Welcome to 2015's A–Z Challenge. This year I'm taking you on a tour of one of my favourite cities!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Q – Quo Vadis

The Colosseum
Two of my visits to Rome have been organized tours, but it’s still possible to find something special, something unplanned.

Opting out of a visit to some catacombs, I decided to explore a nearby church. The 17th century Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Piante (Church of St Mary in Palmis) is a small church with few windows and little to attract the eye of the casual tourist. A slab of marble on the floor, protected by a grill, looks mildly interesting. There’s also a bust of a very serious looking chap.

The church has another name. It’s also known as Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis (literally, the Church of ‘Lord, Where Are You Going?’) and is one of the most important churches within the Catholic faith. The church itself is located on the site where St Peter is said to have had a vision of the risen Christ, while fleeing persecution in Rome. He asks Christ, ‘Lord, where are you going?’

The footprints were a copy of a slab that’s now in the nearby Basilica di San Sebastiano and are said to have been miraculously left by Jesus. It’s those feet that give the church its name – palmis being the soles of Jesus’ feet.

And what of that bust? The plaque beneath the sculpture mentioned ‘Premio Nobel’ and ‘Autore’. A little research revealed that it commemorated Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz – author of Quo Vadis – and that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1905) for his ‘outstanding merits as an epic writer’.

The novel is set in Rome in AD 64 and has even made its way to the big screen with three films to its name. MGM dusted it with Hollywood glitter in the epic 1951 version starring Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, and Peter Ustinov as Nero. There’s a scene in that film where the Christians are thrown to the lions. It’s a violent scene – violent now and for its time (1951). Somehow, without the graphic scenes we demand today, the film still manages to convey the sickening deaths of so many. We use that saying, ‘thrown to the lions’, as something of cliché, but the Colosseum is where it actually happened.


  1. It is brilliant that you are taking us through Rome all of April. People like me who have never come there can also learn quite a bit from you.

    Q is for Quiet at my blog.

  2. I would much rather explore a side avenue and disv=cover something like this for myself. Even if it's been there for centuries you still feel like a pioneer.

  3. I loved that book when I was a kid, but the film terrified me. I was also surprised to find out that they are virtually unknown in the USA, even though most Europeans grew up with them... He also wrote many other great books that are classics now :)

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  4. This is quite interesting because my mind did travel to those films. It really was bloody back then but, if it was allowed today, many would go and watch even now