On this Good Friday, I remember last Friday when I visited the Scala Santa in Rome.
It is said in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine’s mom, Helena traveled to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage to the sites of Jesus’ life.
Being the emperor’s mom and an empress herself, gave her a ton of access. There she founded some major churches (like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem) and brought back a number of relics—including the stairs of the praetorium that Jesus climbed to be condemned by Pilate.
Placed in Rome as stairs to the Pope’s private chapel (because of course), they became a pilgrimage location where pilgrims would climb on the knees.
Hundreds of years ago, worried about wear, the original steps were covered in wood. Until now. The wood was removed for restoration work and they decided to leave it off and open them to the public until the end of the Easter season before adding the covering again.
By just pure luck, I was in Rome when they reopened it last Thursday and able to visit on Friday morning. It wasn’t really a moment to snap pictures on the phone. In visiting Rome, almost everywhere, I saw others taking pictures, but no one had a camera or phone out, so I took a quick one as I walked in. The Catholic Traveler on Instagram took some better pictures.
As we look to celebrate Good Friday today, my mind takes me to these stairs trying to imagine what Jesus must have been thinking climbing them, knowing that condemnation awaited him.
I’m reminded of Palm Sunday liturgy where we counterposition of laying palms before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem only to have the crowd condemn him a short time later. Last Friday, I joined with others to worship him and to honor the physical existence he had on Earth, but then turn around and assuredly condemn him through sin or inaction.
If you find yourself in Rome, especially before June 9th, find a few minutes to visit St. John Lateran and the Scala Santa across the plaza.