Andrea Bocelli’s ‘The Journey’ Offers a Rich Meditation for Holy Week
‘The Journey: A Musical Special from Andrea Bocelli’ opens in select theaters on Palm Sunday.
Coming to participating theaters across America for four days during Holy Week is a new musical documentary, The Journey: A Musical Special from Andrea Bocelli. On April 2-4 and April 6, moviegoers can follow world-renowned tenor Andrea Bocelli and his wife Veronica as they travel for 200 miles through Italy’s breathtaking terrain on horseback along the unforgettable Via Francigena — a historical pilgrimage in which Christians journey to Rome to worship at great cathedrals and visit the burial sites of revered saints and apostles.
There’s so much to love about Impact Productions’ The Journey. The stunning musical presentations by Andrea Bocelli and other well-known performers. The drone shots of awe-inspiring scenery along Italy’s storied Via Francigena. The gradual unfolding of memories, heartfelt stories from the personal lives of Bocelli and his friends. The Journey combines beautiful music, creation, faith, and love.
Andrea Bocelli talked recently about the film, his faith and his family.
Tell us about the horseback journey you and your wife Veronica took along Italy’s famed Via Francigena.
Via Francigena is a powerful way to connect different cultures. Veronica and I chose to start our journey from the heart of Christianity, St. Peter’s tomb in Rome, and from there we arrived in the soft Tuscan hills where my family lived for many generations and where I was born and raised.
We journeyed by horse for over 300 kilometers along a path that was not always easy to travel, but absolutely beautiful, made of meadows and forests, sacred places filled with lasting testimonies of faith, full of art of incredible beauty, and views in front of which one can’t but ponder about creation and the miraculous work of our Heavenly Father.
Along the way, we met many pilgrims anxious to find spiritual truths, people that are not satisfied with the commodities of a materialistic life, but people that want to push themselves further, ready to put everything about their regular lives on the line, and eager to be amazed. It was an incredible experience we will remember for the rest of our lives.
How did this journey come about?
It had been a dream of mine for a long time and starting in 2022, when we were all forced to stay home because of the pandemic, it grew even more. At first it was going to be a quick trip. I felt the need to experience the fundamental value of freedom again for which many of the past have even given up their lives. I wanted to have an experience in which I could feel nature again, its silence, its invitation to reflect. This is how the idea of the journey along Via Francigena came to be, both in a symbolic and concrete way.
Then the project kept growing and growing. At first, we were going to take a few pictures as a memory of our journey, then we involved our friends from Trinity Broadcasting Network who wanted to feel this experience with us and did just that with much love and thoughtfulness. A crew of almost 50 people joined us on this adventure, but its intimate and strongly spiritual nature remained intact.
How did the journey affect you on a spiritual level?
The pilgrimage is usually meant to strengthen the faith of the wanderer who travels it. In our case, faith was present from the beginning and is the cornerstone of our souls. We experienced the journey as a sort of “prayer while journeying.” A devotional inspiration to involve our bodies just like St. Benedict meant it — turning our attention to Heaven while carrying out our duties, especially the material ones. I think that our Heavenly Father accepts any type of fervent prayer as long as it is honest and sincere and has a good and just meaning.
We are all strangers passing through on this planet. For each one of us life is nothing but a journey with its beginning and its end. Our existence is only a short segment and even for those whose life lasts over one hundred years, it is nothing compared to eternity.
If I think about the concept of the journey, it resounds within me that which our Savior said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” telling us to consider each other as a temple where God resides. Therefore, our goal is kindness towards each other. Veronica and I, but also many people that traveled with us, felt an exponential growth that allowed us to become in the very least, a little bit better.
What did you learn from your pilgrimage and studying the cathedrals and burial sites of the apostles and saints?
We learned so much about trust: trusting the process, the exercise of faith, trusting in providence and in turning fatigue into energy and positivity. We approached our journey with two main goals: first to pay homage to these sacred places, and second, to make music together — and the two goals are strictly correlated because music is, in fact, a form of prayer.
But the journey also had an extra deeper intention, spiritual in nature — not places but values, to be discovered further together with our travel friends: peace, forgiveness, faith, family, hope and prayer.
