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Church closest to the Vatican, a Dutch gem

2013-08-10

Just a few feet away from the Vatican is the Baroque church ofSaints Michael and Magnus. The structure dates back to the Ninth Century when the Frisians, a Germanic group that converted to Christianity, build a school to help pilgrims who would travel to Rome to visit the Tomb of St. Peter.   

Frisians looked after the site for more than 700 years, and established this church on that same spot. Archangel Saint Michael is one of the leading characters in this intriguing story. 

TERESA MURKENS 
Church of Saints Michael and Magnus 
"In the year 590, Pope Gregory the Great had a vision of St. Michael near the Castel Sant'Angelo. He was making a procession from St. Mary Major to St. Peter's to ask St, Michael for help, because Rome was suffering from the plague. He saw, with all the faithful, as the Archangel waved his sword, and just like that, the plague ended.” 

Soon after, nine churches sprung throughout Rome, all dedicated to St. Michael. This is the only one that still stands today. Parts of the walls from the Ninth Century that support it, are still standing today. 

Other treasures include these benches used during the Second Vatican Council. The church even has its own Scala Santa, or Holy Stairs. 

TERESA MURKENS 
Church of Saints Michael and Magnus 
"Something very special about the church's history is that when the Frisians left in 1513, the Popes no longer lived at St. John Lateran, but rather in St. Peter's. So then, they had a Scala Santa build. We have the second Scala Santa in Rome.” 

In 1989 the Dutch descendents of the Frisians returned to Rome to look after the church once again. It highlights reconciliation and reunion. 

TERESA MURKENS 
Church of Saints Michael and Magnus 
"The Scala Santa was closed because, from before 24 years ago, when we came back, unfortunately it had turned into a warehouse. Unfortunately. But in the year 2000 we reopened it, cleaned it and now it's always open.” 

On Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 10 to 1 in the afternoon, they lead guided tours of the church, a living witness to the historic ties between the Dutch community and Rome. 


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