Experience France & Italy
- Explore Castles, Monasteries, and ancient ruins
- Bathe in the sacred waters of Lourdes
- See the incorrupt saints of the Church
- Visit the Catacombs, the Vatican Museum and the Pantheon
- Follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi
- Pray in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the crypts of the martyrs
- Share this experience with friends!
Roundtrip airfare from your city to Europe, Transportation within Europe, two meals per day, hostel or convent lodging, entrance fees, JMJ Youth Pilgrimage Guide from arrival to departure in Europe.
The Temple of Minerva is a former temple that was originally built in 100 BC. The front façade is still the original. Behind the façade it was rebuilt into a church dedicated to Our Lady. All roads lead to this piazza in Assisi.
St. Francis Basilica began six months after the death of its patron Saint St. Francis. St. Francis was born around 1181-1182 to a wealthy family in Assisi Italy. After receiving a vision from God, St. Francis gave up his comfortable lifestyle and chose to live in poverty to help the poor and bring God to all people. During his life he founded the Franciscan Order of Friars and the Order of the Poor Clares. He preached about love, simplicity and peace and became the patron Saint of animals, Italy, the environment, etc… after his death in 1226. There are two basilicas within this church. The upper basilica is filled with frescoes from Giotto, some of which were damaged in the earthquake of 1997. The lower basilica is a good representation of Italian Gothic. In the crypt, you will find the tomb of St. Francis, which is directly under the high altar of both basilicas. His first companions are also buried here, in the four corners of the ambulatory.
St. Clare Basilica is where the Poor Clares live and it houses the San Damiano cross from which Christ spoke to St. Francis. St. Clare lived during the time of St. Francis. She was also from a wealthy family, but was inspired by the life of St. Francis to leave her wealth and family behind to live a life of prayer and poverty. Her family was so distraught that her uncle led a band of armed men to find her. They found her clinging to the altar and after a brief struggle, and noticing that she had cut off her beautiful hair, they left her. She was buried in this Basilica, which was built after her death. Also in the crypt, near her tomb, there are other relics of St. Clare.
The Pantheon is a circular building that was initially built as a temple to the gods, sometime between 27 BC and 14 AD. It was reconstructed in 126 AD and in the 7th Century it began its use by the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. Every year on the feast of Pentecost, a shower of rose petals are poured through the opening in the top.
St. Mary Major was the first church built in honor of our Lady, in the early 430s, by Pope Sixtus III after the Council of Ephesus proclaimed that Mary was the Mother of God. The basilica houses many beautiful mosaics and treasures, including the Holy Crib of the infant Jesus. The basilica was originally called Our Lady of the Snows because the legend says that on the 5th of August a snow fell on this hill as a sign to build a church in honor of Our Lady. The legend is still celebrated by dropping white rose petals from the dome during the celebration of the mass.
Holy Stairs are the stone stairs that Jesus ascended when being condemned to death by Pontius Pilate. They were back from the Holy Land by St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. Individuals are able to walk up or ascend on their knees while offering up their prayers and intentions. Underneath the glass on a few steps you can see drops of Jesus’ blood.
The Catacombs of San Callisto are underground burial chambers for the early year Christians and Jews. The excavations began in the 2nd century until the late 4th century. The Roman custom at the time was to cremate bodily remains, but the Christians and Jews believed in burying the remains because of the bodily resurrection at the Second Coming of Christ. Some residents of these catacombs consist of popes and martyrs, including St. Cecilia, the patroness of musicians.
Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, was built of concrete and stone in 70 AD. It was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire and is still the largest amphitheatre in the world. The Coliseum could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions of Christians, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The inside was extensively stripped of the stone to use for other buildings in Rome, and later went through renovations. What remains of the outer walls are the original stones. The rest were also taken down to use for other building projects. Since the Coliseum is a place where Christian martyrs died, the Catholic Church has consecrated it and declared it sanctified by the blood of Christian martyrs.
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches in the world and is located on the burial site of the Apostle and first Bishop of Rome, St. Peter. Tradition and evidence hold that St. Peter’s tomb is directly below the altar. A small shrine was built on his tomb a few years after his death and the first Basilica built was done by Constantine the Great in the early 4th century. The present day Basilica was built between 1506-1626. St. Peter met his martyrdom when he was crucified upside down in the Circus of Nero. Christian followers buried him just outside the circus. Although the Holy Father lives in the Vatican Apartments attached to St. Peter’s Basilica, his Church as the Bishop of Rome is actually St. John Lateran. The Basilica is so grand inside, yet everything is designed as an optical illusion. For instance, there are two rows of statues. The statues on the upper level are 4 feet taller than those on the bottom, yet they look the same size. The baldachino over the altar is actually the height of a 10-story building. Among all the beautiful works of arts and treasures is Michelangelo’s Pieta. There are 150 popes buried here, including St. Peter and the late John Paul II.
Santa Prassede is a small church located around the corner from St. Mary Major. It houses the pillar where Jesus was scourged. The designs and mosaics in the church are Byzantine, influenced during the Byzantine Empire. The church also houses bones for over 2000 martyrs of the early Church. In the middle ages, thieves threatened the remains of the martyrs in the catacombs outside the city walls. The Church decided to move the remains within the city and this is the place that they chose. The remains are located underneath the altar in two sarcophagi.
