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ROME: Temple of Vesta - Eternal Service

Updated on January 12, 2011
Roman Forum, Rome, Italy
Roman Forum, Rome, Italy

Vestal Virgin

The Madonella’s eyes look down on me
As if to say
“Welcome home, my child”
And in my mind I wonder -
Who lit these candles so long ago?
Before the ages of the new religion-
Who stood here in the Pantheon so grand and new?

The Madonna’s eyes so soft, her child so blessed.
The faithful gather still to light their candles and lay flowers

Chanting together a sorrowful sounding prayer
Waiting for their miracles and asking for blessings
From the Madonna and her child
Pictures like these  adorn the corners all around this ancient city
Most with artificial light to show people through the corridors
In the shadows of the great city of the Most High.

But this was never my home.

I wander away unnoticed by the crowd
Through the winding streets
Passing more shrines, more sculptures and Madonellas,
Elaborate churches testaments to great saints,
And fountains crafted by master artisans in the finest marble

Inspired by some of the same magic that moves me even now.

Tonight I don’t notice the modern city all around me for it is inseparable

From the old city
and I am lost in the spell of ancient Rome

and the layers her religion; coexist here so strongly; 

how they all keep drawing me in.

In the shadow of the Coliseum, I feel so small. 
Standing for a moment to catch my breath, I close my eyes to clear my mind.

As much as I try to block it out, sounds fill my head of competitions and events -
The battles with clanging swords and crashing metal, roaring crowds and screaming men

intense emotions of crowds of ordinary citizens and royalty and warriors,
The battles between men and men,  men and beast and the scenes played out for entertainment-though nothing of the sort plays out here now - the old energy lingers.
There will never be quietness here - the Coliseum will never afford any peace - so I continue on.
I know where to go…though I know not why. And the question never comes to mind.
In the darkness - with my lantern, to find the ruins of the Temple of Vesta.

In my cloak, like a ghost wandering through these stones at this late hour, the darkness conceals my form - I don’t wish to be disturbed.

Finally, I make my way through the large fallen rocks and find the three tall pillars standing in that circular pattern - no more dome covering a grand marble gazebo, it fell long ago - but I remember this place.
Like an old ritual, I gather what I can to light a small flame in the center of Vesta’s temple
A duty I know I must continue, for it never should have gone out.
I walk down the path from the temple to where our House used to be, the Palace of the Vestal Virgins.  This Place was once so breathtaking…its magnificence known all throughout Rome as a place of such distinction; the women who resided here - strong, dignified and sanctified to the Goddess Vesta, their own fate believed to be tied to the success of the city of Rome.

The palace now, all fallen to ruins, like so many of our ancient sites. The statues of some of my sisters still stand here in the garden. The Revered Keepers of the Flame.

Sculptors tried in vain to capture their feminine forms in marble; to add beauty and serenity to these sacred gardens so they may inhabit the palace forever.  After 30 precious years of service, and some even longer, they were honored with a form which was to stand forever in the Gardens. The garden is not what it used to be either - once a beautiful sanctuary, now another marble and dirt quarry.

I finally feel at home walking among the remnants of my sisters…then one catches my eye. I touch what is left of her torso. The marble seems so cold, so smooth, yet so soft…I could almost feel a pulse…and when I look in her eyes…..I fall on my knees.  Shivering, I find I am face to face with myself.

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