Churches, churches, churches…everywhere in this small hillside Italian town. Within the old walled city dating from medieval times but built on an old Roman road complete with aqueduct, there are five churches; and in the new town down the hill, there are three. That makes eight churches to which I can walk! All Catholic, in case you were interested. This is Italy, the land of the Pope! Each church has a special unique ambiance, architecture and feeling. All are at least 500 years old, some are baroque, some neoclassical and some Romanesque in architecture. All contain beautiful, enormous paintings of the Annunciation, the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, or the Apostles and Saints. One day I wandered from church to church — one has four Della Robbias: a famous 14th-15th century Florentine ceramic studio run by two Della Robbia brothers, famous for blue, white and yellow fruits framing different scenes of the Virgin and Child. It is hard to take in the enormity of the faith in Art over the centuries. I learned that high on a nearby mountainside, there are five hillside villages, all with churches and one faithful 80 year old priest who walks to each one over a mountain trail. These small villages amount to 5-6 houses, one bar/ristorante maybe, and a tabaggio. The faithful worry who will take his place!
This week is Christian Unity week. In America that means an interfaith service with Presbyterians, Methodists, Orthodox, Catholic, Pentecostal, Church of Christ and any other denomination that might have a church in your town taking part. Now in Italy that poses a problem; Italy is Catholic! At the interfaith service there was an Orthodox priest and the service focused on the reconciliation between the Protestants and Catholics celebrating together for the first time the 500 years anniversary of the Reformation. The service was quite meaningful, asking forgiveness for various sins that divide us: pride, hate, stubbornness, etc. The ‘sins’, feelings or emotions which cause divisions, were something everyone Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox or just plain human could relate to. All could hope and pray for more unity and love in our religions and in our world.