VISITORS TO THE PAST is not intended to give you a detailed map to the places featured within its pages, or give you suggestions to the best local cafes, shops or other “trendy” treats. The focus of this book is altogether different. The author wants you to step into the past, to meet the people associated with the monument you are visiting, and to see it in the context of the history of its time. Escaping the hustle and bustle of Rome to drive up the Via Nomentana to the Mausoleum of Santa Costanza, or winding one’s way through the verdant fields of France’s Loire Valley to Germigny-des-Prés, the tourist is rewarded with exploring treasures of the past enjoyed in a tranquil setting. All quite satisfying and refreshing but not the whole tale. Behind the calm of today lie the turbulent passions of the past—love, hatred, jealousy, envy, and all the emotions we know so well. The Mausolem of Santa Costanza, daughter of Constantine the Great (the first Christian Roman emperor), a woman born in a world of conflicting ambitions, vicious family feuds, betrayal and murder, may have been planned as a quiescent resting place for the dead. However, around it swirl the anything but tranquil realities of its time. Germigny-des-Prés was envisioned as a place of peace for a man of God. Yet the challenges of the time—intellectual, spiritual, and physical, never strayed far from the door. And so it goes. The five sites chosen for this book have great merits as seen today. But visitors to the past will find that this is only part of the story. So enjoy these experiences in the company of the historical figures abounding the pages of this book. Perhaps some knowledge of the past, of its people and events, will bring additional insight into the present. At the very least, your “visits” should provide you with more than a checkmark to indicate that you’ve been there on your busy itinerary.
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