Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday of Fifth Week: San Crisogono

My friends, we have arrived at the last full week of Lent before Holy Week.  Then it's Easter!  Almost there...  During our Easter Week break from classes I'll be going on retreat to Ars, France, the hometown of St. John Vianney who is the patron saint of diocesan priests.  I'm so pumped!  My agenda, among other things, will include sleeping no less than 10 hours every night.

But let's get started with today's station church:

San Crisogono

Saint Chrysogonus was a fourth century military officer martyred under Diolcetian in 304 in northern Italy near the town of Aquileia.  His popularity quickly grew in Rome, with his name being included in the Roman Canon (the long version of the Eucharistic prayer with all those names in it).  A very early fourth century hall was built on this site -- possibly even before the Edict of Milan in 313 -- with an apse later added on one end.

Remember that the Edict made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire.  But this is significant because some archeologists posit that it was originally built already with the intention of being a place of worship of God in Chrysogonus' honor, which would then make this, and not the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the first purpose-built church in Rome.  I personally find it more fitting that John Lateran was the first, but alas I'm no archeologist.

In any case, this building was used as a church from very early on and lasted until the early twelfth century, as the current church which you see in the photos began construction in 1123.  The columns along the left side of the nave are built over the foundations of the right wall of the original church.  The geometric inlay stonework which you see on the floor dates from this period as well.  It's a style of stonework called 'cosmatesque', and is one of the distinctive characteristics of medieval Italian churches, particularly in and around the city of Rome.

A renovation in 1623 bankrolled by the Borghese family gives us most of the current interior of San Crisogono, except for a few items which were added during the mid-1860s.  My favorite part about this church is the high altar, which besides containing relics of St. Chrysogonus, also contains relics of the Apostle St. James the Greater, who is one of my personal patron saints (along with St. Andrew)!  What a great find!  I'll have to find my way back to this church for sure.

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