69. Holy Stairs

When something occurs only once every 300 years, and I happen to be in the neighborhood, I’m in.

Maria alerted me to a CNN article saying that, for a few weeks only, the Vatican had removed the protective wooden planks covering the stairs that Jesus climbed, and actually bled on, on his way to the crucifixion. It is thought that they were “brought” to Rome from Jerusalem in 326 AD by Helen, the mother of the emperor Constantine (now Saint Helen, likely for her interest in “acquiring” this and similar Jesus-related artifacts). The stairs were exposed for a restoration project, but the wood goes back on in June, presumably for another 300 years or more.

So I made my way to San Giovanni in Laterno and got in line. Once again, my excellent standing skills served me well, because the wait, in the rain, was nearly two hours. But finally, I made it in, close to the time they would have closed for the day.

It seems, however, that I never got the memo that everyone was required to go up the 28 marble stairs ON THEIR KNEES, as an act of devotion. Not exactly what I had bargained for, but when in Rome…

So up I went, along with the other “pilgrims,” most of whom seemed very matter of fact about the whole thing. A few, however, were very emotional when they got to the inlaid crosses where Jesus’s blood fell, weeping and kissing the step.

According to the literature I picked up there, those that climb the stairs get one day’s indulgence, either for themselves or a loved one in purgatory.

6 thoughts on “69. Holy Stairs

  1. Wow, this is truly unbelievable! I had never heard of these steps. You are truly having the experience of lifetime, and I love that you are sharing it with us!


  2. I was in Rome with family just last week. We went to Palm Sunday mass and had a similar experience that you had with Easter Sunday mass. My wife found out about the Scala Santa from Rick Steves book, but we had no idea that this rare uncovering of them was occuring that week. We did get to climb them, but now we know that experience was super special because of your blog. Thanks! BTW, do you know of any good Italian speaking courses locally? We know of one given at St. Mary Magdelin in Media, but we missed the starting date. Thanks for the Blog!!


    1. I don’t know what your current level is, but Wallingford-Swarthmore Community Classes usually offers a beginners Italian course in the fall and spring. One thing I really recommend is the EdX Italian course offered by Wellesley College. They have a no-credit option that’s free, and it’s excellent. I think it would be helpful for both beginners and those at an intermediate level.

      Thanks for reading!



  3. Hi Gigi, So LaSallette Shrine in Attleboro has faux Holy Stairs, which my mother encouraged me to climb on my knees at Christmas!
    I remember they had what I assume were faux drops of blood.


    1. I remember hearing about LaSallette as a kid, but don’t think I ever went, and if I did, certainly never climbed on my knees. But I immediately thought of it at the Holy Stairs in Rome.


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