Pilgrimage To Italy
ITALY AND THE MISSION OF THE HEART
A PILGRIMAGE TO THE LAND OF THE SUN
May 11 - 26, 2002
Two Week Tour of Italy
Venice, Florence, Assisi, Rome
In Chinese the pictogram for Italy is a man facing the Sun, holding his heart in his hand. Anyone who has spent time in Italy will know of the remarkable heart forces at work here, where - according to the teaching of correspondences between “above” and “below” - the heart corresponds to the Sun. The Italian name for the capital is Roma. If reversed, this reads Amor, which means “love”. Amor is the secret name for Rome, describing the mission of this city and the whole land of Italy.
Rome is important historically in the spread of Christianity from the Holy Land, as the city to which the apostles Peter and Paul came. Peter was accompanied, among others, by Mark the Evangelist and the youth of Nain, Martialis, who had been raised from the dead by Jesus Christ. (The Gospel of St. Mark is basically an account of Christ’s life by Peter, written by Mark.)
The pilgrimage to Italy in 2002 was in line with the intention of the Sophia Foundation pilgrimages, which have been following the spread of Christianity from the Holy Land:
to Asia Minor in 1996, in the footsteps of Mary, the Apostle John, and John the Evangelist;
to France in 1998, in the footsteps of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, and Martha;
to Britain in 2000, in the footsteps of Joseph of Arimathea;
and to the Holy Land itself in 1997.
Upon arrival in Milan, our pilgrimage began with a viewing of Leonardo’s “Last Supper”. Then we traveled to Roncegno near Trient, to stay at the Raphael “House of Health” for a the International Choreocosmos week. Raphael House is a spa hotel which is responsible for the medicinal application of the famous Levico water spoken of by Rudolf Steiner as being imbued with cosmic forces. The medical doctors running the hotel work on the basis of Rudolf Steiner’s indications, and therapies there include curative eurythmy, massage, therapeutic bathing in the Levico water, etc. The hotel is in a beautiful location in the Trentino alps and has a large hall suitable for cosmic dance for a large number of people.
After a week of Choreocosmos we traveled to Venice. This is one of the most beautiful and remarkable cities in the world. It is a water city in the shape of a fish, and the grand canal, the central water canal running through the city, has the shape of the Moon form in the cosmic dance for the Moon. The grand canal leads to San Marco’s Cathedral, which houses the relics of St. Mark. Venice stands under the patronage of St. Mark, whose symbol is the winged lion (sign of Leo). There are numerous precious art treasures, churches and palaces to see in Venice. It is also a very musical city, associated with Monteverdi and Vivaldi, a city Mozart was fond of visiting, and where Wagner spent the last five months of his life. We were fortunate that Marko Pogacnik, author of A Hidden Path through Venice and many other works, was our guide through the city. Marko has made an in-depth study of Venice from a geomantic point of view and discovered extraordinary things about this unique water city. (Geomancy is the study of earth forces and the hidden forces of nature.) As Marko shows in his book, for a geomantist Venice is a pearl among all the cities of the world.
We drove to Florence to continue our pilgrimage. Florence is famous for its art collections and the beauty of its location. Celebrated for centuries as the leading center of Italian literature and art, many great artists lived there, including Giotto, Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo. It was the birthplace of Dante and the residence of Boccaccio and numerous humanistic scholars, including Marsilio Ficino, the first head of the Platonic Academy of Florence. We visited the Florence cathedral, the Medici chapel, and many other sites, as well as the famous Uffizi gallery. The Uffizi is the oldest art gallery in the world, owning some 4800 works, of which about 2000 are on view. This enormous quantity of works includes numerous masterpieces, among the highest achievements of Western art, by Cimabue, Giotto, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo. We explored the esoteric dimension of some of these works of art, for example, Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and “Allegory of Spring”. We also visited the Academy Gallery, where Michelangelo’s famous statue of David is on display. Nearby is the museum of San Marco, where we had the opportunity of seeing a great number of frescoes painted by Fra Angelico.
We drove to Assisi and the surrounding area, the land of St. Francis. On Pentecost Sunday, May 19, we visited Assisi, the town of St. Francis, whom Dante in the Divine Comedy likens to a Sun. This city has a sunlike quality, being a shrine for many sacred relics of saints, with its sanctuaries and numerous works of art. St. Francis was a “Sophianic saint”, who praised Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and Mother Earth in his Canticle of the Creatures. Here in Assisi and other places in the surrounding region of Umbria, places which St. Francis visited, it is possible to bathe in the grace-filled rays left by the imprint of this remarkable “Sun saint”. In Assisi itself we visited the Basilica of St. Francis, housing his tomb and also the frescoes of Giotto depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis. Other masterpieces of Italian art which can be seen here are by Simone Martini, Cimabue, and the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. We also visited the Basilica of St. Clare housing the crucifix that spoke to St. Francis, and the Sanctuary of San Damiamo where the crucifix was originally located and where St. Francis wrote his Canticle of the Creatures. Then we shall visit St. Mary of the Angels, the Holy Convent of the Porziuncola, where St. Francis died. Among other sites we visited outside of Assisi, the most famous and most frequented is the Sanctuary of the Stigmata on Mt. Verna. When St. Francis was here in September 1224, he saw a Seraphim with six flaming wings descending from heaven who bestowed the stigmata on him. The stigmata lasted two years until his death on October 3, 1226.
We left Assisi and drove to Rome. The capital of Italy is the site of an extraordinary number of ancient monuments, art treasures, and churches with saintly relics. First and foremost is St. Peter’s, designed by Bramante, Michelangelo, and Raphael, housing the tomb of St. Peter and the tombs of most of the popes, as well as Michelangelo’s beautiful “Pietà”. The Vatican museum has numerous outstanding works of art, including Michelangelo’s “Last Judgement” and his frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, as well as Raphael’s “Transfiguration” and his sublime frescoes in the Vatican Stanze, the most famous being “The Dispute on the Blessed Sacrament” and “The School of Athens”, whose spiritual-esoteric dimension we sought to penetrate. We also visited the basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, built AD 352 at a site where - according to legend - the Virgin Mary caused a miraculous fall of snow at this one isolated spot. This is one of the first churches to be dedicated to Mary. There we saw the splendid mosaic Coronation of the Virgin and also a copy of the portrait of Mary made by St. Luke. We visited the catacombs, as well as he ancient Roman sites of the Forum, the Colosseum and Nero’s palace.