HOW A SAILOR SAVED AN OBELISK AND BROUGHT PALMS TO ROME

HOW A SAILOR SAVED AN OBELISK AND BROUGHT PALMS TO ROME

For those who may have missed it last year either in this column or on my weekend radio show, “Vatican Insider,” I’d like to share a Palm Sunday story with you – one I tell all my friends who visit Rome when we are in St. Peter’s Square. It’s the marvelous story of how a sailor from Liguria saved an obelisk from falling and extracted a papal promise for an honor for his native city.

In 1586, Pope Sixtus V, to complete the design of St. Peter’s Square, ordered architect Domenico Fontana to place in the center of the square a giant Egyptian obelisk which had been brought to Rome in 39 A.D. by Emperor Caligula. For centuries it has been in the emperor’s circus, in what today is Vatican City, and moving the obelisk from that point to the center of St. Peter’s Square would be a herculean task.

On September 10, the day the 85-foot high, 350-ton obelisk was transported by 900 workers, 140 horses and 44 winches, Benedetto Bresca, a ship’s captain from the Italian Riviera area of San Remo-Bordighera, was in the square.

The head engineer had told Pope Sixtus that total silence was needed to raise the obelisk, once it was in the square. Thus, the Pope announced to the huge crowd that had assembled to watch the maneuver that anyone who spoke during the delicate and risky operation would face the death penalty.

As work was underway, the ropes used to raise the obelisk gave signs of fraying and weakening and the obelisk itself began to sway. However, the now famous sailor Benedetto – whose name means Benedict – knew what the problem was and how to solve it and so, notwithstanding the pontiff’s ultimatum, he shouted, “aiga ae corde – “water on the ropes, water on the ropes.” The head engineer realized the sailor was right, the ropes were watered, they became taut and strong and the obelisk was raised, without further danger to anyone.


Instead of punishing the audacious sailor, Pope Sixtus rewarded him by giving Benedetto and his descendants the privilege of providing the Vatican with the famous Ligurian palms used for Holy Week ceremonies in the Vatican. And so it has been for over four centuries, with only a few brief interruptions. (photos from sanremofiorita)

Known as “parmureli”, the leaves from date palm trees in San Remo and Bordighera are woven and braided into intricate sculptures, some only inches high, others several meters high. Every Palm Sunday, the cities provide the Vatican with over 200 parmureli, including one parmurelo for the Pope that is customarily six feet high and about 80 five-foot high palms for cardinals and bishops.

Many years ago, when the parmureli arrived by sea, the ship that carried them placed one of the palm leaf sculptures on the mast that usually displayed a flag. The palm “flag” thus gave that vessel from San Remo-Bordighera precedence into the port over all other vessels.

By the way, the obelisk is also a sundial as its shadows mark noon over the signs of the zodiac in the white marble disks placed among the cobblestones of the square.

PALM SUNDAY: JESUS DESTROYS TRIUMPHALISM BY HIS PASSION

PALM SUNDAY: JESUS DESTROYS TRIUMPHALISM BY HIS PASSION

Pope Francis during Mass on Palm Sunday told the faithful, “there is no negotiating with the cross: one either embraces it or rejects it. By his self-abasement, Jesus wanted to open up to us the path of faith and to precede us on that path.”

By Lydia O’Kane (vaticannews)

Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square for the celebration of Palm Sunday that marks the beginning of Holy Week. Palm Sunday also marks diocesan World Youth Day and young people could be seen waving palms and olive branches as the sun beamed down.

As the “Hosanna” rang out a solemn procession saw cardinals, priests and ordinary men and women making their way around the square. Following the Gospel, which was read by three deacons and recounts Christ’s Passion, Pope Francis in his homily recalled how Jesus in his entry into Jerusalem shows us the way with his humility in the face of triumphalism. (photos by Daniel Ibáñez of EWTN/ACI)

Abandonment and obedience
With this entrance into Holy Week, the Pope explained, “Jesus shows us how to face moments of difficulty and the most insidious of temptations by preserving in our hearts a peace that is neither detachment nor superhuman impassivity, but confident abandonment to the Father and to his saving will, which bestows life and mercy.”

“He shows us this kind of abandonment,” Pope Francis said, “by spurning, at every point in his earthly ministry, the temptation to do things his way and not in complete obedience to the Father.”

Humility over triumphalism
Today, too, remarked the Pontiff, “by his entrance into Jerusalem, he shows us the way. For in that event, the evil one, the prince of this world, had a card up his sleeve: the card of triumphalism. Yet, the Lord responded by holding fast to his own way, the way of humility.”

