw the statue in person that Michelangelo’s David holds a stone in his right hand–to use against Goliath, I suppose.

On the south side of the Arno, you can see this crucifix by the same artist.

Visiting St. Thomas III: Where He Died

In the infirmary, second floor of this old building at Fossanova Abbey. There’s a little chapel there now.

Fossanova is about an hour’s drive from Thomas’ birthplace in Roccasecca. Not exactly close, since he didn’t ride a horse and traveled exclusively on foot.

But considering that the man had walked some 9,000 miles in his life, had lived in Paris, and was in fact on his way to Lyons, France (on foot) when he fell deathly ill, the moment came remarkably close to Aquino, and the mountains he gazed upon in his youth.

When I visited Ars years ago, a saint who had previously intimidated me by his austerity of life (John Vianney) became human to me, when I saw the very confessional where he sat for hours on end, and the ramshackle little kitchen where he boiled his potatoes.

Now, a saint whose mind has intimidated me suddenly became more human, because I have seen the mountains where he grew up, and where he died.

The ridges of Lazio could move you to contemplate the Five Ways, to be sure. That’s just the beginning of what they can make you contemplate.

Visiting St. Thomas II: Montecassino

The ancient* abbey where St. Thomas studied as a boy looms above the sweet little city of Cassino.

* That is, re-built…

…ater being destroyed completely by US bombs in February, 1944.

St. Thomas prayed at the tombs of Saints Benedict and Scholastica, which are now in a chapel below the high altar of the basilica.

The young student from nearby Aquino may have read this very biography of St. Benedict…

And this textbook of science…

He probably walked through this doorway (now preserved in the abbey museum).

And trod these floor tiles.

…In his treatise on justice in the Summa, St. Thomas considers some questions about criminal trials, including how many witnesses are required to establish a fact.

In the third objection in II-II q70 art2, St. Thomas quotes a medieval canon which decrees that, to establish a fact against a Cardinal, sixty-four witnesses are required.

This is of particular interest, considering:

St. Thomas approves of the (practically insuperable) requirement, with this argument:

The rule protects the Roman Church [that is, the College of Cardinals], on account of its dignity: and this for three reasons. First because in that Church those men ought to be promoted whose sanctity makes their evidence of more weight than that of many witnesses. Secondly, because those who have to judge other men, often have many opponents on account of their justice, wherefore those who give evidence against them should not be believed indiscriminately, unless they be very numerous. Thirdly, because the condemnation of any one of them would detract in public opinion from the dignity and authority of that Church, a result which would be more fraught with danger than if one were to tolerate a sinner in that same Church, unless he were very notorious and manifest, so that a grave scandal would arise if he were tolerated.

A lot to consider here; I promise to come back and discuss this thoroughly when I get back home.

In the meantime, though, we can say for sure that the judge in Massachusetts will not have such a high threshold, when it comes to allowing testimony. (Plus, McC is no longer a Cardinal anyway, as of summer 2018.)

In this case, I believe it will actually benefit the Holy See in the long run, that the word of one accuser–with plenty of circumstantial evidence to support what he has to say–will be allowed against this particular accused criminal.

There are a lot of facts that need to come out, and getting them out will, in the end, help the Church.

If you can hang tight until March, you will be able to read about many of those facts in Ordained by a Predator. Good Lord willing, the book will see print then.