After a term and a half of hard work, the school choir was rewarded by a trip to Rome. For many members of the choir their first visit to the Eternal City, the trip was highly anticipated and a cause of great excitement for staff and pupils alike. We arrived at our objective with little difficulty except for the distribution of cottas and folders in our baggage under the close scrutiny of Ryan Air staff who can spot a 10.2 kilo bag at thirty paces. Our group consisted of choir, Mr. McDermott, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Tyldesley, Mr. Crawford, the parents of Louis and Armand Vadot and of course our trusty Chaplain, Father Bedus Rowus.
Our lodgings were at the Seraphicum, an educational establishment run by the Franciscans on the outskirts of Rome, conveniently located at one end of the Roman metro. They were very good to us during our stay, providing excellent breakfasts and meals and showing patience towards their excited guests. The first evening was largely spent getting used to our surroundings, excepting a brief visit to the Abbey of St. Paul of the three fountains. We discovered that each fountain sprang up where Saint Pauls decapitated (and presumably bouncy) head had hit the ground.
The next day we walked a short distance to the grand, spare buildings of the Museum of Roman Civilization. This was an excellent museum for curious children, as many of the artifacts were reproductions and were designed to withstand pawing. Particularly impressive was the large scale model of Rome under the mid-Empire which we spent some time staring at and debating the scale of.
Our next stop was the Colloseum. As this trip to Peter's city was, as is the case for any Catholic, also a pilgrimage, it was pointed out that the Colloseum was also a Church, consecrated, as it were, by the blood of the martyrs spilled on its sand. At this point our group split into two; one, zealously directed by Father Rowe, examined some of the churches around the forum and the other explored the forum itself. The low walls and truncated columns of the forum can be underwhelming, and it was only at great expense to Mr. Tyldesley's theatrical skills that they could be brought to life. After returning to the Seraficum, its prayerful chapel, which was the location of all our masses, became our rehearsal space.
The next day we had Sant John Lateran on our agendum and we were heading in that direction when we were lucky enough to come across Father Redmond, a friend and visitor of the shool. The magnificent frieze and main door gave pause for wondrementm but rain drove us inside. With father Redmond on our team, the pool of local knowledge increased considerably and he pointed out many interesting features of the building and spoke Italian better than those of us who cobbled it together from bits of French, Spanish and Latin. Particularly interesting, other than the combination of architectural styles, is a small but much revered statue of St, John the Baptist. It is customary to throw coins at the foot of this statue, a custom the boys were keen to honour. It was probably with choirboys in mind that a strong pyrex screen had been erected in front of the delicate statue.
Retreating from St John's we returned to our boardings to prepare for the evening parish mass at which we were singing. We had been in communication with a troup of Scouts d'Europe from the parish and were keen to meet them. Consequently all the scouts in our party were in uniform and I am sure we made a smart impression on our hosts. The mass itself was celebrated by a special Monsignor from the Vatican, brought in at the request of the Parish on account of his linguistic skills and scouting experience. After some strong singing (though stronger was to come) we were welcomed in their function rooms and distributed among tables of talkative Italians. Next was the which was completed with a larger open (and more explosive) fire than one expects to see in inner Rome. The boys learnt a variety of new games and songs in rather strange English (such as the wonderful 'I say do you know dog') and in return Mr. Crawford sang one of our classics, 'J'avais un camarade.' All in all a warming experience and good networking for our scouts.
The next day we had ...
(to be continued, and photos to be added ...)