Experience Germany & Italy
- Explore Castles, Monasteries, and ancient ruins
- Pray before Saints of the Church
- Walk in the footsteps of St. Francis, St. Clare and the Wise Men
- Experience the culture and rich heritage of France and Germany
- See magnificent gothic cathedrals
- Pray in St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel and the crypts of the martyrs
- Share this experience with friends
Round-trip airfare from your city to Europe, Transportation within Europe, two meals per day, hostel or convent lodging, entrance fees, JMJ Youth guide from arrival to departure in Europe.
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.
The 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.
The 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 later 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.
12 Day Itinerary
Day 1 Depart your city for Frankfurt
Day 2 Arrive in Frankfurt, private coach or train transport to Cologne, check into hostel, marvel at the beauty of several Romanesque Churches, St. Maria im Kapitol, St. Maria in Kyskirchn, and St. Apostein am Neumarkt
Day 3 See the 2nd largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, admire the Reliquary created from bones at St. Ursula Church, see St. Martin Church, afternoon enjoy the chocolate fountain at the museum and Chocolate Factory
Day 4 Half Day Trip to Aachen to visit the burial place of Charlemagne
Day 5 Flight to Rome, travel by bus or train to Assisi, the medieval hillside hamlet of St. Francis and St. Claire, watch the sunset from the castle
Day 6 Visit the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Claire, the Temple of Minerva, spend time exploring Assisi, and St. Mary of the Angels
Day 7 Morning train or bus to Rome. Afternoon walking tour of Ancient Rome: Piazza Navona, various churches, Pantheon, and Spanish Steps
Day 8 Pray at S. Pietro in Vincoli, Witness the Coliseum and Roman Forum (entrance optional), enjoy the Gesu and Trevi
Day 9 Explore the Catacombs of S. Callisto, St. John Lateran, the Holy Stairs and Santa Croce
Day 10 Marvel at St. Peter's, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
Day 11 Spend time in St. Mary Major and Santa Prassede. Possible Papal Angelus and free time
Day 12 Depart Rome for your city
We always include opportunities for daily Mass.
Specific locations within the daily itinerary are subject to change depending on actual travel dates.
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. 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 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.