The two-hour train ride from Assisi to Rome deposited me at Termini station, where I navigated the underground maze to find the correct Metro line and direction (thankfully, there are only two criss-crossing Metro lines in Rome — “A” and “B”, and thankfully, I learned public transit in our ten years in Chicago) to where I am keen to lodge in the Eternal City.
After checking in and dropping off my bag, there was still plenty of day and daylight remaining for a long walk and the hope of some new discoveries and places to pray. But first, a snack: panini with porchetta.
Essentially, a good part of a pig is deboned, seasoned with herbs and salt, and rolled up so that it makes sort of a loaf, and then it is roasted. It’s kept like ham, so that when a customer wishes to buy a sandwich, a slice or two is cut off the end and heated for a couple moments on the panini press.
The meat is somewhat fatty, and it is the fat that melts as the meat is heated, where it is transferred into a bread and toasted under the press for a few moments more. The fat butters the bread and provides the sauce for the sandwich. If you think that sounds icky, we don’t know each other. I like the meat so much (and while the bread is the best bread ever, it’s still just bread) that I fold over the meat inside the sandwich so that I only eat half the bread.
Properly sated, I continued my walk through Trastevere, a neighborhood which some might say is dingy, even by Roman standards, but I find thoroughly charming, especially the piazza in front of Santa Maria en Trastevere. And, while Santa Maria is a true favorite of mine, the objective of my mission was to reach Santa Cecelia in Trastevere, which sits over the site of one of the early “house churches” of Rome.
Walking in, there was a mass under way with some Italian pilgrims, and some rather upbeat guitar music, so I found the entrance to the museum underneath the church, where you can visit the ruins of the saint’s Roman house.
Mass ended while I visited the museum, and the crypt of Santa Cecilia was opened for them. Everyone clambered down the stairs holding candles to venerate the tomb of the saint. There are side altars for Sts. Agatha and Agnes in the crypt, and the relics of Saint Valerian (husband of Cecelia) are also housed there.
Back above ground, a famous statue sits underneath the main altar of the basilica, entitled The Martyrdom of Santa Cecilia (1600), by Stefano Maderno, which “depicts the three axe strokes described in the 5th-century account of her martyrdom. It also is meant to underscore the incorruptibility of her cadaver (an attribute of some saints), which miraculously still had congealed blood after centuries.” (source, Wikipedia). It happens that at New Clairvaux, the monastery nearest us, there is a Santa Cecilia chapel with a reproduction of this statue.