Notre Dame Cathedral (aka Cathedral of Our Lady) was constructed between 1163-1345. Vandalism took place a few times throughout the 16th-18th centuries, especially during the French Revolution. In 1793, French Revolutionists rededicated the cathedral to the Cult of Reason and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. Many of the treasures of the cathedral were destroyed or plundered. The stained glass windows were also broken, but were reconstructed in the 1840s, along with the rest of the church. This is the official church of the Archbishop of Paris. The reliquary houses some Catholic treasures, such as the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails from Christ’s passion.
The Basilica of the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) was built between 1875-1914 and consecrated formally in 1919. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Parisians made a deal with God. If they won the war, they would build a basilica in honor of Jesus’ Sacred Heart and have perpetual adoration until the end of time. They lost the war, but decided to build it anyway. Perpetual adoration has been taking place since 1884 non-stop. It is located on the Mount of Martyrs, formally known as the Mount of Mars.
The Catacombs of Paris are underground burial chambers that hold the remains of about 6 million people. There are many caverns and tunnels that are lined with bones 6 feet tall and 6 feet deep for a kilometers. The tunnels were originally used for a limestone mine but were converted into the Catacombs in the 18th century. The tunnels are located beneath the streets of Paris, making it difficult to build large buildings in this region of the city.
Chartres Cathedral was originally built in the 800’s as a place to house the veil of the Blessed Mother given to the bishop and people of Chartres by the Holy Roman Emperor. In the late 1100’s the Cathedral was mostly destroyed by a fire, because of its wooden structure. Miraculously the veil of the Blessed Mother was not harmed, nor were the stained glass panels with Mary and Jesus that contain the famous ‘Chartres Blue’. The community came together and donated time, materials, food, etc… so that they could build the greatest church in honor of Our Lady ever built. Even the architect completely worked for the glory of God, which is why to this day we do not know his name.
15 Day Itinerary
Day 1 Depart your city for Paris
Day 2 Arrive in Paris, check into convent, walk the ancient center of Paris visiting Notre Dame, Ste. Chapelle, the Holocaust Memorial, evening at the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur
Day 3 Pray at the shrine of the Miraculous Medal, witness the incorrupt body of St. Catherine Laboure, walk through the catacombs of Paris, evening at the Eiffel Tower
Day 4 Day Trip to Chartres to experience the most magnificent Gothic Cathedral in France, pray before the relic of Mary's veil
Day 5 Morning train or bus to Lourdes, evening candle light procession in honor of Our Lady, time permitting
Day 6 Take time for confession and to Bathe in the sacred waters of Lourdes, pray in the basilicas of Lourdes and the where Mary appeared, walk the Stations of the Cross in the spirit of St. Bernadette
Day 7 Morning train or bus to Paris*, flight to Rome
Day 8 Travel by train or bus to Assisi, the medieval hillside hamlet of St. Francis and St. Claire, watch the sunset from the castle
Day 9 Visit the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Claire, the Temple of Minerva and spend time exploring Assisi
Day 10 Morning train or bus to Rome. Afternoon walking tour of Ancient Rome: Piazza Navona, various churches, Pantheon and the Spanish Steps
Day 11 Pray at San Pietro in Vincoli, witness the Coliseum and Roman Forum (entrance optional), enjoy the Gesu and Trevi Fountain
Day 12 Explore the Catacombs of San Callisto, St. John Lateran, the Holy Stairs and Santa Croce
Day 13 Marvel at St. Peter's, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
Day 14 Spend time in St. Mary Major and Santa Prassede. Possible Papal Angelus and free time
Day 15 Depart Rome for home
We always include opportunities for daily Mass.
Specific locations and events within the daily itinerary are subject to change depending on actual travel dates.
St. Mary of the Angels houses the portiuncula. This is the little church that St. Francis rebuilt when asked by God to “Rebuild My Church”. The Benedictines from the local monastery offered to give him the portiuncula, but Francis refused since he did not want to own any property. Instead, they came to an agreement that the Friars Minor (Order of Franciscans) would rent it from them for the price of two fish per year. Still today there is an annual ceremony where the Benedictines come to receive their payment for the rent. The Basilica was built between 1569 and 1679 to encompass the Portiuncula. Behind the basilica is a rose garden, where grow roses without thorns. Tradition holds that St. Francis was tempted to impurity and instead of giving into the temptation he threw himself into the thorns of the rosebush. As soon as his body touched the thorns, they fell off and the bush became the dog roses (roses without thorns). In the enclosed hallway just before the rose garden is a statue of St. Francis. In the hands of the statue is a nest which is a home for white turtle doves. When one flies away, another one comes and takes its place.
Il Gesu is the Baroque Church of the Jesuit Order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola and built between 1568-1584. The tomb of St. Ignatius is located in the St. Ignatius Chapel on the left-hand side of the altar.
