Those who are fond of traveling know that there are so many cities and towns to visit and admire for their nature, architecture, and symbolism—especially when important people have lived in those places. In this case, I am talking about saints, those virtuous people who used to live in this world; those exceptional humans, followers of Christ, and real heroes. They departed leaving a huge spiritual legacy and example for us. As Catholics, we look up to the saints as our role models, that is why we respect them and love them. This is how I got inspired to share some of my photos and thoughts from places that I have been, where saints were born, lived or died. Besides reading the lives of the saints in books, seeing and visiting the places where they actually lived is another way to learn and to be connected more to the saints, who are big part of the history of Catholicism. These cities are just an example of wonderful places that I found awe-inspiring:
When I first was in the town of Annecy, it seemed to me like I was in a place taken out of a fairy tale. If I have to describe it in one word, it would be: Charming. It is a quiet place with mountains and green fields. The people are kind, too. My husband and I got lost because we arrived at night, and two young men helped us by giving directions and taking us right to the hotel. You can visit the church to venerate the remains of St. Frances de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal, founders of the Visitation Order.
Assisi is simply wonderful and a place where you will want to come back and visit again. It is the famous home of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, and a quiet place too, but that ends with the arrival of so many pilgrims, especially teenagers from schools from all over Europe. Kids can be annoying during pilgrimages, but my young son never complained. He loved it too, and loved those stray cats we saw around. In Assisi, you can visit St. Clare church and admire the original crucifix of St. Damiano, the Basilica where St. Francis is buried, and the amazing panoramic views of the city.
Being in Avila felt like I was back in time. Coming here after visiting more cosmopolitan cities, such as Barcelona, can be a shock, but in a good way. This is the famous home of St. Teresa of Avila. The walls of Avila are impressive; and behind those, you will admire the Gothic cathedral, the convent, the house and relics of St. Teresa of Avila, the Basilica, Los Cuatro (The Four) Postes, etc.
Montecassino Abbey sits atop a large hill, below which lies the city of Cassino. Montecassino keeps the relics of one of the favorite saints who many people rely for intercession: Saint Benedict. St. Benedict, or San Benito (in Spanish), is a saint who doesn't need an introduction. He founded this monastery and his remains rest here along with those of his twin sister, St. Scholastica. The interior of the Basilica is exceptional and richly decorated. Outside you can breath in the peace and admire all the white doves, with their lovely little tails up, that I have never seen anywhere else. It is heartbreaking to know that this beautiful monastery was bombed and practically destroyed, by error, during the Second World War (they thought Germans were occupying this monastery.) There is not much to see in this town besides the Abbey, but the surrounding scene is very tranquil.
I have never seen a perfect blue sky as I have seen it in Segovia. I have visited there with my family several times, simply because we fell in love with this city, and we like to come back again and again. This place has something special. The tomb of the beloved Saint John of the Cross is in Segovia. Even though he was born in Avila, part of his relics were brought here where he spent time in the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites. The Basilica is another amazing sacred destination. The ancient Roman aqueduct is not a religious site, but it is such a magnificent monument, a symbol of Segovia as well the Alcázar Castle.
Paray-le-Monial is a quiet town where you can admire the Sacré-Coeur church (Sacred Heart), the Chapel of the Apparitions and venerate the rest of St. Margaret-Marie Alacoque and of St. Claude de la Colombière. I have always pictured saints as very strong persons, and very brave. Can you imagine being like St. Margaret-Marie Alacoque and having a supernatural encounter with our Lord Jesus? I would faint right at that moment, the emotion would be too much. I have felt overwhelmed when I have visited some sacred places, so I can't imagine a feeling bigger than that.
Venice is like being on another planet. That was the first impression that I got when I visit this city for the first time. St. Mark the Evangelist rests in the city of Venice. He is the author of the Gospel of Mark that I read since I was a child. The first time that I visited Venice and went right in front of his tomb, I couldn't hold back my tears, and I felt that I met a real person up close, and not somebody from a far distance. Even though St Mark was not born and did not die in Venice, his relics were brought there from Egypt, and the Venetians made him the patron saint of their amazing city. It is one of my favorites. ________________ Since I was little, I used to read about the lives of the saints, but the problem for me was that I considered them extremely distant people, so that it was hard to believe they existed. Being in these lovely places opened my eyes, and helped me feel close to them, even though they left this world centuries ago. Saying this in wiser words:"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (St. Mark 12:27).