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The whistle blew! The battle between Scotland and Italy commenced. Needless to say it was not a bashful but bashing display by the Scots. The ball was a red rag to the Scottish Bull. Tackles flew in like arrows and shots like cannonballs. Palpable terror gripped the Italians and onlookers. I looked around and saw in their eyes a fear that would take the heart of me. A sinister silence hung upon the field. Every moment of Italian possession was characterised by trepidation. In that moment, my heart softened and I wanted to ease their fears. As the defender, I had been granted the keys to the kingdom so I decided to open the gates just enough to allow the wilting Italians a goal. On paper we lost the battle but knew we had won the war!
Thirty feet beneath St Peter’s Basilica, and largely unknown to the pilgrims and tourists above, exist the remains of an ancient Roman graveyard. The ‘Vatican Necropolis’ is now a rather gloomy, humid space, but at one time enjoyed the sunlight and fresh air of the countryside surrounding the city, while Rome prevailed as the superpower of ancient European history. The vineyards of this area were said to produce the worst wine in the region, and the problems of snake infestation and the marshland meant that this area, Vaticanum, remained unoccupied by the citizens of the imperial capital on the other side of the Tiber, and was instead a place to bury one’s dead.
The Emperor Caligula determined to make use of this land, beginning the construction of a Circus to host chariot races. His assassination at the hands of the Praetorian Guard determined that he would not live to see the Circus completed, and that the work would be completed by his successor.
During the reign of the Emperor Nero, in the year 64 AD, the Great Fire of Rome ravaged the city. Refugees from the blaze found relief and safety on the banks of the far side of the Tiber River in the shadow of the Circus. Nero immediately and infamously began to persecute the small, upstart Christian community in Rome, blaming their refusal to honour the pagan gods for the destruction of the city. Sentenced to death, the Christians would be brought to the Circus for execution and martyrdom.
One of the great privileges of living and studying in Rome is the opportunity to explore a city famed the world over for its art, history, music, food, and culture. Another fact is that, when people from home visit us in Rome, we are invariably asked: “Any recommendations???” When I was growing up, whenever we took a family holiday, there would appear in the house shortly before our departure date a new book – Eyewitness Top 10 Guide to [insert destination]. The books were always in the same vein; divided into subheadings like Art and Culture, Food and Drink, ‘Places of Interest’ etc. with the ‘Top 10’ places in the area for each of these categories. With all this in mind, I thought I’d offer a few suggestions for anyone with a trip to Rome coming up. But since attention spans have shortened in recent years (and as I write this the deadline for this article is fast approaching!) I thought I’d go with a ‘Top 5’ of Art, Music, and Culture in Rome.
The story of the exiled Stuarts and the subsequent Jacobite Cause have excited imaginations for centuries. The ill-fated quest of Charles Edward Stuart, affectionately known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, has been immortalised through art, poetry and music. At the heart of this is a deep love for the Bonnie Prince himself, who was known for his charm, good looks, and proficiency in the ballroom. Though not all were in favour of the Stuart cause, there was no doubt Prince struck a fine figure and had attracted not a small amount of attention from Europe’s nobility by the time he had reached his twenties. I’m willing to bet these opening sentences alone have been enough to spark up chivalric images of Charles, ready to fight for his father’s crown and lead the clans into battle; images perhaps not unlike this one.
For years, this image has summed up the sentiments of the ‘45, led by Prince Charles himself. The righteousness of the Stuart cause; refined, respectable, but ready to fight. This painting represents many things, but unfortunately Charles is not one of them. The portrait simply isn’t of him. This revelation occurred only in 2009, when British art historian Bendor Grosvenor made the case for its misattribution. It is in fact a pastel of Charles Edward’s younger brother, Henry Benedict Stuart. Apart from the fact that the image could no longer be displayed on shortbread tins, not to mention in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, it made the nation reconsider their romantic notions of Charles and perhaps consider for the first time the lesser-known of the two Stuart princes, Henry.
Monsignor Burns started compiling memories from his student days in the college for the Scots College magazine a few years ago. The events of those four years have now been brought together with the addition of some photographs from the Scots College archives.