Rome Guide Goes Beyond Art to Seek the Saintly

A Church Is Not a Museum, Says Author

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ROME, JAN. 7, 2004 ( Elvira Obenbach asks an obvious question in her new book: «Why publish another guide to the churches of Rome?»

Obenbach’s reply is spiritual, not artistic. «This guide is to fill a lacuna and to lead a pilgrim not to the artistic work but in the footprints of the saints and blessed,» she writes in the introduction.

«This guide» is «In the Footprints of the Saints in Rome: Guide to the Icons, Relics and Houses of Saints» («Sulle Orme dei Santi a Roma. Guida alle Icone, Reliquie e Case dei Santi»). Vatican Press, the Holy See’s official publishing house, has just come out with the work.

The author chose 100 churches, convents and houses of Rome in which there are traces of holiness. The book is composed of 100 précis indicating practical information on a place, its relics and sacred images, illustrated with a picture and brief history. The précis are classified by areas, and each area is preceded by a map to help the pilgrim.

«The book was born as a result of the impression that the churches of Rome have become, above all, places to visit because of the artistic treasures they contain,» she told ZENIT. «It is good to remind the public that art is a support, not the essence.»

Obenbach has been the librarian at the Germanic Archaeological Institute of Rome since 1968. The guide has a prologue by Monsignor Marco Frisina, director of the Liturgical Office of the Rome Diocese, who writes: «The relics of the saints are not only parts of their bodies but especially a testimony of their lives. This book is intended to help one follow in the path of these witnesses, to make us pilgrims following the imprints of faith in the school of the saints.»

According to Obenbach, «The Creator is beauty and because of this, places of worship have always been adorned in honor of the Lord.»

«A church is not a museum but the house of God, where one can also find the bodies of saints, icons and images venerated for centuries, visited by persons who today are raised to the altar,» the author added.

«Rome is undoubtedly the place where most saints are present or with the most traces of saints who have passed through the city,» Obenbach noted.

«Accompanying people of the Orthodox faith, I have become conscious of the wealth of our Church. Although they don’t have the tabernacle, they venerate relics and icons,» she continued. «This is why I thought that with the guide I could make a small contribution toward union with the Orthodox Church, a profound desire of our Holy Father.»

The saints mentioned are from all periods, beginning with the Apostle Peter and ending with Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei.


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