Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sights of Rome: La Scala Santa

As I mentioned my sister is going on her first trip to Rome this year and we have been talking about "must see" places, the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi fountain are just a few of the places that are on the schedule. On of the places that I suggested, is the La Scala Santa.

Do you know them? The Scala Santca or the Holy Stairs are one of the most important relics of the Catholic Church, they are the stairs believed to have been climbed by Jesus on his way to trial before Pontious Pilate. The stairs, according to legend were brought to Rome in the 4th Century by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. For centuries, the Scala Santa had attracted Christian Pilgrims from around the world who wished to honor the Passion of Jesus, or just to have some of their sins absolved.

I  have been to Rome many times, with friends, with my husband and once as a chaperon to 20 boys from an all boys school in Chicago who had never been outside the country (that story we will save for another day), and in all the times I have visited Rome I have only been here once. I had been in Rome with my husband on that trip and he was working, so my friend who lived in Rome and I and her friend (who was on a pilgrimage) visited here. I had heard of it but honestly I had no idea what to expect.

What I did not expect was the "stairway to heaven" ( or that is what it felt like because I was delirious with pain), 28 MARBLE stairs, encased in wood that you MUST climb on your KNEES, let me reiterate, you climb them on your knees while saying a prayer on each step.  Now, that probably would not be so bad if you could go at your own pace. But you are at the mercy of the people in front of you which in my case were apparently some VERY DEVOUT pilgrims or something because after the 25 minutes on  my knees on warped marble I had only made it up 7 stairs. I have to be honest, by that point I was just praying that I did not pass out from the pain and fall backwards and hurt some faithful pilgrims. There is an official set of prayers, you can find them here, just in case you want to say them while you are visiting.

If you do not climb them on your knees you cannot go on the stairs, you can climb the stairs erected on either side and look down upon them and see the beautiful relics at the top.


The stairs lead to the Scanta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies), the personal chapel of the early Popes in the Lateran palace, also known as the chapel of St. Lawrence.

All joking aside, I am a Catholic and this is a very sacred, moving and beautiful place. I think it is a great place to visit when traveling to Rome, especially if you want to see something other than the norm.

All images from here. For further information, hours and pricing check this LINK.


  1. Good morning my most precious one! Oh how I would love to see Rome. We were in Cinqua Terra 10 years ago, and that was a thrill. But Rome and Florence are places I MUST SEE, and I am hoping that not this summer but the next, we can make it over. I so love your knowledge and ability to research and present such important and interesting history. YOUR KINDNESS tops the cake !!!! LOVE TO YOU on this 22 day of MARCH!!!!!!! Anita

  2. Saw your comments on "YONKS" blog and had to come see. You have a beautiful blog and, yes, I agree with you both that everything should be open and made public. History is a treasure; truth and knowledge and all that went into making the world what it is belongs to everyone. Maybe 'they' are afraid our eyes will become open?...

  3. How beautiful Elizabeth, as many times as I have been to Italy I have never been to Rome. Every where else but not Rome. I would be out on climbing the stairs on my knees since my knees are shot but love it! I love the rich history in Italy and can'tt wait to go back.


  4. Gorgeous.......yes have been to the famed Spanish Steps and besides the Vatican it was my favorite part about Rome. Fascinating, so full of history and really gets your mind going about how life during the Renaissance period...I suddenly was so interested and captivated by Romes illustrious history. What a wonderful place...just writing this has me craving a trip back there! VIVA ITALIA!

  5. Dear friend, hello, and I hope you are having a wonderful week! I am catching up here, and just went back to read the posts I missed. How fascinating! I would LOVE to see those historical treasures as well...
    I was enthralled by Da Vinci Code, and I do wonder just what secrets lie in those archives. ;)
    Rome is beyond description, it has to be experienced. So excited for your dear sister...
    I have never heard of these sacred steps, what an experience you had! Thank you for educating us, as always, Elizabeth.
    Wishing you a beautiful weekend, sweet friend,
    - Irina

  6. Wow, the Holy Stairs are just magnificent! A must-see for sure. That seems like a lot of steps to climb on your knees though.

    Chris from

  7. Wow, the Holy Stairs are just magnificent! A must-see for sure. That seems like a lot of steps to climb on your knees though.

    Chris from


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