Piazza Navona is the very famous plaza with restaurants, large fountains and the Church of St. Agnes. The site was built as an open-air stadium where Romans could come and watch the games. It was known as the Competition Arena. In the 15th century the city market was moved to the Piazza and it is often the center of festivals and arts. The Church of St. Agnes in Agony was built in the mid 17th century.
St. John Lateran is the oldest of the four major basilicas in Rome completed in 324 AD. The Papal throne was placed in the very front of the church, making it the new Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. Until 1309 the attached residence was the home for the Popes. The official seat of the Pope was temporarily moved to Avignon France, before returning to Rome. From then on the Popes have lived in the apartments attached to St. Peter’s Basilica. Despite the fact that the Holy Father lives at the Vatican, his parish, as the Bishop of Rome, is still St. John Lateran. Within the basilica is housed the stone table of the Last Supper, the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul in the baldachino, and many other treasures.
The Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme was consecrated around 325 AD and has housed relics of the Passion, including pieces of the True Cross and two thorns of the crown. In the beginning, the floor was covered with soil from Jerusalem, hence the name in Jerusalem.
St. Paul outside the Walls is one of the four major basilicas in Rome, dedicated to the Apostle St. Paul. The altar of the church is built directly over the tomb of St. Paul. Over the early centuries, popes modified and built up the church to become a large, grand Basilica. Since it was built outside the Aurelian Walls, it was subject to invasions by Roman enemies and was damaged in the 9th century. The monastery and basilica were rebuilt in the 10th century. From 2002-2006 excavations to uncover the sarcophagus of St. Paul proved to be successful.
The Roman Forum is a rectangular plaza that was the center of Roman public life for centuries. It was originally called a market place and was also used for processions and elections, public speeches, criminal trials, gladiator matches and for many commercial affairs. The original level of the Forum and its first buildings date back to the 7th century BC. As centuries passed, soil and debris built up, raising the ground level, and new roads/paths were paved over top. By the 8th century, the buildings of the Forum were already falling into ruin and many monuments were buried beneath the rising ground level. The Christians converted the old buildings and temples into churches. In the 18th century excavations began to uncover the ancient monuments. Today, for a small fee, individuals are able to walk through the streets of the Forum and witness the ruins that are continuously being restored and preserved.
The Trevi Fountain stands 26.3 meters high and 49.15 meters wide and is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. In 19 BC, a source of pure water was found about 8 miles from the city. An aqueduct was built to supply water to ancient Rome. The fountain’s location marks the junction of three roads and aqueducts the met to supply water to the city. It served Rome for 400 years until Gothic enemies cut off the aqueducts. It was not until the early 18th century that Pope Clement XII organized a design contest to revive the fountain. A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain they are ensured a return to Rome.
St. Peter in Chains (aka San Pietro in Vincoli) was first rebuilt in 432-440 AD to house the relic of the chains that St. Peter wore while he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. Details about the earlier church are unknown. Pope Leo, according to tradition, was comparing the chains from Jerusalem to the chains of St. Peter’s final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together. These chains are located in the reliquary under the main altar of the basilica.
Ste Chapelle was consecrated in 1248 for St. Louis IX to house the Crown of Thorns. It was built in five years by one architect. The donation of the Crown of Thorns cost three times the church. The upper chapel is considered the pinnacle of stained glass. There are 15 panes which have 1100 biblical scenes. The crown of Thorns was housed here until the French Revolution. It was not until 1801 that the Church received the Crown again, but it was then deposited in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, just around the corner.
The Holocaust Memorial is dedicated to the 200,000 individuals who were deported from France to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The memorial was built on the site of the former morgue, behind the Basilica of Notre Dame.
The Miraculous Medal Shrine is a little chapel within the convent of the Daughters of Charity. Here, in 1830, the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, a novice preparing to enter the order. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to offer the world a medal that was intended for all people. It is said that in 1832 a deadly cholera epidemic broke out in Paris, claiming more than 20,000 lives. The Sisters began distributing the first medals and many cures were reported, along with protection and conversions. The people of Paris called the medal “miraculous”. St. Catherine Laboure’s body was exhumed in 1933 and found incorrupt. It is now in a glass case at a side altar in the little shrine.
The Eiffel Tower is an iron tower named after Gustave Eiffel whose company designed and built it. The tower was built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Revolution. It stands 1063 feet tall, which is about the same as an 81-story building. There are three levels where visits can view the city. It was contracted that the tower would remain for 20 years and afterwards the city of Paris would dismantle it. The tower proved to be very valuable for communication purposes so they allowed it to remain after the expiration of the permit. It is now a well-known symbol of France and is the most visited paid monument in the world.
The Triple Basilicas of Lourdes were built on the site where the Virgin Mary appeared to a young peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous in February 1858. During the last apparition Mary asked Bernadette to drink from the spring, which was seen as dirt at the time, and that a chapel be built on the ground near the spring. A spring came up at the exact spot where Bernadette had washed herself in the dirt and since then, the waters have been known to miraculously heal people. This is located in the grotto of the sanctuary, which is the area of holy ground surrounding the basilica. Every evening a rosary procession takes place in front of the basilica, in multiple languages.