Our pilgrimage will include visits to Padua, Venice, Ravenna, Rome, Naples, Pompeii and Bari. The focus of our pilgrimage is on the veneration and worship of the holy sites that were sanctified by the lives of the Saints of the Ancient Church that are holy as the treasury places of numerous relics and miraculous icons. We, also, will see the splendid remains of the Byzantine Civilization and will visit a number of major Ancient ruins in order to understand the true triumph of the Ancient Church over the glory and splendor of Ancient Rome.
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Day 1: Monday, June 15, 2009. Group assembles in the airport and departs from the US
Day 2: Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Group arrives to the airport in Venice, Italy. Meet up with a guide and transfer to the hotel in the historical part of Venice. Based on the time of arrival, en route to the hotel a visit and a tour of the historical city of Padua, renown Christian center in Northern Italy, where in the Basilica of St. Justina the relics of St. Apostle and Evangelist Mark are laid to rest. Tour to Padua, will include a visit to Scrovegni chapel with well know frescoes by Ambrosio Bondone, better known as Giotto. Overnight in the hotel in Venice.
Day 3: Wednesday, June 17, 2009.
Today we will explore the city of Venice, a city with countless historical monuments, cultural attractions and Christian holy places. For many people, the city of Venice is associated with the canals, palaces, gondolas and gondoliers that are singing something mysteriously romantic. To an extent Venice is indeed that. But very few people realize that Venice had a mighty naval power at one time and that the Venetian Republic sponsored the conquest of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Since then many of the Christian treasures from the Imperial City are still stored in numerous Cathedrals and churches of Venice.
In the morning hours we will make a pilgrimage walk through several churches and will venerate relics of numerous saints, such as Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappodocia; Athanasius the Great and John the Almsgiver, Saintly Patriarchs of Alexandria; righteous Zachariah, father of St. John the Baptist; Holy Warrior and great martyr Theodore Stratylates; Venerable fathers Paul of Fayoum and Kosmas of the desert; holy unmercenaries Cosmos and Damian of Arabia and many others. After a lunch break we will visit the most famous monuments of Venice. One of them is the Cathedral of St. Mark that in its glory and splendor is not any less beautiful than the most elaborate Cathedrals of Constantinople.
Cathedral of St. Mark in addition to its breathtaking beauty is doubtlessly a holy place to any Orthodox as it is also a resting place of holy apostle and evangelist Mark and place of veneration of the miracle working icon of the Theotokos “Nicopea” (“The victory bearer”) that is attributed to the hand of the apostle Mark. After our visit to the Cathedral we will visit the palaces of the Dodges, where you will be able to enjoy the splendor of the interiors and to learn a lot of interesting facts about the history of the city.
Day 4: Thursday, June 18, 2009.
Today we will visit several islands of the Venetian Lagoon. Our first stop will be at Murano that is famous from the medieval period due to its multiple glass factories. To us Murano is even more interesting because of the beautiful Basilica of St. Donatus of Evria that houses relics of that fourth century saint, along with the relics of Saint Gerard, the martyr and enlightener of Hungarians. After Murano we will transfer to Torcello, a little island that is world famous for its 7th century basilica and splendid medieval mosaics.
As so many other Venetian churches, Dormition Cathedral houses a number of relics, among them the remains of Saintly Bishop Heliodorus and female martyrs Fabra and Fabrata. Our last stop in the lagoon will be on the island of Burano, the resting place of holy martyrs Barbara, Alban, Dominic and Ursus. This small island is most famous of its lace factories. Here you will be given some free time for shopping and lunch. Upon return to the “mainland” you’ll be free to explore the city on your own, to go back to the places that you liked the most or just enjoy yourself in this fabulous, romantic and holy city.
Day 5: Friday, June 19, 2009.
This morning we will start our journey toward the Eternal City. On our way we will make a stop at a very interesting historical town of Ravenna that in itself is a splendid page of the Byzantine History. For a short period of time Ravenna was a capital of the Byzantine Empire in the West. In this small town, several Byzantine monuments from the period of Justinian survive like nowhere else. Basilicas of St. Appolinarius “in the Fields”, Cathedral of St. Vitale, mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the city Basilica of St. Appolinarius, Orthodox and Arian Baptisteries are doubtlessly among the gems of the Byzantine Art and Architecture. Even those people who saw the reproductions of the mosaics, will be conquered by their liveliness, colors, and simplicity of the pre-iconoclastic depictions and symbolism. After our visit to Ravenna we will continue our way down South and will stop for overnight in one of the small towns of Umbria or Toscana.
Day 6: Saturday, June 20, 2009.
After breakfast we will transfer to Rome. We will start our exploration of the Eternal City with a visit to Vatican. Actually, Vatican itself is the smallest state in existence. But it is more famous as the residence of the Pope of Rome, once the most important out of five keepers of the ancient Christian Patriarchal sees. The Complex of the Vatican Palaces and churches is built on the place of an early Christian cemetery where many Christian martyrs were buried. St. Peter’s Basilica itself is a resting place of many Orthodox saints. There are no words to describe the glory and beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica, the collections of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. For those who desire, an additional tour can be organized to the excavations under St. Peter’s basilica to see the tomb of the “Chief of the Apostles”. In the afternoon we’ll attend Vigil Service at the Russian Orthodox Church in the heart of Rome.
