Going through my journal of my trip to Italy (5 years ago), I remembered a bit of history which is fascinating and ironic: the evil Emperor Nero had a fantastic “Villa of Gold” built for himself but, after he died, Titus (I think) destroyed it. Ancient Romans had a tidy custom of wiping out the monuments of evil rulers. Titus (I think) then used the stones from Nero’s villa to build the Colosseum. When the Church finally conquered Rome, stones were plundered from the Colosseum to build St. Peter’s Basilica. Apparantly, Bernini even used some of the stones to build the magnificent altar. So the stones which witnessed Christian martyrs torn to shreds eventually became part of the earthly center of the Western church.
1 Peter 2:5, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
(The choir I was touring with sang during a Mass in St. Peter’s. Quite an amazing experience. I can relate to the emissaries from Russia who saw Hagia Sophia for the first time and decided to convert to Christianity because it looked like heaven on earth. Our architecture really does express our worldview.)