Friday, June 6, 2008

Rome Pilgrimage

Santa Maria in Trestevere

The ceiling of the St Zeno Chapel of Santa Praxedes
Photographs by Jim Forest
(are these photos not absolutely gorgeous?!)
Jim Forest has been in Rome with the Canadian Thomas Merton Society, and keeping a photo journal (on Flickr) that includes the catacombs, monasteries, and the Christian iconography that survives in some of Rome’s most ancient Churches.

As Jim notes in his introduction to the photo journal, Merton traveled to Rome in 1933 when he was 18 years old and was especially drawn to the ancient churches and the art from Christianity’s first millennium.

“I was fascinated by these Byzantine mosaics. I began to haunt the churches where they were to be found, and ... all the other churches [among them Saints Cosmas and Damian, Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Sabina, the Lateran, and Santa Costanza] that were more or less of the same period.... Without knowing anything about it, I became a pilgrim.” (Seven Story Mountain)

Jim’s own pilgrimage through these same churches is extraordinary, with references to the particular Churches and icons that Merton mentioned in his autobiography. The Flickr photo journal is here.

Jim Forest is the author of a number of books about Merton, and the recent, “Praying with Icons”. Thanks, Jim, for sharing your photographs, they are wonderful!


  1. Thanks to Jim for allowing me to share vicariously the Merton pilgrimage experience.

    I hope he will go to France sometime and do the same.

  2. Look around on Jim's Flickr site, Marc. He's been to a lot of places and he shares it all.

    He's also a sometimes reader and commenter on louie,louie :-)

  3. It was what Merton might have called "a kiss from God" being in Rome for two weeks with the Merton Society of Canada -- also a fine way to celebration the success of the kidney transplant seven months ago. The full set of Rome pictures is now up and captioned, though some of the captions are more detailed than other. See:

  4. Just to add that there is now a short essay about our last day of pilgrimage in Rome when we went to the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuoiri le Mura (St Laurence Outside the Walls). This turned out to be among the best preserved and most beautiful ancient churches in Rome. Probably it was one of the churches Merton found in his search for early Christian iconography, but I'm not sure. The essay I wrote is here:

  5. Simply beautiful! Thanks for sharing this!


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.