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On Good Friday Scala Santa is packed with pilgrims who perform penitence by climbing these 28 wood-covered steps on their knees. According to tradition, these steps were trod by Christ when he was led to Pontius Pilate for his trial. St Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine, brought the steps to Rome from Jerusalem. Pope Sixtus V had them placed in their present position. They are covered in wood so that no foot can touch them, and this is the reason why the faithful climb up them on their knees.
The entrance to the Villa Volkonski lies on the Via Ludovico di Savoia. It comprises three buildings but is mostly known for the park in which many ancient ruins have been found, including statues and columns. Restoration work was carried out at the start of the 20th Century where it is thought an ancient Roman road used to run; ancient tombs from the imperial era and a three-floor vault lined with burial niches have been found as well as objects now seen inside the villa. The name given to the complex was that of the Russian Volkonski family but it is Zenaide, wife of Prince Volkonski, who retired there after the death of Tsar Alexander I. The princess converted to Catholicism and made the villa a meeting place for artists and writers. Today it is the British embassy and the British ambassador's residence.
The Villa Giustiniani Massimo that takes its name from the family of Marquis Vincenzo Giustiniani lies between Via Merulana, Via Manzoni, Via Tasso and Piazza San Giovanni. It was designed by Carlo Lombardi and added to by the family of Marquis Carlo Massimo that bought it during the 19th Century. Massimo enlarged it quite substantially and added frescoes based on 14th-century themes with references to Dante, Tasso, Ariosto and many family coats of arms. Later, the property passed to the family of Prince Lancellotti that ceded the gardens to the City Council while the rest was sold to the Franciscans. The result was that the immense property was split up with the resultant loss of statues, fountains and sculptural pieces. Another loss was the destruction, during World War II, of the bust of Emperor Justinian, considered an ancestor of the family.
According to a popular belief, Pope Joan's statue existed in a shrine on the Via dei Querceti street. But today there is neither the shrine nor the statue. Pope Joan was a learned and scholarly woman, who dressed like a man and rose to become the Pope. Today many believers don't accept this theory of a female Pope. But if you have ample of time at hand and are ready to ask difficult questions, then walk down Via dei Querceti street. If you are lucky, you may find the some information about the place where the shrine of Pope Joan once stood.
Founded in the 5th Century CE, this church stands on ancient ruins. Its shape is unique and was probably inspired by the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Throughout the centuries stucco work, marble, mosaics, courtyards and three great arches were added. A series of frescoes with chilling scenes featuring the martyrdom of many saints decorate the walls. Their purpose was to instruct novices leaving for missions, so they would know that they too could meet with the same fate. The Byzantine-style mosaics were commissioned under the papacy of Theodore and show St Primo and St Feliciano at the sides of a bejeweled cross.
Said to have been 25 times larger than the Colosseum at the height of Nero's reign, it took 15 years of restoration work before the remaining rooms of this immense palace were opened to the public. The interior is rich in walls covered with frescoes, gold, gemstones, and mother-of-pearl, and ceilings tiled in ivory, with openings for creating a shower of flowers and perfumes. After Nero's death, his successors attempted to eradicate his memory and eliminate every possible trace of this palace; fortunately for history this remained. Reservations are necessary, see official tourism website for details. Of the many masterpieces unearthed here was the famous Laocoön statue now on display at the Vatican Museums.
The zone of Navicella is named after the stone reproduction of an ancient Roman ship in the fountain in front of the church of Santa Maria in Domnica. In this area, the remains of ancient buildings have been found - in particular, nymphaeums and houses. These remains are thought to have been the original barracks of the Fifth Cohort. Until 1820, to the south of the church only the remains of a building dedicated by the 5th Cohort to the Emperor Caracalla had been found, but in 1931, following work on the entrance of the Villa Celimontana, further remains were found of the same building. The entire building is extended on the right of the church as far as Porta Metronia but its limits are unknown. This uncertainty is compounded by the discovery, inside the church, of the remains of various rooms with decorated walls that may have belonged to the same barracks. It is known that the church was built beside or above a public building that had lost its original function by the 7th Century.
The Navicella fountain is situated in front of the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Domnica in Celio. It was erected by Pope Leon X around 1520. Its design was based on a pre-existing boat found near the Colosseum. According to one legend, it was a gift from a group of sailors that had survived a shipwreck, to Isis, the protector of sailors. The base was built from marble in the form of a Roman gallery but was only turned into a fountain and placed in its current position in 1931. It rests on a marble pedestal in a large oval tank made from travertine stone. The fountain is encircled by small posts joined by an iron chain.