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Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches Hardcover – October 29, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rome’s station churches date from the early Christian era, with architectural and traditional elaborations added to many in the Renaissance and major repairs made as recently as the past decade. Their visitation by believers during Lent follows a specific order, with aspects of the faith related to each edifice. Weigel, a Vatican analyst for NBC news, presents a readily accessible overview of how these “stational churches” correlate to and support Roman Catholic Lenten practice and affirmations while at the same time providing an attractive meditative tour for any visitor. Art historian Elizabeth Lev uses Weigel’s color photos to discuss architectural details along with the buildings’ history. This is a unique guide book, referencing not only theology but the history of Western art, modern and post modern literature, urban history, and church history. Valuable to believers, scholars, students, armchair travelers, and those planning pilgrimages following Phil Cousineau’s guides. --Francisca Goldsmith


Boston Globe
“If you’re not in Rome, the next best thing is reading Weigel and Lev’s text and taking in Stephen Weigel’s evocative photos. Anyone interested in Catholic spirituality and the significance of the Lenten season will find Roman Pilgrimage absorbing reading.”

National Review
“George Weigel’s new book Roman Pilgrimage, done in collaboration with Elizabeth Lev and his son Stephen, provides nourishment for both the inquirer and the believer, from a city whose bread and butter is Catholicism.... In a time that seems to have a tolerance only for nebulous spirituality and superficial religion, [Roman Pilgrimage] provides a way of proposal and rediscovery, where at every turn is a meeting with one – a saint, a martyr, the Savior – who walked this walk before and guides anyone willing through the next step.”

Catholic World Report
“Enhanced by beautiful photographs from Stephen Weigel (George’s son) and commentary from art historian, Elizabeth Lev, the book is part devotional, part history guide. And even though I have returned home from my own trip to Rome, thanks to this wonderful new work, this pilgrim’s journey is really just now beginning.”

First Things
“[Roman Pilgrimage] features biblical exposition, stunning photographs, and expert historical comment. But this publication is neither a mere guide for tourists nor a handbook for antiquarians. Rather it is a manual of Lenten faith: an invitation to the spiritual landscape of martyrdom, pilgrimage, prayer, and lectio divina.”

“Obviously, anyone traveling to Rome should not leave home without it.... But even for those not able to be physically in Rome, Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches is a kind of spiritual travelogue that will take the reader on an inspiring Lenten journey of faith and renewal.”

“[A] comprehensive, visually appealing work. Weigel’s Lenten tour of Rome acts as part travelogue and part theological primer, and he introduces readers to some of Rome’s most splendid and historically significant places of worship.... Weigel does an admirable job of weaving story and history into each chapter, introducing readers to characters long since forgotten to most. All the while, the author clearly describes the architectural importance of each site.... Engrossing, expansive pictorial study on a renewed Lenten discipline at the heart of Roman Catholicism.”

Publishers Weekly
“Gorgeous photographs by Stephen Weigel – of churches, basilicas, and cathedrals – accompany in-depth historical accounts and fascinating insights from Lev into the role these edifices play in the life of the larger Catholic Church. Each chapter begins with the day’s Scripture readings and a brief exegesis, along with practical advice on living one’s faith in a more authentic way. These reflections bring the traditional Lenten ascetic practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving into a contemporary context. [A] valuable companion for the Lenten journey.”

“This is a unique guide book, referencing not only theology but the history of Western art, modern and post modern literature, urban history, and church history. Valuable to believers, scholars, students, armchair travelers, and those planning pilgrimages following Phil Cousineau’s guides.”

Library Journal
“While no replacement for an actual pilgrimage, Weigel’s reflections allow one to enter into the spirit of the Lenten experience of conversion.... Although heavily Catholic in tone, the book will appeal to any Christian seeking to experience somewhat the pilgrimage that many have followed to prepare themselves to celebrate Easter.”

Fr. Robert Barron, Rector-President, Mundelein Seminary
“An astonishingly good book. George Weigel’s meditations on the liturgical texts of Lent and Easter are intellectually rich, spiritually alert, and rendered in beautifully crafted prose; Elizabeth Lev’s examinations of the station churches themselves are always informative, insightful, and witty. Equally impressive are Stephen Weigel’s artfully composed photographs. Roman Pilgrimage will delight your eye and feed your soul.”

