Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rome, Italy 12'10'2013

It is very hard to write an unbiased post about a place that I have always wanted to go to. Especially when it is a church in Rome and a very significant church at that. I kept secret my knowledge of this place until the time that I would finally tour it which was a few days ago. I would like to introduce to you the Lateran Church - The mother and head of all the churches of the world.


I was very lucky to have gotten this trip to Rome. I thought I was going to go to Milan but due to various reasons I was given this flight to Rome at the very last moment.

Even when all my plans were for Milan. I already had a place in mind where I wanted to go to in Rome. A place where I have never had the opportunity to go to in the past because of time constraints. This time, my time was still very much contained but it was the only place I was planning to go to so I was desperate to reach it.

When we arrived at the hotel. Everyone was going out to the city. Everyone immediately changed their clothes and waited for the bus to the city center.

When we were at the bus I tried to take a picture with my camera but lo and behold - it had absolutely no charge in its battery. I could not believe I forgot to charge it. I felt sad and pissed. I was itching to go to that particular place in Rome and without my camera how will I properly capture the trip?

I decided to leave everyone and go back to the hotel, charge my camera for an hour, and head out to the city alone. It wasn't an easy decision to make but I was very passionate about going to that place.

When I charged my camera for an hour, I headed on out. Dusk had already fallen and night came. I never turned on my camera going out after the charge until my destination because it only had an hour's worth of battery life. When I reached the city center, I walked from Via Petrocelli, past the Colosseum, went through Via San Giovanni in Laterano and then finally to my conquest. The Lateran Church.

Ceiling above the eastern entrance of the Lateran Church.
Papal Regalia and Insignia above the eastern entrance to the Lateran Church.
The full title and description of the Lateran Church is:

Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris et Sanctorum Iohannes Baptistae et Evangelistae in Laterano - Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput.

Which translates to:

Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran - The Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head.

Please take a moment to grasp the immense meaning of the whole title and description above.

Done? OK.

Now I am not a particularly uber-religious person but the sheer significance of this place and the fact that it is so unknown to many and everyone I know, is the reason why I wanted to go to it and make this post about it.

It is the only Roman Catholic church in the world that is an Archbasilica. It ranks the first and the highest among all the churches in Rome and in all of Christendom even above Saint Peter's Basilica. It is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome which makes it the seat of the Bishop of Rome as the Papal Cathedra itself is housed within the church. It is literally and descriptively The Mother of all Churches...

The Papal Cathedra (the throne of the pope) in the apse of the Lateran Church.
A semi dome directly above the Throne of the Pope depicting the transfiguration of Jesus Christ.
The place was breathtaking. Inside, I immediately saw the throne of the Pope in the apse and I spent a significant amount of time and battery in my camera trying to get a perfect shot of it. The throne of the Pope was directly behind and center of the altar.

The first thing you'll notice inside was gold. Everything was decorated in gold especially the ceiling. The paintings were vividly colored, and the inscriptions and statues were so detailed that I immediately realized and felt that this church, even by its interior's appearance alone, was of great importance. Hands down, for me, it was the most grand and most beautiful church I have ever been to even more than Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and even more than Almudena Cathedral in Madrid.

The nave of the church viewed from the altar with huge statues of the Twelve Apostles surrounding it.
The nave of the church viewed from the main entrance on the side near the aisles.
The Papal Seal and Insignia in the ceiling above the nave.
The main door of the church viewed from inside directly center of the nave.
The nave of the church were surrounded by huge statues of the Twelve Apostles made from white marble and the frames that house them were made of black marble. And above each statue were the Stations of the Cross. Above the nave, the ceiling was embedded in gold painted in striking colors and decorated with huge symbols of the Pope - the Papal Regalia and Insignia.

I was overwhelmed by the church's interior. It just had so much going on inside it. Like each part is an art piece you'd just have to stare at to fully appreciate.

The patron of the Lateran Church is Christ the Saviour. That is why huge statues of the apostles surround the nave. Its co-patrons are Saint John The Baptist and Saint John The Evangelist hence its full title.

