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In the regular tour, you will walk in a line on a path through the basilica, and you will see a lot of beautiful things in the dim light. It isn’t a bad tour.
However, if you want to experience the Basilica as a holy place, I recommend going early in the morning, and going in the side door. A man will stop you and tell you (in Italian) that it’s the door for the morning prayers. You can nod, walk on in, and sit quietly in one of the chairs.
Listen to the monks, chanting the morning service. Listen to the people around you: some have come from far away to pray there, others are local. Soak in the spirit of the place.
I found myself meditating on the icon of the Virgin that sits at the front of the side chapel where the morning Mass takes place. It was seized by a Venetian from Constantinople, to establish Venice’s dominance in the Mediterranean, and sure enough, not too long after, Constantinople fell and became Istanbul.
I thought about the vicissitudes of power: the things that make people and nations feel powerful, the way that everything passes and changes.over 5 years ago
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