The Pope emphasized that “triumphalism tries to make it to the goal by shortcuts and false compromises… It lives off gestures and words that are not forged in the crucible of the cross; Jesus destroyed triumphalism by his Passion.” “One subtle form of triumphalism is spiritual worldliness, which represents the greatest danger, the most treacherous temptation threatening the Church”, he said, quoting from French Cardinal and Theologian Henri De Lubac.

The power of silence
Pope Francis remarked, that Jesus “knows that true triumph involves making room for God and that the only way to do that is by stripping oneself, by self-emptying. “There is no negotiating with the cross: one either embraces it or rejects it,” said the Pope. By his self-abasement, Jesus wanted to open up to us the path of faith and to precede us on that path.”

Addressing the young people present for this diocesan World Youth Day, the Pontiff told them not to be ashamed to show their enthusiasm for Jesus, to shout out that he is alive and that he is in their lives.

During his homily, Pope Francis also noted the “profoundly impressive” silence of Jesus throughout his Passion.

The Pope added that, “he also overcomes the temptation to answer back, to act like a “superstar.” Francis said that, “in moments of darkness and great tribulation, we need to keep silent, to find the courage not to speak, as long as our silence is meek and not full of anger.” The Pope stressed that, “at the hour that God comes forth to fight, we have to let him take over. Our place of safety will be beneath the mantle of the holy Mother of God.”

PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

It is time once again to tell you the marvelous story of how a sailor from Liguria saved an obelisk from falling and extracted a papal promise for an honor for his native city. This is a story I tell all my family and friends when they come to Rome and we are in the very magical St. Peter’s Square.

In 1586, Pope Sixtus V, wanting to complete the design of St. Peter’s Square, ordered architect Domenico Fontana to place in the center of the square a giant Egyptian obelisk that had been brought to Rome in 39 A.D. by Emperor Caligula. For centuries it has been in the emperor’s circus in what today is Vatican City, and moving the obelisk from that point to the center of St. Peter’s Square would be a Herculean task.

The obelisk had been in the Vatican gardens, near the first Constantinian basilica (dedicated in 326), and had lain there, forgotten, for many years under layers of mud and stagnant water. Giacomo della Porta was asked by Sixtus V to recover the obelisk and, struck by its majestic beauty, the Pope asked that engineers study a project to raise the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square.

On September 10, the 85-foot high, 350-ton obelisk was transported to the square by 900 workers, 140 horses and 44 winches. Benedetto Bresca, a ship’s captain from the Italian Riviera area of San Remo-Bordighera, was present in the large crowd who had gathered to watch the raising of the obelisk.

The head engineer had told Pope Sixtus that total silence was needed to raise the obelisk, once it was in the square. Thus, the Pope announced to the huge crowd that had assembled to watch the manoeuver that anyone who spoke during the delicate and risky operation would face very severe penalties.

As work was underway, the ropes used to raise the obelisk gave signs of fraying and weakening and the obelisk itself began to sway. However, Benedetto, as a sailor, knew what the problem was  and how to solve it and so, notwithstanding the pontiff’s ultimatum, he shouted, “acqua alle corde, acqua alle corde (water on the cords, water on the cords).” The head engineer realized the sailor was right, the cords were watered, they became taut and strong and the obelisk was raised, without further danger to anyone.

Instead of punishing the audacious sailor, Pope Sixtus rewarded him by giving Benedetto and his descendants the privilege of providing the Vatican with the famous Ligurian palms used for Holy Week ceremonies in the Vatican. And so it has been for over four centuries, with only a few brief interruptions.

Known as parmureli, the leaves from date palm trees in San Remo and Bordighera are woven and braided into intricate sculptures, some only inches high, while others are perhaps two meters high. Some years, more than 200 of the six-foot high parmureli are sent to the Vatican from Liguria for Palm Sunday – for the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, etc.

PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

It was a very busy weekend for Pope Francis, but just a prelude to the upcoming events of Holy Week.

Saturday night he led a prayer vigil with young people in St. Mary Major Basilica, the vigil of the XXXII World Youth Day which is celebrated Palm Sunday in the world’s dioceses. Young people are now and will remain high on the papal agenda leading up to the October 2018 synod that will focus on youth.

Francis also referred to the next World Youth Day in Panama in 2019 and disconcerted not a few in St. Mary’s Basilica when he said, “I don’t know if it will be me, but the pope will be in Panama!” Then, in a reference to his age of 80,“At my age, we (older people) are about to pass away.”

Young people have been contacted for input for the 2018 synod, and the Holy Father noted this at the vigil, saying he wanted to involve not just Catholics but all youth, agnostics and atheists included, telling them, “the future is in your hands.”

On Palm Sunday, under clear skies and a brilliant sun, Pope Francis presided at Mass in St. Peter’s Square amid very tight security with streets adjacent to the square closed to traffic, no parking allowed, army vehicles and armed soldiers clearly in view and airport style security for those entering the square. At Mass, the World Youth Day cross was passed from youth of Krakow, host of the 2016 WYD, to youth from Panama for the 2019 celebration.

