ANTONYUS SUBIA's ROME PILGRIMAGE
IN HIS OWN WORDS
I HAVE returned from Rome with the heart-sick feeling that I am now thousands of miles away from the Holy City, filled with so many stunning images of Antinous...I tried to see them all...but found myself blocked from several...the Vatican had whole areas blocked off for no reason, in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, the Chigi Chapel was under renovation (covered with a tarp) so you couldn't see the Antinous as Jonah & the whale.
But I saw a great, great many...I succeed in approaching ANTINOUS...I stood before THE REAL ANTINOUS...I looked him right in the face...I touched HIM!!!...and all I can say is that my life has completely changed...it truly was a sacred pilgrimage...a once in a life-time event. I might one day go back to Rome again in the future...but I don't need to go back right now...I feel as though I have been cleansed, given a special blessing from the real ANTINOUS...the kind of blessing that cannot be duplicated. Perhaps when I am very old and ready to die, I may want to pay another visit to Antinous in Rome, to take leave of HIM...but for now, the effect of being there in his very presence has taken away the need of never having been there in his real presence, on sacred ground in the Holy City of Our Lady Rome.
First thing, upon arrival, I rushed straight to the Pantheon...merely approaching the building is magnificent, the first sight of the immense columns at the end of a windy narrow street, and then the square opens up and you feel as if you are standing in a magic world...so much grandeur, more than I ever imagined...the mighty facade...the feel of the granite columns, the giant doorway and the massive bronze doors. No one can prepare you for the sensation of entering....how the ceiling doesn't even seem real or possible, as though it were a shimmering digital effect-image floating like a projection above you...and to know that Hadrian built it, and that perhaps Antinous stood beneath that very same dome and gazed up into the very same hole into the sky...I kept coming back to the Pantheon again and again...it was also the last building I touched before I took my leave of Rome.
After visiting the Forum, it was time for the Capitoline and my first encounter with a real ANTINOUS in Rome...after searching for him and finding nothing, I finally asked a guard (who spoke no English) I asked if he knew where I could find Antinous, but he seemed to have no idea what I was talking about, and then I remembered to ask for ANTINOO...and suddenly the guard realized and told me to take the underground passage way to the opposite wing....where I found the two Antinous images, including the one known simply as the Capitoline Antinous...(which is no longer supposedly regarded as a legitimate Antinous.)
I had my first of many deep Antinous moments...and I also left the first of my little prayer leaf votive offerings. By the end of the trip I had left little votive leaves by or near every Antinous image I was able to approach.
The back ground story about the votive leaves is that they were one of my very first forms of blessing from when I was a teenager...I used to actually give out real ivy leaves to people.
And then I thought of taking one special leaf, tracing out copies, cutting, drawing in the lines, blessing the leaves and giving the paper version out as a blessing...I did this for several years. I hung on to some of those original leaves.
I wanted to leave a prayer at the foot of Antinous, I wanted the leaves to be a symbol of my love and devotion to Antinous...and also through them, to bring my heart and my soul, closer to the real Antinous, to be blessed by him.
At each statue, bust, or relief...I waited until I was either alone, or no one was looking and then with a kiss to the leaf, I deposited them in as much a concealed place possible.
Sometimes I was able to reach back and place the leaf behind the image in a place where no one will notice it for ages, such as the Lanuvium relief, (the one with the little dog) I was able to place it in a concealed place right behind the relief where it might remain for years.
I was able to slip a leaf right underneath a certain bust (which will go unnamed) where no one will probably ever notice it for years, decades, or even centuries...unless they lift up the bust to move it to another location, which probably won't ever happen, so this was an unexpectedly successful votive leaf.
At the Villa...I was able to slip my leaves into the metal pedestals where they will stay unseen until November when the exhibition is dismantled. That's when the curators will discover all these crazy little ivy leaves (with my priest name on them) and wonder what they are all about. As for most of the others, some I had to deposit in plain sight where they won't stay for long, some I had no choice but to drop right on the floor beside the image where they will be swept away. We were laughing at what the guards or the cleaning crew would think when they found all these little paper ivy leaves next to every Antinous image in ever museum. The leaves have my name printed on them, all they have to do is look me up online to see what the leaves are all about.
