Mysteries Of The Vatican: Basilica Built On Grounds Said To Have Been 'Haunted'
Call it the mystery of the Vatican. But first a preface: most Christians don't realize that the early church -- the first Christian altars, shrines, and churches -- were built on places where there had been pagan worship.
This is true throughout Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom: in case after case, Catholic churches replaced spots where they had worshipped gods and goddesses and instituted the worship of One God. Many of these shrines were built after appearances (going back to the first century A.D.) of the Blessed Virgin.
If many Protestants knew the history of how the Church was instituted in Europe (as well as South America and Mexico), they would drop their opposition to the Blessed Mother (who is truly the Mother of the Church).
The greatest example of a church vanquishing paganism and replacing it with Christianity is in Rome and involves St. Peter's itself. For the great basilica -- the single most prominent symbol of Christianity on the planet -- was built on fill dumped on an old pagan necropolis (burial ground).
"In ancient times, Roman historians tell us, this swampy region beyond the Tiber was an eerie borderland of fevers and giant snakes, where the voices of the gods could be heard," writes Tom Mueller in The Atlantic Monthly. "These historians derived the name Vaticanum from vates, a holy seer who understood these voices."
It is a dramatic example of the spiritual war. When they unearthed the pagan relics, scandalous, sexually explicit inscriptions were found, along with the evidence that strange gods had been worshipped. Horrified eyewitnesses watched a steady stream of pagan relics issue from the Church's holiest soil, Mueller points out, some so scandalous that the Pope ordered them dumped in the Tiber. One of the finds, a funerary statue of a man reclining bare-chested on a dining couch with a gentle epicurean smile.
And then there were what seemed like actual spiritual manifestations. "In 1624 Pope Urban VIII ordered that the deep foundation work for Gianlorenzo Bernini's towering bronze canopy over the high altar begin," notes Mueller. "No sooner had ground been broken, however, than the excavators started dropping dead. Urban himself fell ill, and all Rome whispered of [a] curse..."
If there was any curse, it came from the much more numerous pagan tombs. This was land on which Nero himself had once tread -- and where there were "terrifying apparitions" that took the form of crows. In fact, such birds were so haunting that one early Pope ordered an exorcism.
It is the story of spiritual battle but also spiritual victory: from the site of crude, murderous tyrants, from the grounds of demonic worship, from the height of pagan worship, the land was captured for Jesus and transformed into what is now one of the holiest places on earth, ranking with the holiest sites in Jerusalem.
And was not this what was requested in the Bible? Was this war not a key reason -- the fight against paganism -- for Jesus First Coming? And what does it tell us about when He might come next?
[resources: Prayer of the Warrior]
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