Our visits to the sanctuaries and monasteries were particularly emotional and gave us reasons to ponder; they were catalysts of positive energy, where goodness resides because of the many centuries of prayer. The Basilica di Santa Cristina in Bolsena was one of the most exceptional moments of the whole journey. I was so happy to have my daughter Virginia with me during that special occasion. The church boasts thousands of years of history and life. Inside it are conserved the sacred remains of St. Christina, who died as a young martyr. Together with my daughter, we prayed and contemplated the strength of those who are willing to sacrifice their short existence for their religion, faith, and ideals.
You and Veronica received a blessing from Pope Francis ahead of your journey. Tell us about that experience.
Receiving the blessing of Pope Francis was an incredible gift. He was willing to find a few moments of his precious time to greet us, to bless us, to encourage us, gift us with the rosaries, that he usually shares with those whom he visits. He felt that this journey could encourage many people to reflect on the meaning of life and those really important matters that get neglected because of our busy daily lives.
We had a short but very touching meeting. His voice, his presence, his aura, his goodness and humble authenticity always touch our hearts.
Virginia was very anxious to go to him, because we have been telling her of the special blessing Pope Francis gave to her when she was still a baby.
What’s your most memorable experience from filming The Journey?
I will mention three moments that stand out to me: the beginning, the halfway point and the end — but truly every day and every encounter was memorable.
In Rome, we traveled through the Basilica di San Pietro, the biggest church in the world, with a total area of 23,000 square feet. Veronica, Virginia and I stopped in front of Michelangelo’s Pieta, which is a true miracle of art, and that I had the unique privilege of touching many years ago.
Radicofani in Val d’Orcia (near Siena) is another special place. I remember when we climbed the medieval fortress and from the top of the tower I enjoyed the warmth of the sun, the gentle breeze caressing my face, and the magical sound of nature all around me. I felt close to heaven at that moment.
Finally, I remember when the hills started feeling more and more familiar as we reached the last milestone of our journey. We had a few more remarkable encounters along the way before arriving in Lajatico at the Teatro del Silenzio, a very special theater that every year shimmers under an astounding bed of stars. To be able to have strong and robust wings, we must first have deep roots. Mine are found in that small Tuscan village where I was raised in humility and passion for tradition, where I learned the values that have nurtured the community for centuries. That is why Lajatico was the final destination of my journey.
You performed with some incredible singers along this journey. Is there one performance or one song that stood out to you the most?
Every piece performed in the chosen locations brought us great emotions. All the artists were fantastic and to be able to meet, talk and sing with them was an incredible inspiration. It was my honor to work with such outstanding colleagues, sharing this challenge full of spirituality, humanity and music. Tori Kelly, Michael W. Smith, Katherine Jenkins, Tauren Wells, Taya, Beatrice Venezi, Ramin Bahrami, Clara Barber, the “2 Cellos,” the “40 Fingers” guitar quartet, the Solevoci Gospel Choir..... I am so very grateful to all of them.
Primus inter pares (first among equals) is a very sweet memory and a musical moment we completed at the Abbazia di San Galgano, an uncovered cathedral about 30 kilometers away from Siena where the lost pilgrim can still find sacred energy, mystic temperament and the miraculous connection between earth and sky. Together with the Gospel Group, the “Two Cellos,” the Guitarists and the magic voice of Tory Kelly, we recorded a stirring version of Amazing Grace, a classic in the musical tradition, a powerful hymn of gratitude that moved us and touched our hearts.
Hope is mentioned many times throughout the film. How do you define hope through the lens of your faith?
Hope is the opposite of desperation and a safe antidote to the poison of fear. I am a very hopeful and positive person because I trust in him who created us. I am convinced that hope is the balancing element of our existence. Without it we are lost in despair and our goal is to not lose serenity, optimism and faith in the future.
There are so many reasons to fear — from natural disasters, to wars, to sicknesses — but history teaches us that much harder things have been overcome. It is our moral duty to be optimistic because those that nurture hope in their hearts find fulfillment and will not get lost in desperation, the worst of all fears. Those who sow hope will reap goodness, just like those who look for faith create a lasting pillar of hope. That is what makes us happy. To live without faith is to live a life of sadness and despair.
