Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuesday of Fifth Week: Santa Maria in Via Lata

Today we visited Santa Maria in Via Lata, which besides being a beautiful church is also quite a convenient one, as it is directly on the route of my daily walk to school.  Nice!  Not very large, though, so with standing room only we were packed in like sardines.

Santa Maria in Via Lata

This church is located right on the Via del Corso, which is one of the mainest of main roads in Rome.  Back in the day it used to be called the Via Lata ("wide street") because it was one of the largest in the city and terminated at the city center; for this reason it has some interesting history.  Caesar rode the Via Lata into the Forum after crossing the Rubicon and Constantine rode in on this same street after his victory at Milvian Bridge.

The remains of buildings underneath this church date as far back as the first century AD.  Those buildings were replaced in the third century with a large outdoor portico containing several small shops, and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire the structure was again converted, this time into a diaconia and small oratory.  It was finally made into a church in the eleventh century, being consecrated in 1049.  That church faced the opposite direction, its entrance away from the Via Lata.  Around the same time it also came to be used as today's Lenten stational church since the assigned station, the church of St. Cyriacus, had fallen into ruin.

At the end of the fifteenth century that church was again replaced, demolished in 1491 and rebuilt with a reversed orientation so that it faced the Via Lata; this current church was finished and rededicated in 1506.  A major renovation beginning in 1636 gives us most of the church's present appearance, therefore you can see that its architectural style is super baroque.  The current facade was completed between 1658 and 1662.

The relics under the church's high altar belong to the martyrs Ss. Cyriacus and Agapitus, and to the left of the sanctuary in a small side chapel you can find a few monuments and tombs of the Napoleon family.

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