You all know the Way of St. James, don’t you?! Perhaps the Way of St. Thomas in Abruzzo is not equally popular, but it is not less important for its cultural, spiritual and landscape value.
This particular path connects Ortona, where th remains of the Saint are kept up to 1258, to Rome.
Indeed, ancient tradition tells us that St. Thomas traveled farther than any of the other apostles, preaching the gospel in India, where he was martyred by a Hindu priest who ran him through with a spear. A portion of St. Thomas’ bones are venerated in the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Thomas in Chennai, India.
In 1258 the Greek island of Chios the boater Ortona Leone Acciaiuoli returning from a naval expedition , led to Ortona bones of the Apostle Thomas, who became the patron saint of the city, still preserved in the cathedral of the same name and exposed to the faithful during the holidays “The Pardon ”, which is celebrated every year on the first weekend of May. During the day on Saturday, takes place on the parade of the Lady of the silver keys, one of the most spectacular and beautiful. The parade is made up of ladies, knights, soldiers, nobles, musicians and flag bearers, dressed in medieval costumes and elegant rinascimantali. The main figure of the procession is the lady of the keys, the choice of the most beautiful girls in the country. The keys are brought up inside the Cathedral, where takes place the opening of the urn containing the silver bust of the saint. On Sunday, the streets and squares of the country are affected by the presence of market stalls and the procession of the Gift, composed of representatives of the various districts leading products of the land and the sea.
This Route underlines the importance of geographical position of Abruzzo : link and forced road between North-South routes from Santiago de Compostela and Holy Land and East-West ones from Rome to Holy Land.
The Route of saint Thomas, which stems from the presence in Abruzzo of the sacred remains of the Apostle Thomas, enshrined since 1258 in the Cathedral of Ortona, is characterized by the spirituality of the places and the characters that can be met along the way. A new and evocative opportunity to get to know the region through an itinerary that can be covered by car and also, in some parts, on foot or by bike, as has happened for centuries for the Way of St. James, and which is based on the fundamental need to perceive the value of the place, through stopovers and knowledge, in order to go back on the way.
The Route, which touches the most important cultural and religious excellences of the region through an amazing nature landscape, is marked by “doubt”, the one of Thomas in front of the Resurrection of Christ and by the miracle that turns the Sacramental bread into flesh and wine into blood (Eucharistic miracle). But the Route also allows to enjoy the depth of the ascetic and contemplative spirituality of Pope Celestine V, who in Abruzzo found the ideal environment to develop it, and to farsi plunge into the greatest mysteries of Christianity, such as the Holy Face (Volto Santo), an image that was not painted by human hands, and the Apparition of the Virgin Mary. The Route also allows for covering a deeply felt and well-established way of devotion by visiting the Marian Sanctuaries and the ones dedicated to Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows and to Saint Camillus de Lellis.
This itinerary, long over 315 km, can be covered by a means of transport or by bike. The complete and original path (as can be seen from the map) departs from Ortona and then goes West toward many towns, that are worthwhile to visit, until to reach Rome.
The pilgrims who join this path can see and admire the wonderful panorama that is offered; and taking as reference the ancient consular road Tiburtina Valeria leading to the Adriatic, the pilgrims will discover the landscape of Abruzzo and Lazio, stretch thanks to the most spectacular paths crossing the Regional Natural Park of the Castelli Romani, of Monti Simbruni, the Natural Park Sirente, The National Park of Gran Sasso and Maiella, until to reach Rome.
Along the way, pilgrims can make some small stops to see and visit folkloristic towns such as Manoppello with the Sanctuary enshrining the Holy Face and the Abbey of Santa Maria d’Arabona and Capestrano, that preserves the “Warrior”, an icon, symbol of Abruzzo Region and its identity. This sculpture, dating from the mid-sixth century, represents a male figure, in military costumes and it is a funerary statue of a warrior prince.
On the way back to Ortona, pilgrims can choose a different path, passing through Salaria Road, visiting in this way the city of L’Aquila, whereyou can have a stop to visit the Basilica of Collemaggio (let us not forget that the city underwent major damage caused by the 2009 earthquake), passing from Isola del Gran Sasso (Sanctuary of Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows), Campli with its HolyStep (the third worldwide) to reach Giulianova with its Sanctuary of Our Lady of Splendor, to continue along the coast to Lanciano ( Sanctuary of Eucharistic Miracle) to end back finally to Ortona.