The Tiber River runs through Rome and separates classical Rome’s Colosseum, Forum, Parthenon, Circus Maximus and Imperial Palace on the east from St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square the Sistine Chapel and Vatican City on the west.
The geography to the east of the Tiber River was the site where Christians were persecuted, martyred, tortured, fed to lions and burned as evening light.
The East side is traditionally held to be the place where Saint Peter was crucified upside down. (That’s why there is an upside down cross on St. Peter’s chair. Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he didn’t count himself worthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus).
In contrast, the geography to the west of the Tiber River is the site of the largest Christian basilica in the world and where Saint Peter is buried.
And so, it has been suggested that “crossing the Tiber “can be a metaphor for pagans crossing from paganism to Christianity through the waters of baptism.
“Crossing the Tiber” is also lingo for converting to Catholicism. Converts will often refer to being on the “Tiber Swim Team” or “swimming the Tiber”.
The phrase likely is a variation of “Crossing the Rubicon” a phrase used to mean “no turning back”, based on Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon.
The bridge in the picture also captured my attention since this blog is dedicating to bridging the divide between Protestant and Catholic Christians. Schmaltzy, I know. But it works, right?
Tiber Swim Team 2014