Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pavia & San Gimignano - 3rd Day (3/03/08)

After a delightful stay at La Villa Ciardi, we started out for Pavia. The wonderful breakfast and warming coffee had us fortified for the day ahead. Memories of Mario, Luigi and their friends had us visibly contented.

Shorlty after morning prayer led by Fr. Joe , our contentment was shattered. Giancarlo's outside mirror was clipped by an oncoming motorist, while making on a tight turn on a narrow road. A brief inspection revealed no damage and we were on our way once more. But then when we encountered traffic due to highway construction, Fr. Joe tried to explain the American thoery of "Murphy's Law" to Giancarlo.

Around 11:00 a.m. we arrived at Pavia. As Father related, Pavia is a University town, so there was much activity. After a 5 minute walk, we arrived at St. Peter's of the Golden Sky (Basilica di San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro). The Church dates back to the twelfth century and is mentioned by Dante, as the inscription at the entrance affirms.

Left on our own for a short while, we eventually gathered for Eucharist in a side chapel. Fr. Chris celebrated; his sermon related St. Augustine's spiritual search to our own journey through life. This chapel contained picture albums which commemorated Pope Benedict's visit to Pavia on April 22, 2007. Fr. Joe was found in one of the pictures; he said the Pope was delighted to be present that day.

We then assembled in the main church. Fr. Joe talked to us about the life of Augustinian saint Rita of Cascia, as the altar to the right side of the church is dedicated to her memory. The side altar to the left is dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

Above the main altar is the magnificent Ark of St. Augustine . The marble masterpiece, "commissioned by Bonifacio Bottigella, Prior of the Augustinians, then Bishop of Lodi and a native of Pavia, is a small encyclopaedic illustration of the faith of the theological, cardinal and monastic virtues. Some episodes of the life of St Augustine, the Great Doctor of the Church, are also portrayed: his conversion, his baptism administered by St Ambrose, the miracles after his death -430 AD - and the transfer of his relics to Pavia." The relics of St. Augustine lie at the foot of the Ark. Candles surround the altar attesting to the presence of Augustinians throughout the world.

The Crypt in the lower level of the church below contains the body of Liutprando, forever esteemed, for transferring the remains of St. Augustine to Pavia for their weight in gold.

After this informative visit, we boarded the bus for the long ride to San Gimignano. A stop at the Auto Grill satisfied our hunger and tested our limited Italian language skills. Just a few basic words, coupled with pointing here and nodding there was more than adequate. The Italian love of food is evident even at the rest stops! The scenic ride to San Gimignano was breathtaking; the fields reminded this writer of patchwork quilts.

We arrived at San Gimignano just as it began to get dark. The town, with its thirteen towers, stood out in the Tuscan skyline. We were greeted by Fr. Brian Lowery who led us through the walls of the tower to the Convento; it felt like we had traveled back-in-time.

Before dinner, Fr. Brian and Fr. Ian told us a little about themselves; we did likewise. We met Loretta, the Convento's chef, along with a local architect and a local sculptor.

Memories of Loretta will remain with us forever, for her cooking was WONDERFUL! Pasta, turkey, spinach and bread were enjoyed by all. After dinner, we were free to investigate San Gimignano by night.

On our return, we settled in for the first of three nights at the Convent after a full and eventful day.

Thanks to pilgrim Kathy F. for providing this record of the third day of our pilgrimage, and to all who have shared photographs for this entry.

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