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Franciscan Headquarters steeped in history, beauty

by WGGB Staff

ROME (WGGB) — Rome and Vatican City are full of historic and architecturally beautiful buildings. abc40’s Ray Hershel and Chief Photographer Bob Hastings are providing exclusive reports this week from Rome.  Thursday, we go inside a church that has ties to two apostles and the great Michaelango.

We are here in one of the oldest churches in Rome – the church of the Twelve Holy Apostles. It is also the international headquarters for the Conventual Franciscan order.

The beauty and history of this church are intertwined in an impressive way. Father Peter Damian Massengill is the supervisor here for the 33 franciscan friars who come from 15 different countries. “The Church of the Twelve Apostles was a gift from the Emporer of Constantine to Pope Sylvester I in the year 599 in order to allow him to build the church for the remains of Saints Philip and James who were bringing brought back from where they were martyred in Constantinople. That church was then constructed.,” said Massengill.

The tomb of those two apostles is located beneath the main floor of the church. The artwork inside is breathtaking.

Massengill adds, “The main altarpiece is the painting of the martyrdom of Saints Philip and James.”

There is also a connection to the great painter and sculptor Michelangelo. “The tomb here is burial place of Michelangelo, who died while in Rome, here working. This was his parish church so the funeral was held here and then the body was kept here until the tomb he was designing for himself was finished in Florence, which is where his body lays now,” Massengill says.

Located next to the church is the Plazza Pilotta which these days has a number of pictures on display of Pope John Paul II.  Pope John Paul II had a special connection to these friars. “It’s been very rich for us. The Conventual Franciscans have our major seminary and major basilica in Krakow, just across the street from the Diocesan office where Cardinal Wojty³a lived and worked when he was Archbishop of Krakow.  He spent much time with the friars,” Massengill noted.

abc40 and FOX 6’s Ray Hershel is the only reporter from western Massachusetts in Rome for the Beatification of Pope John Paul II.  He will continue to report from Rome through the event Sunday, May 1.

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