Portsmouth Diocese E-News

From Oaklands to the Eternal City


Oaklands students William Beacon, Lauren Dollery, Dominika Malecka write...


During the October half term, a group of Year 11, 12 and 13 students went to Rome as part of a Religious Education pilgrimage. In the four days we were there we visited loads of different places and we found out a lot about their historical backgrounds and importance to different people.


On the first day we visited the Venerable English College where we had Mass which was celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nicholls (Father Jeremy and lots of other priests also participated in this service). For the rest of the day we walked around Rome with Father Jeremy leading the way. As we went round he gave us information about some of the buildings and places of interest. We learned that the dome of the Pantheon was the largest in the world for 1300 years and still today remains the largest unsupported dome in the world! Having been told about the tradition of throwing a coin over our right shoulder to guarantee our return to Rome, we went to the Trevi Fountain where we threw in our money in a chance that one day we may return. We ended the day with a great meal; we even managed to miss the thunderstorm while we were eating and we had a lot of giggles waiting for the bus!


The second day was quite cold, especially after the sun of the first day, but we still had a great day, starting with a visit to St John Lateran Basilica which we found out is the oldest church in the world and is the church of the Bishop of Rome – the Pope!  It’s also supposed to have the heads (or at least part of them) of Saints Peter and Paul placed above the Papal Altar. After lunch we had a guided tour where we saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus, where the Roman chariot races used to be held. We found out that in its early days there was even a sea battle held in the Colosseum, and that the name Colosseum comes from the huge 30 metre tall bronze statue of the Emperor Nero that used to stand just outside the amphitheatre. Before we went for our evening pizza we went to the top of the Aventine Hill and looked through the keyhole of the Knights of Malta building, where we were officially seeing three countries in one view!


On the third day the sun was shining again as we rose early to have Mass said for us by Fr Jeremy in St Peter’s. There was a long queue to get in past security but we got in eventually and it was well worth the wait. It was amazing to be able have our own private Mass at the Altar of St Pius X and some of the students helped out by reading and being altar servers. Next on our itinerary was a guided tour of the Vatican Museum, including the amazing Sistine Chapel. In the museum there were enormous numbers of statues and paintings which covered the walls all the way to the ceiling. There were famous paintings like ‘The School of Athens’ by Raphael which shows Plato and Aristotle to represent philosophy. We were exhausted after all our walking, so after lunch and shopping for Pope Francis t-shirts and Vatican flags (ready for the next day) we went back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.


Finally our last day arrived and we were up and ready to go to the Papal audience in St. Peter’s square where we listened to the Pope give his themed speech. Our school was even mentioned by name! It was amazing to see Pope Francis as he made his way around, waving and smiling. He was so close you almost felt as if you could touch him. After this, we made our way to the Spanish Steps via a delicious gelateria called Giolitti, and we made the most of our final hours in Rome doing some last minute shopping. After this we had to return to the hotel where we picked up our luggage and headed back to the airport. 


Overall, this trip was a great experience and will be in our memories. We also learned about new cultures whilst we were in Rome and the food was really tasty. Rome was a beautiful place and we would love to return. We were very grateful to have the opportunity to go on this trip and would like to thank the teachers who took us: Mrs Palfreyman, Mr Sumba, Mrs Brettell and Father Jeremy Garratt.




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