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Roma 2005: St. Peter's

I promised some more photographs from my recent trip to Rome, where I made a recording in Santa Maria Maggiore with the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (see post on March 12). In addition to our late night recording sessions, we sang for daily Masses at several churches around the city. After a first-day Mass at St. Mary Major, we showed up on our second day, very early in the morning, at St. Peter's. Although it was cold, we had what was probably the sunniest, most beautiful weather that day. Look at that light on Carlo Maderno's façade!

The other good thing about wandering into the Vatican so early in the morning was that the church was almost empty, meaning that the line to get through security was almost nonexistent. We walked to the point in the nave of St. Peter's where there is an inscription for our Basilica back in Washington, marked on the floor at the point at which the National Shrine's nave would fit inside that of St. Peter's. (On the previous Shrine Choir tour, in 1993, we sang Palestrina's Alma redemptoris mater in a circle around that inscription.) We proceeded down the stairs at the crossing to the lower level of the church, where there is a simple chapel directly in front of the tomb of St. Peter. The tradition of belief that the site is the final resting place of the apostle Peter goes back to early Christian times (Constantine built the first church at this location), and its symbolic importance to the history of the papacy guided the building and decoration of the new building in the 16th and 17th centuries. The words Jesus speaks to Peter in the Gospels ("You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church") are inscribed in massive capitals around the dome over the crossing (see photo of the words Tu es Petrus).

At the conclusion of Mass, we returned to the nave and sang Lorenzo Perosi's fanfaric setting of the "Tu es Petrus" text (one of the pieces on the recording we made in Rome) in front of Bernini's bronze baldacchino over the tomb. (In 1993, we sang Palestrina's six-part motet on that text, in a private concert for the Holy Father. That's a better piece.) All of this happened before 10 am. It was that kind of trip.

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