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In Remembrance of the Departed

Posted on Jan 8, 2009 | 7 comments

It’s gone back to raining nonstop here in the past few days. In memory of sunnier times, I took these shots just before Christmas on the Ponte Vecchio in Montesacro. Yes, that’s right, the Florentines aren’t the only ones to have a Ponte Vecchio. This old bridge runs over the Aniene River, which flows all the way through Rome and up to Tivoli.

The photos show items left to remember the deceased around a fragmented relief of the Virgin and child. These types of shrines are common in Italy, with people leaving flowers, candles, pictures, and even toys for their deceased loved ones. They often spring up at the sites of car accidents and also in places where there is already a depiction of the Virgin and child. You’ll see a lot Virgin and child altars on street corners for some reason, don’t ask me why.

You’ll see two detailed shots and then one of the entire shrine to give you a sense of it.


  1. Lovely pictures. I’m glad to have finally found a great blog in Rome. 🙂

  2. Thanks Walker! Glad you found it and hope you continue to follow along.

  3. We have roadside memorials after a fatal car accident but this is more elaborate. Notice the beautiful linens there. You can only wonder what stories are behind the photos. Good job Jess!insup

  4. Great compositions!

    Thank you so much for the nomination, very kind of you, Jessica! I had no idea those awards even existed… 🙂

  5. I read there are over 700 Madonnas on buildings here. Just within two blocks of my apartment I counted five. One is a very elaborate from the 1700s.

    When I was in Positano I saw several shrines all with lit candles. I wonder about the stories behind the photos as well.

  6. Hi JM – My pleasure, I didn’t know they did either!

    Nonna – Thanks Mom 🙂 It is interesting to think about the stories behind what people choose to live at the altar. I think in general people are much more thoughtful of the deceased here and trying to continue to honor them in public ways like this.

    NYC – I forgot to mention that I nominated your blog in the bloggies as well! I definitely believe that number. Especially in the center they are all over the place on the corners of the buildings. I also have a nice photo of one in Venice as well. I’ve never been able to find out more about how the tradition originated though.

  7. I'd heard that the Mary and Jesus corner shrines were "Christianized" shrines that used to be on street corners for the Lares, spirits of departed family members. Here's a website that talks about it:

    So… in ancient times, they were pagan and now they're "Catholic" (in my opinion, about as "Catholic" as Dia de Muertos in Mexico) but they were always about honoring departed family members. Interesting!

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