Sunday, March 16, 2014

Friday of First Week: Santi Dodici Apostoli, Part II

I'm back!  What a great weekend.  For those who missed the previous post, I headed out of Rome Friday afternoon for a town a bit north called Spoleto to chill out with my classmates on our yearly 'class travel weekend'.  About 60 of us altogether.  As it turns out, the drive was a bit longer than Google maps told me it would be (and I thought Google knew everything?).  But that was perfectly fine since it meant more zzz's on the bus.  This all made me thankful for spending my childhood driving to Florida every year to visit Grandma and Grandpa: you get real' good at learning to nap whilst sitting up.

At any rate, I knew I wouldn't have time to finish a post about Friday's station church, so I promised to post it today instead.  Therefore here it is!

Santi Dodici Apostoli

The nice thing about Italian is that it often uses cognates, if not with English then at least with Latin, so you may have already guessed that Friday's station was the basilica of the Holy Twelve Apostles.  This one is RIGHT next to the Gregorian where I go to school.  Another gem of the city, it has a bit of an interesting history (lol, just like every other church we've come across so far).

The earliest record of a church dedicated to the Holy Apostles dates from the time of Julius I in the mid-fourth century, built down by Trajan's Forum.  Apparently it didn't last long, because Pope Pelagius I built version 2.0 on the current site of this church in the mid 500s; it was finished and dedicated by Pope John III in 570.  At this time, the relics of the apostles Saint Philip and James the Lesser were placed underneath the main altar.  It lived in peace until 1348 when a massive earthquake damaged it significantly.  Pope Martin I in 1421 started a reconstruction and restoration, and then again Sixtus IV during 1471-84.  This church was given over to the care of the Franciscan order in 1463, and they still staff it to this day.  They did lots more things and stuff re: new construction in the early 1700s, a new facade in 1827, and a new confessio (a sort of crypt underneath the main altar) in 1871-79.  That basically takes us to what we see today when we walk in and see it in person.

But let's talk a bit about the history of this church's entourage.  500 years back, during the Italian Renaissance, the Colonna family lived next door to this church, one of the most powerful in Rome.  They were quite famous for their lavish parties with fountains of wine and gleaming gold and silver decorations.  The spacious piazza in front of this church and the family mansion (Piazza Santi Apostoli) made for good times and large crowds.  So they used to do some other interesting stuff to entertain themselves, like throw barnyard fowl from the Colonna palace loggia (loggia is a central upper-story balcony) onto the crowd in the piazza below.  The piazza was also famous in this time as the place of all the best street fights between battling factions of the city struggling for power.

Centuries later in the early eighteenth century, the Stuart family -- the last Catholic royal family of Great Britain -- lived in exile in Rome right next to Santi Apostoli after a failed attempt to retake the throne.  King James III took up residence at the Palazzo Muti for 40 years, where his son Charles III would be born.  He would pray in this basilica every day and at his death he was laid here in state, afterward being buried in Saint Peter's!

Besides Ss. James and Philip, we find lots of martyrs buried here: Ss. Sabinus and Clement; Ss. Eugenia and Claudia and companions; and Ss. Diodorus, Marcian, Chrysanthius, and Daria.  Always a beautiful testimony that reminds us our home is not here, and it's worth giving everything to receive the kingdom which is not of this world.

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