Day 7: Sunday, June 21, 2009.
After Divine Liturgy at the Russian Orthodox Church we will continue the exploration of the Sacred Christian Sites of Rome. We will visit Churches of Sts. Cosmas and Damian and “St. Peter in Chains”, the church where the prison chains of the apostle are venerated, and basilica of St. Sabina on the Aventine Hill. We will pray at the front of the relics of St. Alexis the Man of God, and will visit some of the most beautiful churches and ancient churches of Rome, among them, St. Maria Antiqua and St. Maria Trastavere. Your evening will be at leisure, unless you feel like continuing for a little while and explore Rome by twilight. During optional tour you will be able to visit famous Spanish Steps, fountain of Trevi and some other romantic places in the heart of the Eternal City.
Day 8: Monday, June 22, 2009.
Today we will start with the exploration of the remnants of the city that gave Rome its title “Eternal”. We will see the largest amphitheater of Antiquity, the Coliseum, a circus that hosted up to 80,000 spectators, and yet even larger Circus Maximus, the horse race stadium, witness to the cheer of 250,000 Romans. We will see ancient Rome’s downtown, the Forum and Palatine Hill, with a splendid museum hosting countless articles from distant times.
In that ancient place we will also visit the place of Apostle Peter’s imprisonment – Mamertime Prison. Also, we’ll see one of the most ancient churches, named after St. Nicholas, which is built within the walls of ancient pagan temple and curious excavations in its basement. After visiting the “Mouth of Truth” at the vestibule of the Greek Uniate Church nearby, we will end our tour at the Pantheon, long time place of the panopticum of all Ancient Roman gods, and then a venerable Christian Church for centuries. Despite it rather humble appearance; the Pantheon is one of the most remarkable structures of Antiquity. Till the present day it has the widest dome anywhere in the World.
Day 9: Tuesday, June 23, 2009.
This day we will continue the exploration of the Christian inheritance of the Eternal City. We will visit magnificent Cathedral of St. Paul, known as “St. Paul outside the Walls”, the Catacombs of St. Callistus with the church “Quo Vadis” that is located near catacombs, Basilicas of St. Lawrence and St. Sebastiano
The rest of this day will be at leisure. You may shop or just enjoy yourself at a café on one of the many Roman piazzas. I would strongly encourage you to visit, if possible, Galleria Borgese (advanced reservations are required and entrance hours are rather limited) one of the most special places among the endless attractions that Rome offers to see.
Day 10: Wednesday, June 24, 2009.
On our last day in Rome we will visit some of the most important churches of Rome: St. Maria Maggore Church, St. John Lateran Cathedral is the cathedral of Rome, Santa Croce Church or Church of the Holy Cross, The Church of the Holy Stairs was built for one reason, to hold the stairs that Christ ascended to the Roman Praetorium in Jerusalem on the day of His judgment by Pontius Pilate. Our formal tour of Rome will end with a visit to the catacombs of St. Priscilla that contains some of the best preserved Ancient Christian frescoes. In the afternoon, we will transfer South of Rome, to the city of Naples.
Day 11: Thursday, June 25, 2009.
This morning will be dedicated to sight seeing of Naples. After a brief sightseeing tour of the city, we will visit the Chapel were the relics of the first Bishop of Naples, St. Januarius are housed and Duomo with some of the most ancient Christian Mosaics to be found anywhere. Then we’ll visit the national archeological museum of Naples. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the site of the ancient town of Ercolano or Herculaneum, a sister city of Pompeii, who shared its tragedy on the day of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Herculaneum is much smaller and less famous than Pompeii and yet it is much better preserved, less crowded and gives you a better understanding of what ancient cities looked like.
Day 12: Friday, June 26, 2009.
This morning we’ll explore the city of Salerno and visit the Duomo – Cathedral that hosts the relics of the apostle and evangelist Matthew. From Salerno we will continue to the most famous ancient ruin, the city of Pompeii. The ruins are absolutely splendid and even a full day won’t be enough to explore it all. We will have a tour of the most important sites and you will be given some time to explore the city on your own and to have a lunch at the air-conditioned cafeteria in the midst of the ruins. After our visit to Pompeii, we will be heading toward our final destination of our Italian pilgrimage, to the port city of Bari, on the Adriatic coast.
Day 13: Saturday, June 27, 2009
Today we will start our day with the Divine Liturgy in the city of St. Nicholas. The body of the saint is laid down in a crypt in the basilica of his name in Bari. Up until the present day countless miracles proceed from his body. We hope that local authorities will allow us to celebrate Liturgy on that Holy Place. If for some bureaucratic reason that won’t be possible, we will have a Liturgy or a prayer service in the local Russian Orthodox Church and we’ll prayerfully venerate the remains of the saint in his basilica. In the afternoon, we’ll head toward the Village of Alberabello, famous for its unique cone type architecture known as trulli. That architectural style was typical for that area for thousands of years, and remains practically unchanged till the present day.
Day 14: Sunday, June 28, 2009. This morning we’ll leave from Bari back home to the US via Rome or Milan
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