What do you hope audiences take away from this film?
I hope that our journey will help other people find the urge and motivation to do it for themselves, each in his own way and with his own intentions. I believe this is an experience that will enable us to understand more deeply the sacred nature of life.
My wish is that the movie can offer an invitation to fully live and recognize our daily miracles. They are all around us, we just need to be able to see them and recognize them, because it is easy to lose sight of the meaning of our sacred lives due to the superficial temptations of today. I pray that we can remember every day what this journey has whispered to me in my heart: life is the highest manifestation of an intelligent will, capable of leading us back on God’s path.
One of the most heartfelt moments from the movie is when your son Matteo reads a personal ‘thank you” letter to you. What was that moment like for you?
We were in Sant’Antimo, one of the most sacred, solemn and ancient places of our peninsula. There you will find a monastery that was founded by Carlo Magno. Matteo and I sat on the south side of the church. I was holding my guitar and he was there, with paper in hand, where he had written the things he wanted to tell me. It was his simple and humble meditation written for me and for our travel companions.
In his letter, Matteo talked about the need to return to the essential values of life, because forgetting is easy but dangerous. His generation is the most at risk, and Matteo’s hope, just like mine, is that all generations, including the younger ones, can accept our meek invitation to listen and to receive inspiration.
How has your Catholic faith inspired your singing career and life in general?
Faith is the catalyst of life and it is worth finding. Just like the philosopher Blaise Pascal said: “If you win, you win it all; if you lose, you lose nothing.” Faith is humility, readiness to be marveled, a stimulant to reach for heaven inside and outside of us, the deepest and most immortal part known as our soul.
Faith is fundamental, and the center of gravity for life, both in our private and professional lives. Without faith our life would extinguish itself to tragedy. Those who have faith better their lives and the world. To have faith means to believe in the strength of goodness and to always choose the straight and narrow path. Our conscience knows the correct answer because God speaks to us always. We just need to have the courage to listen.
A few years ago I wrote a prayer that says the following: “Father, make me an instrument of thy holy will.” Thirty years later, I continue to send these words to heaven in the hope that our God will use me as he sees fit. Because of him, I received the gift of my voice, and it is my duty to share it with those who want to hear it. This is why I will continue to travel and sing for as long as God will give me the strength and the opportunity to do so.
Why do you believe The Journey will appeal to Catholics?
I hope that The Journey can help anybody who desires to learn more about these universal truths. Any religion is but a shortcut to heaven. No matter the rituals we perform in our church, I believe God sees us and loves us equally as his heavenly children.
I am a Christian and a faithful Catholic. The Gospel gives us all the values that, if followed, would make the world a much better place. The Gospel is an everlasting source of wisdom and values and we should all desire to live it every day.
You mention in the movie that the first prayer you taught your daughter, Virginia, was the Ave Maria. What does that prayer mean to the two of you?
I find beauty and poetry in the centrality of the presence and importance of women in the Christian church of Rome. I am faithful to the Virgin Mary, and I dedicate to her part of my prayers. Music has been sung about, praised and worshiped her, throughout the centuries with songs like Ave Maria of Giulio Caccini, the famous one by Franz Schubert, and also the one by Charles Gounod that uses melody over a prelude in Bach style. Not to mention Sancta Maria elaborated from a famous opera theme of Pietro Mascagni. I also have written a musical version of Salutatio Angelica as my offering to Mother Mary.
At the Santuario of Madonna di Montenero, in Tuscany, Veronica and I celebrated our wedding, and that is where Veronica was baptized several years prior; so the place was special to us on a spiritual but also personal level.
Do you have a devotion to a particular saint? If so, please explain.
I am devoted to all the saints, not just one in particular … from St. Francis, St. Catherine, St. Rita, to St. Pio of Pietrelcina and more.
The Journey: A Musical Special from Andrea Bocelli opens in select theaters on Palm Sunday. Readers can learn more about the film, watch the trailer, and purchase tickets through Fathom Events at the website, thejourney.movie.
- andrea bocelli