Monday, March 24, 2014

A Roman Pilgrim at the Station Churches - Part 6

Friday of the Second Week of Lent - San Vitale
The church of San Vitale was first dedicated in the year 416; modern constructions around it, including the modern street on which it sits, the via Nazionale, are on a much higher level, and one must now descend a rather large staircase to reach the church. This photograph was taken by our friend Agnese from the top of the stairs.

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent - Ss Peter and Marcellinus

Ss Peter and Marcellinus was originally built by Pope St. Gregory III (731-741), but by the mid-18th century had fallen into ruins and had to be completely rebuilt. It is also below the level of the modern street on which it sits, at the corner of the via Merulana and the via Labicana, but not as severely as San Vitale above.

The Third Sunday of Lent - Saint Lawrence Outside-the-Walls
St Lawrence Outside-the-Walls is one of Rome’s oldest churches, built over the site of the great martyr’s burial by the Emperor Constantine in the first years of the peace of the Church. Pope St. Sixtus III (432-440) built a second church on the site, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, flush with one of the walls of the Constantinian structure; this wall was then taken down at the time of Pelagius II (579-590, the predecessor of St Gregory the Great), transforming the Marian church into the nave of the St Lawrence’s church. The sanctuary of the church was then rebuilt at a rather higher level than the nave, with a large crypt beneath it. (The difference in levels can be seen below.) The dedication of what is now the nave of the church to the Virgin Mary is remembered in the traditional Gospel of the Third Sunday of Lent, which ends with the verses of Luke 11 commonly read on Our Lady’s feasts, and on the Saturday votive Mass of the Virgin. “And it came to pass, as He spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to Him: Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck. But He said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.”

On July 19, 1943, the church was hit by an American bomb during an air raid on the surrounding neighborhood (still known as ‘Quartiere San Lorenzo’) that left roughly 3,000 dead and 11,000 injured. This inscription commemorates the visit of Pope Pius XII to the church shortly after the bombing, “the angelic shepherd...inexhaustible in help and comfort for the weak, vindicator of right before the mighty, renewing the deeds of his immortal predecessors, with powerful, serene and illuminating words, with untiring actions of many kinds, saved his city of Rome from final ruin. As a sign of eternal gratitude, the people of Rome placed this memorial on the threshold of the reborn basilica.”

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