In his homily, the Pope spoke of World Youth Day and Holy Week and Easter but also, notably, about all who suffer, “those who suffer from slave labor, family tragedies and diseases … who suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike.”

After Mass, at the Angelus, Pope Francis remembered the victims of Friday’s attack on Stockholm and then, after being handed a note, spoke out in condemnation of the terror attacks on two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt that killed dozens and injured at least 80. He expressed condolences to Coptic Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic Church and the entire Egyptian nation. “May the Lord,” said the Pope, “convert the hearts of the people who are sowing terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make and traffic weapons.”

Francis is scheduled to visit Cairo at the end of this month.

And now, for one of my favorite stories, an annual post on this page….

PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

It is time once again to tell you the marvelous story of how a sailor from Liguria saved an obelisk from falling and extracted a papal promise for an honor for his native city.

In 1586, Pope Sixtus V, wanting to complete the design of St. Peter’s Square, ordered architect Domenico Fontana to place in the center of the square a giant Egyptian obelisk that had been brought to Rome in 39 A.D. by Emperor Caligula. For centuries it has been in the emperor’s circus in what today is Vatican City, and moving the obelisk from that point to the center of St. Peter’s Square would be a Herculean task.

The obelisk had been in the Vatican gardens, near the first Constantinian basilica (dedicated in 326), and had lain there, forgotten, for many years under layers of mud and stagnant water. Giacomo della Porta was asked by Sixtus V to recover the obelisk and, struck by its majestic beauty, the Pope asked that engineers study a project to raise the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square.

On September 10, the day the 85-foot high, 350-ton obelisk was transported by 900 workers, 140 horses and 44 winches, Benedetto Bresca, a ship’s captain from the Italian Riviera area of San Remo-Bordighera, was in the square.

The head engineer had told Pope Sixtus that total silence was needed to raise the obelisk, once it was in the square. Thus, the Pope announced to the huge crowd that had assembled to watch the manoeuver that anyone who spoke during the delicate and risky operation would face very severe penalties.

As work was underway, the ropes used to raise the obelisk gave signs of fraying and weakening and the obelisk itself began to sway. However, Benedetto, as a sailor, knew what the problem was – and how to solve it and so, notwithstanding the pontiff’s ultimatum, he shouted “water on the cords, water on the cords.” The head engineer realized the sailor was right, the cords were watered, they became taut and strong and the obelisk was raised, without further danger to anyone.

Instead of punishing the audacious sailor, Pope Sixtus rewarded him by giving Benedetto and his descendants the privilege of providing the Vatican with the famous Ligurian palms used for Holy Week ceremonies in the Vatican. And so it has been for over four centuries, with only a few brief interruptions.

Known as parmureli, the leaves from date palm trees in San Remo and Bordighera are woven and braided into intricate sculptures, some only inches high, while others are perhaps two meters high. Some years, more than 200 of the six-foot high parmureli are sent to the Vatican from Liguria for Palm Sunday – for the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, etc. (photos riviera24.it)

Many years ago, when the parmureli arrived by sea, the ship that carried them placed one of the palm leaf sculptures on the mast that usually displayed a flag. The palm “flag” thus gave that vessel from San Remo-Bordighera precedence into the port over all other vessels.

Click here to watch my “Joan’s Rome” video about the obelisk; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WVysLk0Kk8&index=16&list=PL69B6AD83630DB515

HUMILITY IS GOD’S WAY, JESUS’ WAY AND MUST BE OUR WAY – PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

HUMILITY IS GOD’S WAY, JESUS’ WAY AND MUST BE OUR WAY

Sunday at 9.30 am Pope Francis began the solemn liturgical celebration of Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square where, at the center of the square, at the obelisk, he blessed the palm and olive branches and, continuing the procession, celebrated Mass for the Passion of the Lord. Palm Sunday marks Word Youth Day on a diocesan leval  and thousands of Young people from Rome and other dioceses were present for the 30th WYD on the theme “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

POPE FRANCIS PALM SUNDAY 2

The Pope’s homily focused on humility, during which he remembered “our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time – and there are many.”

In his homily, following the proclamation of the Passion of the Lord according to Mark, Francis said, “At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: ‘He humbled himself’. Jesus’ humiliation. These words show us God’s way and, consequently, that which must be the way of Christians: it is humility. A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!

“Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity. This is clear when we read the the story of the Exodus. How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.