At the Vatican Osiris statue the leaf won't last very long, the guard was right there watching me, I had to just let it fall from my hand while pretending to study the statue...which as I stood back and saw the leaf sitting there in plain sight next to Antinous...not on the floor or tucked away in a corner, but right there as if it were part of the exhibit...turnout out to be a meaningful blessing of chance.
I was extremely pleased to be able to get back behind the Braschi Statue...I observed every angle, saw details I never envisioned...I touched his toe...I kissed the original marble podium that he stands upon, and I was able to place my leaf right up against the back of his foot...somewhat hidden where it might go unnoticed for a good while. I noticed that I was the only person who had any interest in what the back of the statue looked like…I felt very, very good about this leaf in particular…to have placed it so close to the most meaningful and glorious of all the Antinous statues.
On the Pincio hill, I wedged a little leaf between the granite barricades and the travertine base upon which the Sacred Obelisk rests. There it will remain until the weather turns it to dust and washes it away.
My final leaf was left at what was actually the closest statue to our Hotel, the one at the Banca d'Italia...I had tried to go there before, but on the weekend, the heavy bronze doors were shut and there was no way to peer over into the courtyard where the statue is located.
Our last day in Rome was a Monday...Hernest and I had just walked from the Pincio to the Pantheon and were now on our way back to the hotel near the Forum when I realized that there was probably just enough time to make one last try for the Banca d'Italia...
I literally ran as fast as I could up the Viminal hill, the rest of the way to the Via Nationale...a few blocks up to the Banca d'Italia, the bronze gates were open...but as I ran up there were two armed guards holding Uzi sub-machine guns and behind them a double wall of bullet-proof glass and a bullet-proof guard booth.
I approached the guard and in my spanglish Italian asked if I could please see the statue of Antinous (I mean Antinoo)...he said no, but I pleaded, asking if there was anyone I could speak to...he was cool about it and said that it just wasn't possible. I asked if I could take a picture from the glass...he told me that I could take a picture from right where I was standing.
Terrible picture, but given the odds...I was glad to at least have been as close as I was and to have had the opportunity to make one last votive offering to a real Antinous statue, and at that one that was found in situ...where perhaps there may have been a Temple of Antinous, or else the private shrine of a devoted worshiper.
Without any proof..except that the statue was discovered during construction of the building, I would like to believe that some form of Antinous devotion took place there or within the vicinity. And so my final sacred votive leaf was offered upon Holy Antinous Ground. When the guard turned his back, I quickly deposited my leaf right behind a lamp post in the gated-off grass in front of the building.
As I walked downhill along the cobblestone street that led to our hotel (right behind the Imperial Forums) an enormous sense of well-being came over me,
Because I needed to lay eyes upon the Banca d'Italia Antinous,
I had a feeling that it was going to be problematic,
but I had no idea to what extent it would be so.
I did not expect machine gun guards and double bullet proof glass to block the way,
But there he was IN SITU...on sacred ground.
The Vatican Antinous was overwhelming because of his scale and approachability,
how I could go right up and touch him.
The Villa exhibition was so much Antinous all at once, I will probably never find myself surrounded by so many original images of Antinous.
but the Banca d'Italia Antinous was powerful for all the opposite reasons.
Because it reminded me that the REAL ANTINOUS
Was the beloved treasure of a Roman Emperor,
And as such he was completely unapproachable,
And under constant armed guard.
I was reminded of how precious and sacred Antinous was, and still is.
My Roman pilgrimage feels as if it were all just a dream,
I know that I was there,
But it seems as if I was walking in an Antinous fantasy land.
I have returned with an enormous sense of Antinoo-blessedness.
FLAMEN SACERDOS ANTINOALIS