Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday of Second Week: Santa Maria in Trastevere

We're almost there!  Anybody with me?  Thursday is my long day, besides these three hours of oasis in the middle of the day, I am fully 'occupato' with something straight through from 6am - 10pm.  Sometimes the best we can do is hold on for dear life and say, Come on Friday!!  Lol.  But it's good; better to be busy than to be bored... and it makes Fridays extra nice.

Santa Maria in Trastevere

We're sticking it out in the Trastevere neighborhood again today.  Not quite as far a walk as St. Cecilia, this church named after our Virgin Mother stands on the site of a spring of oil which came forth from the ground in 38 BC.  It was linked to the coming of the Savior into the world and in the early third century became the site of a house church established by Pope Callixtus I (while Christianity was still illegal).  The pope himself would be cast into a nearby well in 223 for professing the Christian faith.

After the legalization of the faith, Pope Julius I (+352) built a basilica here to replace the house church.  This basilica was nearly destroyed by fire in the sack of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths (an event which, on an unrelated note, became an inspiration for St. Augustine to write one of his most famous works, City of God ).  Eight centuries later Pope Innocent II decided to demolish it and build a new church, so the new construction proceeded from 1139 until 1181, when it was finished and rededicated.
The statues you see above the outer porch (which was built in 1702) depict Ss. Callixtus, Cornelius, Julius I, and Calepodius, all of whose relics rest beneath the high altar.  Pope Innocent II is also buried here half way up along the left aisle.  You can find by looking at the columns in the nave that they have all been recycled from the ruined buildings of ancient Rome (as has been the customary practice around here for ages!  Just look at the Colosseum).

The mosaic in the apse, from the twelfth century, depicts Christ and the Virgin Mary flanked by Ss. Peter and Paul, all the saints mentioned above, plus St. Lawrence the Deacon, who we saw the other day, the one burned alive on a gridiron.  Another Catholic Englishman, Henry Cardinal Stuart, sponsored the adornment of one of the side chapels up near the sanctuary in the mid 18th century, and so you will find his coat of arms above the door to the chapel.  He was the duke of York and the last Catholic claimant to the English throne.

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