“This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be ‘holy’ for us too. We will feel the contempt of the leaders of his people and their attempts to trip him up. We will be there at the betrayal of Judas, one of the Twelve, who will sell him for thirty pieces of silver. “We will see the Lord arrested and carried off like a criminal; abandoned by his disciples, dragged before the Sanhedrin, condemned to death, beaten and insulted. We will hear Peter, the ‘rock’ among the disciples, deny him three times. We will hear the shouts of the crowd, egged on by their leaders, who demand that Barabas be freed and Jesus crucified. “We will see him mocked by the soldiers, robed in purple and crowned with thorns. And then, as he makes his sorrowful way beneath the cross, we will hear the jeering of the people and their leaders, who scoff at his being King and Son of God. This is God’s way, the way of humility. It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation.

“Following this path to the full, the Son of God took on the ‘form of a slave’. In the end, humility also means service. It means making room for God by stripping oneself, ’emptying oneself’, as Scripture says. This – the pouring out of oneself – is the greatest humiliation of all.

“There is another way, however, opposed to the way of Christ. It is worldliness, the way of the world. The world proposes the way of vanity, pride, success, the other way. The Evil One proposed this way to Jesus too, during his forty days in the desert. But Jesus immediately rejected it. With him, and only by his grace, with his help, we too can overcome this temptation to vanity, to worldliness, not only at significant moments, but in daily life as well. In this, we are helped and comforted by the example of so many men and women who, in silence and concealment, sacrifice themselves daily to serve others: a sick relative, an elderly person living alone, a disabled person, the homeless.

“We think too of the humiliation endured by all those who, for their lives of fidelity to the Gospel, encounter discrimination and pay a personal price. We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time – and there are many. They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity. They follow him on his way. In truth, we can speak of a ìcloud of witnesses’ – the martyrs of our own time.

“During this week, let us set about with determination along this same path of humility, with immense love for him, our Lord and Saviour. Love will guide us and give us strength. For where he is, we too shall be.”

In brief remarks after Mass at the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke of World Youth Day, including the 2016 celebration in Krakow, Poland. He entrusted that celebration to Mary and also entrusted to “her intercession the victims of last Tuesday’s aviation tragedy, among whom there was also a group of German students.”

PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

It is time once again to tell you the marvelous story of how a sailor from Liguria saved an obelisk from falling and extracted a papal promise for an honor for his native city.

In 1586, Pope Sixtus V, to complete the design of St. Peter’s Square, ordered architect Domenico Fontana to place in the center of the square a giant Egyptian obelisk which had been brought to Rome in 39 A.D. by Emperor Caligula. For centuries it has been in the emperor’s circus in what today is Vatican City, and moving the obelisk from that point to the center of St. Peter’s Square would be a herculean task.

The obelisk had been in the Vatican gardens, near the Constantinian basilica (the first one) and had laid there, forgotten for many years under layers of mud and stagnant water. Giacomo della Porta was asked by Sixtus V to recover the obelisk and, struck by its majestic beauty, the Pope asked that projects to raise the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square be studied.

On September 10, the day the 85-foot high, 350-ton obelisk was transported by 900 workers, 140 horses and 44 winches, Benedetto Bresca, a ship’s captain from the Italian Riviera area of San Remo-Bordighera, was in the square.

The head engineer had told Pope Sixtus that total silence was needed to raise the obelisk, once it was in the square. Thus, the Pope announced to the huge crowd that had assembled to watch the manoeuvre that anyone who spoke during the delicate and risky operation would face the death penalty. As work was underway, the ropes used to raise the obelisk gave signs of fraying and weakening and the obelisk itself began to sway. However, Benedetto, as a sailor, knew what the problem was – and how to solve it and so, notwithstanding the pontiff’s ultimatum, he shouted “water on the cords, water on the cords.” The head engineer realized the sailor was right, the cords were watered, they became taut and strong and the obelisk was raised, without further danger to anyone.

Instead of punishing the audacious sailor, Pope Sixtus rewarded him by giving Benedetto and his descendants the privilege of providing the Vatican with the famous Ligurian palms used for Holy Week ceremonies in the Vatican. And so it has been for over four centuries, with only a few brief interruptions.

Known as parmureli, the leaves from date palm trees in San Remo and Bordighera are woven and braided into intricate sculptures, some only inches high, while others are perhaps two meters high. Many years, more than 200 of the six-foot high parmureli are sent to the Vatican from Liguria for Palm Sunday – for the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, etc.

PARMURELI  2

PARMURELI  1

Many years ago, when the parmureli arrived by sea, the ship that carried them placed one of the palm leaf sculptures on the mast that usually displayed a flag. The palm “flag” thus gave that vessel from San Remo-Bordighera precedence into the port over all other vessels.

Click here to watch my “Joan’s Rome” video about the obelisk; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WVysLk0Kk8&index=16&list=PL69B6AD83630DB515