An angel decorating one of the windows in the church
Angels decorating pillars in the aisles of the church above each side of the nave.
Angels decorating the ceiling in the aisles beside the nave.
Latin inscription above the main entrance of the church.
The decorations even in the aisles of the church is nothing short of amazing, each angel decorating the walls, ceilings, pillars, windows of each of the two aisles looked like they were really painstakingly made. Each could easily pass as an art piece by themselves.

I was frantically trying to capture good photos of the church interior because I had little battery and I had little time left, I was worried that I couldn't take a picture of it all in time and sure enough I couldn't.

When the guards were calling for people to exit. I went out the main entrance and took these photos...

Statue of a Roman Emperor west of the main entrance. I couldn't get close enough to see who.
Upper Facade of the Lateran Church. This is above the main entrance.
A closer look. The inscription: Christo Salvatori meaning Christ the Saviour as he is the patron of the Lateran Church.
Inscription beside each post of the entrance.
The inscription pictured above is one of two, each is located at the bases of the posts by the main entrance of the facade. It declares the claim to the title of the Lateran Church.

It reads:

Sacros(ancta) Lateran(ensis) eccles(ia) omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput.

Which means:

The Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head.

This inscription can also be found in the Papal Lateran Cross.


It is a sad thing how a place so significant for Roman Catholics is left unknown even among it's most dedicated followers.

The great erroneous belief of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican to be the center of the Roman Catholic church, maybe, is the reason why people barely go to the Lateran Church. Or maybe it's because Saint Peter's is the largest church? The most expensive? regardless, it still isn't the center.

To you, whoever is reading this post, when you are in Rome, at least after you visit the Vatican, make your way to the Colosseum, take pictures, then go to the back of it, find the road called Via San Giovanni in Laterano. Go on and head straight through it, just straight through, no turns, passing it's numerous cafes until you see a large obelisk called the Lateran Obelisk (which btw is the tallest standing Obelisk in the world which I forgot to take a picture of which I will take a picture of next time) and from there go inside the eastern entrance of the Lateran Church to, at least, visit the real center of Christendom.

Until my next trip, Ciao!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Madrid, Spain 12'01'2013

This is long overdue. The photos I shot at this trip were almost all bad. I had to delete a lot and I even upgraded from iPhoto to Aperture to fix some. Oh well I'm still learning anyway. I'll do better next time.


I was conflicted on where to go on this trip to Madrid. I wanted buy a sandwich and tea in Puerta del Sol and go straight to Campo del Moro and relax in its beautiful gardens and breathe in the cool fresh air. On the other hand, I wanted to go to Parco del Buen Retiro because it is the largest urban park in Madrid and I have never been there before. In the end, I chose Parco del Buen Retiro. I knew I would miss Campo del Moro.

We left the hotel at high noon, exactly twelve, the sun was shining intensely and there was no single cloud in sight, the winter winds were blowing and the sky was gracing us with its beautiful dark vivid blue. Straight ahead, we went for Retiro Station.

Puerta de Alcala in Plaza Independencia directly west out of Retiro Station.
Restaurants right across the road from Puerta del Alcala.
A lady looking directly into my camera while I was trying to shoot the street.
Going out of Retiro station, you would immediately see Parco del Buen Retiro but look to the west and you'll see Puerta de Alcala in Plaza Independencia and right around Plaza Independencia, there were numerous restaurants, We ate in one calle Harina. It was a sandwicherie and patisserie...

A teapot with something that is not tea inside.
Roast beef sandwich with various sauces and herbs.
For me, just water again.
After getting the energy to walk. We went to enter Perco del Buen Retiro. Right at the entrance, in my head, I was immediately almost regretting that I chose that place. I told myself that Campo del Moro was infinitely more beautiful and so I tried desperately to find a justification of me being there. We walked straight until we reached Estanque del Retiro a huge artificial pond. Right next to it was Monumento de Alfonso XII de España, when I saw it, my being there was a tad bit justified...

Statue of King Alfonso XII of Spain. 
People basking in the high sun beneath the monument of King Alfonso XII.
The Monument of King Alfonso XII of Spain. The sky is a beautiful deep vivid blue.
The eastern statue at the central entrance of the monument. 
The western statue at the central entrance to the monument.
Although I would love to have shown you more, I deleted most of the pictures I had at this part of my trip due to reasons I will not say.

