What the Dickens?!?
"I never, in my life, saw anything at once so ridiculous and so unpleasant as this sight"
So spoke Charles Dickens in 1845 when, in Rome, he saw catholic pilgrims climbing "The Holy Stairs" on their knees.
Why do they perform this ritual?
Apparantly the stairs are so holy, that it would be sinful to sully them with shoes, plus. from the kneeling vantage, pilgrims can peer through holes in the wood that covers the original marble stairs to see the spots of Jesus' blood.
Completing this task gets them a "full indulgence of their sins".
What a bargain! 28 wooden steps, on your knees and your sins are wiped clean!
Several popes have undergone the ritual of ascending the 28 marble steps on their knees. What? I'd do the damn thing daily if I believed it wiped out my sins!
These stairs were brought from Jerusalem to Rome in the 326AD by St Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, and placed in the former papal palace opposite the basilica of St John Lateran. They originally led to the praetorium, or judgment hall, of Pontius Pilate's palace in Jerusalem.
The stairs are in the news because the frescoes that surround the stairs have recently been restored. Francesco Buranelli, the director of the Vatican Museum, said: "These are some of the most important, but least well known, frescoes in Rome, and they open a new page for 16th century art". The American Getty foundaton has contributed to most of the restoration. What, the vatican is on the skids? Holy Church is broke and can't clean its own artworks?
Apparantly the restorers found chewing gum stuck to the wood of the stairs. It seems some penitents were'net overawed by the holiness of the steps. Never mind, the sin of gum litter would also have been wiped clean by step 28.