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’.