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The Seven-Church Walk is a relatively recent Lenten tradition at Rome, having its roots in the mid-16th century. However, it is intimately tied to the Station Churches of Rome. It is traditionally walked on Wednesday of Holy Week.
The Seven-Church Walk has its roots in the later half of the 16th century, and originated with the Oratory movement founded by St. Philip Neri. On the Wednesday of Holy Week, Philip and his companions would set out to visit the four major basilicas of Rome, as well as the three more significan minor basilicas. They would pack picnic lunches, sing songs, and pray litanies along the way, stopping occasionally to rest, and pausing at each of the seven basilicas for catechesis and prayer.
In 1558, the Oratory movement had grown very popular, much to the dismay of the distrusting Pope Paul IV. His dislike of the Oratory was so great that he forbade the Seven-Church Walk. However, it resumed upon his death, and has been a part of Roman Lenten tradition ever since.
In our modern age, several different groups make the pilgrimage. In the Anglophone world, the Pontifical North American College sponsors a Seven-Church Walk every alternate year (2008, 2010, etc.). Following the 7:00 a.m. Stational Mass at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, a group sets out to visit the traditional seven basilicas, stopping for lunch on the way, and completing its journey around 6:00 p.m. that evening.
The Seven ChurchesEdit
The traditional stops of the Seven-Church Walk are as follows:
Beginning at Santa Maria Maggiore, go towards Termini, and take the Via Giovanni Giolitti, turning left on Via Tiburtina. San Lorenzo will be on the right.
From San Lorenzo, follow the Via del Verano towards Porta Maggiore; follow the Via Eleniana; Santa Croce will be on your left.
From Santa Croce, go left out of the basilica, and follow the Viale Luciano Lama to San Giovanni.
From San Giovanni, turn right out of the basilica, and take the Via Magna Grecia, which turns into the Via Britannia, the Via Acaia, and the Via Cilicia; turn left onto the Via Appia Antica, and San Sebastiano will be on your right, just past the Catacombs of San Callisto.
From San Sebastiano, take two lefts out of the basilica to put you on the Via delle Sette Chiese; this road will take you to the Via Ostiense, where you will see San Paolo.
From San Paolo, turn right out of the front doors and follow the Via Ostiense to Piramide; turn left onto the Via Marmorata, and then bear right onto the Lungotevere Aventino; you may cross the river at any point and continue in the same direction; after Santo Spirito in Sassia, turn left onto the Via della Conciliazione, and proceed to San Pietro in Vaticano.
The entire journey is around 22.5 km.