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York
“On cold, damp, late-winter early mornings, hundreds of priests, seminarians, sisters, and devoted lay people walk the Roman cobblestones to one of the Eternal City’s forty most venerable sites, the station church of that Lenten day. It’s a microcosm of the pilgrim Church and of life’s journey, and Easter is never brighter than after faithfully completing this sixteen-century-old pilgrimage tradition.”

Roger Kimball, Editor, The New Criterion
Roman Pilgrimage is as beautiful as it is profound. Part travelogue, part meditation on Lent and Easter, part art-historical feast, this sumptuously produced book, full of striking photographs and theological wisdom, provides readers with a personal spiritual itinerary through the Eternal City during the holiest time of the year.”

Bruce Cole, Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2001-2009
“A splendid vade mecum to the annual Lenten pilgrimage in Rome. Visitors to the Eternal City, either in their armchairs or on foot, will learn much about the spiritual journey of Lent and Easter through Rome’s station churches, many of them little-known artistic treasures.”

Noel Fahey, Irish ambassador to the Holy See, 2007-2011
“George Weigel’s original, contemporary reflections on the station church liturgies of Lent and Easter are greatly enhanced by Elizabeth Lev’s descriptions of the station churches and Stephen Weigel’s evocative photographs. An indispensable guide.”

Edwin Cardinal O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem
“The Lenten station church pilgrimage is increasingly popular in Rome, especially among English-speaking Catholics. Zealously promoted and led by the students of the Pontifical North American College, the daily Eucharistic celebrations at these earliest of the Eternal City’s churches commemorate the martyrs of the first three centuries, whose witness is being emulated throughout the world today. Up to now, though, these sunrise pilgrimages have been known to few outside Rome. No more!”

Hanna Suchocka, Polish Ambassador to the Holy See, 2001-2013
Roman Pilgrimage evokes a tradition dating back to Pope St. Gregory the Great, but it also highlights, in a remarkable way, how relevant, contemporary, and even fashionable pilgrimage continues to be today. This beautiful book is an important gift to contemporary Christians, those looking for their roots and those seeking new ways to deepen their faith. At the same time, it makes an important proposal to those who doubt and to those who got lost on the way. Roman Pilgrimage should be on the packing list of anyone who, setting off for the Eternal City, wants to return with something more than the usual tourist mementos.”

Msgr. James Checchio, Rector, Pontifical North American College
Roman Pilgrimage is a special gift to those who cannot be in Rome for Lent, for it connects every reader spiritually to this ancient walk of faith. No one will come away from the station church pilgrimage—a unique opportunity to renew our friendship with the Lord—disappointed.”

Anne Leahy, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, Montreal
“The Roman station churches describe an itinerary with a difference. Along it, pilgrims encounter two thousand years of the masterpieces of culture while being invited to reflect on the claims of Christian faith in light of today’s challenges. A great companion on a pilgrimage through the station churches, in Rome or at home.”

Most Rev. Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services
“More than a historical and cultural narrative and a striking guide book, Roman Pilgrimage is also an inspiring reflection on the spiritual life, well-suited to an enriching retreat.”

Rev. Joseph Carola, S.J., Pontifical Gregorian University
“Theologically rich, spiritually inspiring, historically informative, and beautifully illustrated, Roman Pilgrimage takes the reader on a spiritual journey into the incarnate depths of the Christian faith. Whether we are in Rome or elsewhere, we are invited to walk with the saints and martyrs along the path of paschal renewal in Christ.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465027695
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465027699
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

George weighed really brings together all of the daily readings to help understand the Lenten journey to Easter.
Patti Jacko
Weigel's book is a terrific read for a Roman Catholic during the season of Lent or for anyone with a love for Rome and its churches and the Lenten liturgy.
Henry Schwalbenberg
This book should have been a big coffee table book with many more photos in color and full picture pages as well.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Edward R. Grant on November 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lent will never be the same for those who engage this book's invitation to join in spirit those fortunate enough to make the "Roman Pilgrimage" in person. George Weigel's reflections on the liturgical readings for each day of Lent (and the Octave of Easter) draw from deep wells of theology, history, and literature, while Eiizabeth Lev's lucid essays on the Station Churches provide their own invitation to consider how zeal for "theHouse of the Lord" is a centuries-old constant in the pilgrim life of the Church. I agree that the fine work of photographer Stephen Weigel is a bit short-changed in the bound volume's conversion of many photos to black and white. However, there are also ample color plates beautifully capturing what is inevitably a fraction of the rich detail in these Churches. As elsewhere noted, the Kindle edition displays all photographs in full color; also the MP3 version includes a supplemental PDF of young Mr. Weigel's work. For those in Apple-land, the Ibooks version would, I am sure, look splendid on a 27-inch screen!

