Good news, we made it to our church today and the doors were even open and welcoming! Woohoo! It's good to be back on track. Had some blah-looking clouds in the sky this morning, but thanks be to God no rain. I'd like to keep that streak alive as long as possible. Today's station church has probably been my favorite church yet. Just beautiful on the inside. Reeally wanted to take more pictures, but I am keeping myself to a strict 2-3 shot regime, else things will quickly go haywire and I won't have time to choose and post every interesting detail.
This church sits right next to the Circus Maximus and, like the other ones we have visited, was constructed very early on. The spot of this church used to be a district of Roman houses and shops which were demolished in order to build a small Greek-cross-shape chapel (like a plus sign, a cross with equal length sides) at the request of Pope St. Damasus in the late fourth century. It was re-dedicated to St. Anastasia about a century later when veneration of her life and martyrdom spread to Rome from Constantinople. Anastasia did not live or die in this city but was martyred in Sirmium, located in modern-day Serbia.
An interesting note, St. Anastasia's feast day is December 25, which is why in the back apse of this church there is an image of the Nativity. It's also why you probably never remember celebrating her feast day at church, because you were always celebrating Christmas instead!
There is a tradition that when St. Jerome would stay in Rome, he would say Mass at the chapel that stood here (+420 AD, Jerome is super important; he translated the Hebrew OT and Greek NT into Latin, which we still use today). Right around 500 AD, the nave was extended so that the church's dimensions approximated those of today, which you see in the photo. Refurbishments and additions occurred subsequently in the ninth century (Pope Leo III), thirteenth century (Innocent III), and fifteenth century (Sixtus IV). The 1500-1700s saw the addition of some side chapels and the current facade (1634-40), as well as its most recent renovation (1721-22) which gave it the appearance it has today.
This church is worth checking out if you ever visit Rome, especially for the stunning marble statue of Anastasia sleeping in death underneath the high altar. The ceiling above the altar contains an inscription appropriate for a church located so close to the circus where Christians were routinely executed:
They fought with the Lamb, that the Lamb would conquer.
The Circus Maximus and the empire that built it have long since been buried. This church still stands.