The monument is beautiful and romanesque, typical of most spanish architecture. I wanted to stay there and relax but the sun was in direct view of the monument and I had neither sunscreen nor my sunglasses, plus, my skin was starting to feel painful. The sun really had a strange and fierce brightness to it, totally different from the tropics or the desert. And with all the brightness from the sun and cloudless sky you'd expect it to be a bit warm, but no, it was frigid.

Heading out, we went to another monument, this time it was called Monumento a Arsenio Martinez-Campos...

Path leading to Monumento a Arsenio Martinez-Campos.
Back view of the monument against the orange leaves and blue sky.
Side view of the monument.
We rested by the monument for a few minutes before looking at the map where to go. Then I remembered I wanted to see Palacio de Cristal...

Palacio de Cristal
The small pond in front of the palace.
View from the entrance of the palace overlooking the pond.
Inside Palacio de Cristal.
I must admit I was somewhat disappointed with the palace because what I had in mind was something like the ruined Crystal Palace of London. I imagined it to be this huge grand palace made of glass with many stores and people shopping inside... but no. Palacio de Cristal was essentially a small but very intricately detailed empty normal garden greenhouse. It was warm inside so I was happy nonetheless.

After that brief disappointed we went out to relax by the pond where we saw ducks and swans being fed various stuff by the local folks...

Black Swans.
It was my first time seeing ducks that were colored exactly like the ones I saw in cartoons as a kid. I was ecstatic to say the least when i saw them haha. Black swans however, I saw lots of them in Chengdu, China before so I was ok.

After Palacio de Cristal we just roamed the rest of the park. There was this one part where we saw peacocks grazing!

A girl feeding the peacocks.

A peacock with a particularly beautiful deep blue shade of neck feathers.
I was happy to see the peacocks grazing. Too bad they didn't have their tail feathers out because their tail feathers weren't there anymore, clearly, they were plucked by someone for some sort of profit. Poor peacocks.

After the peacocks we headed for the exit, but we were distracted by a small cafe selling well, hot drinks. We were cold, tired, and sleepy. We needed refreshments so we got Churros con Chocolate.

Churros con Chocolate.
A ravenous bird.
It was a very relaxing moment. Sitting there in the middle of the huge park eating churros dipped in thick hot chocolate while being cooled by the winter winds. I didn't want to leave! Until, the ravenous birds came.

It was one of the most common, if not THE most common bird in the Philippines and I was surprised to see them in Madrid. In the Philippines they're called "Maya" but more properly the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

They were like flying rats! I was frustrated that they were really trying to get up close and personal with our churros because they didn't behave like that in the Philippines. They were like huge flies hanging around our table constantly coming back even when we were trying to fend them off, it was crazy!

We finished our churros leaving nothing for the birds. HAH!

After that we headed to the train station to go to Puerta del Sol. But we stopped again because I wanted to take these pictures...

Side view of the Monumento de Alfonso XII de España.
Front view of the Monumento de Alfonso XII de España.
The sun was finally setting and the light over the monument of King Alfonso XII versus the brown orange trees and still very blue sky was just too good for me to pass up I hope I did it justice.

So we went to the train station headed for Sol and I was very happy to see that after a few weeks it was finally clean again! *yey* remember it was full of uncollected trash a few weeks ago.

I was even happier to see that christmas season has fallen upon the place and everything around were lit up and decorated for the season. Especially in Plaza Mayor...

Stuffed hats! Cute!
Merry-Go-Round in the middle of Plaza Mayor. 
"Only Happens At Christmas" 
Lights above and beside the exit of Plaza Mayor
Apparently these extended up to Plaza de Oriente. But It was getting late so we just headed for Mercado de San Miguel to eat some snacks, buy food and then head back to the hotel.

Mercado de San Miguel
Sausages meant to be eaten like french fries!
Cocktail snacks.
Arros Negre made from squid/cuttlesfish ink of course
Overall it was a tiring but fun experience. However, I really missed Campo del Moro. Next time I fly to Madrid, I'll head straight there, just relax, and have a picnic by myself or with someone or with a book.

Until my next trip, Adios!