I have never talked about my faith publicly, partly because I’m not sure how to explain it to others. I have always considered myself a Christian and a member of the Church of England. I grew up with a mix of denominations; my father was a Protestant and my mother a Catholic. I absolutely and wholeheartedly believe that there is more when our physical bodies die, and I believe that there is a heaven and a hell – not the burning fire type of hell but a place where people go that have lead a life less desirable or without thought for others – compared to a place people go that have lived consciously of others or have at least ‘turned their lives around’. I believe that there is a God watching over us and that everything that happens in life, happens for a reason.
I will never impose my views on my son because I want him to make up his own mind, however I strongly believe that going to Church of England schools and occasional Sunday schools is essential for all children – if nothing else but to learn the history of our great nation. Christianity and the stories from the Bible are a huge part of British culture and heritage and it’s sad how little children of today know of ‘Noah’s Ark’ or ‘Jonah and the Whale’. Religious or not, we should be proud of our heritage and our culture.
When I discovered we would be visiting the Sanctuary of San Romedio in Trentino I was thrilled as it is an incredibly famous pilgrimage for the Catholic Faith with hundreds of thousands of people making the trip every year. Based on Saint Romedio the sanctuary has been composed high on a steep rock and started construction in the 11th century. Made up of five separate chapels built throughout the last 900 years there is a vast amount of history and stories to tell.
We hiked from the valley, along cliff tops and through gorges to reach the entrance way. Wilfred was happy (most of the time) in his Ergobaby carrier (an essential for any travelling parent), and the final steps up to the front of the first chapel he was quite happy to do himself. Upon arrival our attention was caught by a huge black bear – a real bear.
The story of Saint Romedio starts with the son of a nobleman who, upon his parents’ death, sold all his worldly possessions and took himself off to meditate alone in a cave for many years. According to artifacts from the 4th century he was desperate to meet up with his childhood friend, now the Bishop of Trento. En route to the city his horse was savaged and killed by a black bear. Rather than fear for his own life, he tamed and saddled the bear up, riding it to Trento instead. The bear has become a symbol of the saint, and in 1958 the region claimed Charlie, a bear from captivity who was due to be killed – he was donated to the sanctuary and they have looked after him ever since.
Upon entering the sanctuary a member of the group kindly looked after Wilf so I could properly explore. There are 131 steps from the base of the sanctuary up to the oldest chapel, built on the base of the Saint Romedio’s burial. As I climbed I went further back in time and was surrounded by offerings from pilgrims, leaving signs of their hopes to conceive a child or prayers for loved ones and good health. It was incredibly humbling and felt ever so personal to see. If you are not religious the sheer history and impressive architecture should be enough to lure you in, and you cannot miss the breath-taking views from the very top.
I was so pleased we made it to the sanctuary, I never expected to feel so at peace and so humbled by my surroundings. It had a way of making you see clearer, feel less burdened and feel free. Free to be whoever you wanted, free from cares and woes and the space to just be.
Watch our full Italian Adventure HERE!