On Sunday 17 September an interfaith Half-Marathon in Rome will see thousands of runners following a course between buildings that symbolically represent the crossroads of different cultures and peoples. The first ever 'Via Pacis' race links St Peter's Square, the Great Synagogue, The Grand Mosque, the Greek Orthodox Church of St Theodore and the city's Waldensian evangelical church. The international event has been organised by the city authorities, the Pontifical council for Culture and the Italian Athletics Federation.
- St Peter’s Square
The Via Pacis Half-Marathon begins in beautiful St Peter’s Square, the centre of the Vatican. Built in the 16th and 17th century, the Square hosts thousands of tourists a year and various events of the Holy See such as Easter mass, the general audiences and more. The oval colonnades that surround the square represent the maternal arms of the Church and in this case they will start the runners on their journey of the Via Pacis.
After leaving Via della Conciliazione the participants will run alongside the Tiber until they reach the Great Synagogue of Rome. Nestled between the sycamore trees of the river and the kosher restaurants serving traditional Judeo-Roman food, such as the Jewish artichoke (‘carciofo alla giudia’), the Synagogue is a center of worship for Rome’s Jewish community and it also hosts the Jewish Museum of Rome.
- Orthodox Church
The runners will then pass in proximity of the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Theodore on the Palatine Hill. This beautiful little church was built in the 6th century and is surrounded by Ancient Roman ruins sitting at the foot of the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum and being minutes away from the Circus Maximus.
After running across a large area of Rome and passing many more ancient and modern monuments the participants will reach the Grand Mosque in the northern part of the city under the Parioli Hill. With its modern geometric architecture and light colored mosaics the Grand Mosque is the largest one in Europe and can accommodate up to 12,000 people. It also hosts the Italian Center of Islamic Culture, with a large library and offering Arabic courses and other social and cultural events.
- Waldensian Evangelical Church
Towards the end of the route the runners will pass the last religious site, the Waldensian Evangelical Church, before returning to the Vatican. Among the palm trees and luscious grass of Piazza Cavour sits the Waldensian Evangelical Church with its tall towers and blue glass windows, built and inaugurated in the early 1910s. The Waldensians are one of the oldest non-Roman-Catholic Christian communities and have been present in Italy since the 13th century.
Images ©Isabella Haberstock de Carvalho