Those who quibble here with the aesthetics may be missing the point of the book: to invite all Catholics, indeed, all Christians and men and women of good will, to set aside Lent, in a manner largely lost in recent decades, as a time for profound reflection on the realities of sin, conversion, redemption, and, ultimately, the joy of a life animated by, and lived in, imitation of Christ. While this is always primarily a matter of the "interior life," the book reminds us that the places and things of this Earth are the essential context in which that journey takes place. This manner of "going out," especially when made in communion with fellow pilgrims, is the key to a Lent well-observed.
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66 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Jack on October 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is disappointing.

Although the book is ostensibly about the ancient Lenten station churches of Rome, the bulk of the book is devoted to George Weigel's commentary on the liturgical readings for each day of Lent. He has little to say about the station churches themselves.

Each church receives a brief one-page description from the art historian Elizabeth Lev. I suppose this is better than nothing, but these short descriptions contain some surprising errors and omissions. For example, Ms. Lev claims that Santo Stefano Rotondo was originally built in the early fifth century. In reality, it was built several decades later. The description of San Sisto Vecchio omits the legend that the church was built on the spot where Pope St. Sixtus II, while on his way to be executed, met his deacon, St. Lawrence. This story would be of interest to any pilgrim visiting the church.

The book contains a few color photographs of the churches, some of which you are unlikely to find elsewhere. However, I had expected the book to have far more color photos than it does.

It is also irritating that the churches are identified solely by their English names even though the churches are far better known, even in the English-speaking world, by their Italian names. If you go to Rome and ask a local for directions to "St. Peter in Chains", he or she isn't likely going to have a clue what you're talking about.

I cannot help but feel that this book was put together hurriedly and was carelessly edited. You will like this book if you are interested in Mr. Weigel's commentary on the Lenten liturgical readings. However, for information on the station churches themselves, you would do better to read any number of books on Roman art and architecture, as well as general tourist guidebooks and internet sites.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Dionysius on October 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful book in every respect, and Weigel's exquisite meditations on each day of Lent are an invitation to an ever deeper conversion to Christ.

The Station Churches of Rome are one of the greatest hidden treasures of the Catholic Church, and this book opens the doors to those churches and to the liturgical riches of Lent. All the photos in the Kindle version are high res and in color, so this is one instance in which the e-book is perhaps of greater value than the paper version.

Any Christian seeking a deeper and more mature spiritual life will find a splendid companion on the way in "Roman Pilgrimage."
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James Austin McNamee on February 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I felt that a lot of history was missing about the Major Churches...the author's refections are very good for each day of Lent.. But the histories of the Station Churches was very limited...I guess the title fooled me , since I thought it would be more details about the Churches.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chris from Ohio on February 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book's idea of spending each day of Lent relating it to a physical church in Rome was well done and a unique way to experience a Lenten devotion.

Up to this point I, like a typical Catholic, would have focused my Lenten devotion on the daily readings, the Stations of the Cross, the Seven Last Words, and so on. This book reminds us that the 'corporate' Church also includes the dimension of pilgrims and martyrs and their legacy in our Lenten journey.

The book includes numerous threads of discussion from Pope JP2 and Pope Benedict XVI in the daily meditations on each station church, as well as interesting details on the architecture and history of the sites. It provides a beneficial reminder that the Church as Body of Christ has withstood much in the way of trials over the centuries since Calvary, and that salvation history includes a physical dimension that one can visit, in addition to the Word and Tradition that we all know and (hopefully) love.

There are some color pictures of the sites, but the majority of the shots are monochrome. This is my only disappointment with the book. I assume that to publish the work using all color pictures would have driven the cost up too much.

All in all, a very good conservative, orthodox book for those Catholics wanting a structured and unique way to live their Lenten devotion.
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