Friday, March 29, 2019

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2019 (Part 4)

We continue our annual Lenten visit to the station churches with our Roman pilgrim friend Agnese, this year joined by Mr Jacob Stein, author of the blog Passio XP.

Saturday of the Second Week - Ss Peter and Marcellinus
This church was originally constructed in the 4th century, in honor of two Roman martyrs of the persecution of Diocletian, the priest Marcellinus and the exorcist Peter; they are named in the Canon of the Mass, and their feast is kept on June 2nd. By the mid-18th century it had fallen into ruins and had to be completely rebuilt. It is 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, which we saw in the previous post of this series.
The Third Sunday of Lent - St Lawrence Outside-the-Walls
This is one of Rome’s oldest churches, built by the Emperor Constantine in the first years of the peace of the Church, over the site of the great martyr’s burial. Pope St Sixtus III (432-40) 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 in the time of Pelagius II (579-590, St Gregory the Great’s predecessor), transforming the Marian church into the nave of St Lawrence’s. The sanctuary was then rebuilt at a rather higher level than the nave, with a large crypt beneath it. The dedication to the Virgin Mary of what is now the nave is remembered in the traditional Gospel of the day, which ends with the verses from Luke 11 commonly read on Our Lady’s feasts, and at Her Saturday Votive Mass. “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.”
The procession passes though the church’s side aisle...
and descends into the crypt...
past the slab of marble on which St Lawrence’s grill was set up...  
and the relics of Bl. Pius IX.
The altar of the crypt, behind which, the relics of St Lawrence rest in a large marble box (inside the cage), together with those of St Stephen the First Martyr, a portion of which were brought to Rome in the early decades of the 6th century.
Monday of the Third Week - St Mark
The church was originally dedicated by Pope Mark, who reigned for less than 10 months in 336 AD, to his namesake the Evangelist. Because the latter is the Patron Saint of Venice, which nicked his relics from Alexandria in Egypt in 828, it has often been given as the cardinalitial title to the bishops of that city; six Popes have been elected while cardinal of this church, four of whom were Patriarch at the time of their election. (Gregory XII, 1406-15, the last Pope to resign before Benedict XVI; Paul II, 1464-71; Clement XIII, 1758-69; and John Paul I, 33 days in 1978.) The church is now surrounded on three sides by the Palazzo Venezia, formerly the embassy of the Venetian Republic to the Papal States, and later on, of the Austrian Empire to Italy.
This photo of the procession is by Jacob.
These next two photos are also by Jacob: the apsidal mosaic, which dates from the reign of Pope St Gregory IV (828-44); the Pope himself is the figure on the left, with a square blue halo to indicate that he was still alive at the time the mosaic was made.
“The bodies of the Persian Martyrs Ss Abdon and Sennen, (feast day July 30), of St Restitutus and very many companions, whose names are written in the book of life, which were dug up a long time ago from the cemeteries around the city, and placed in this crypt by order of Pope Gregory IV, and in the year 1474 translated under the main altar next to the body of Pope St Mark, were finally returned to their original place in the year 1948, the tenth of the Pontificate of Pius XII.”
Tuesday of the Third Week - Santa Pudenziana
Like San Vitale and Ss Peter and Marcellinus, the Basilica of Saint Pudentiana is now sunk below the street level, as new layers of buildings have been built up around it. In the 1920s, the church required such an extensive renovation that an alternative station was appointed for this day at the church of St Agatha. From 1556 to 1565, the Cardinal-Priest of this church was Scipione Rebiba; the vast majority of Latin Rite Catholic bishops (and therefore the priests ordained by them) today derive their Apostolic succession from this man through Pope Benedict XIII (1724-30).
“Corn(eliae) Pudentianeti / benem(erenti) q(uae) vixit an(nos) XLVII / d(iem) I Val(erius) Petronius mat(ri) / dulc(i) in pace. – To Cornelia Pudentianes, well-deserving, who lived for 47 years and one day; Valerius Petronius (made this) for his sweet mother (who rests) in peace.”
The apsidal mosaic was made around the end of the 4th century. It has been heavily patched and restored, and clipped off at the edges by a major renovation of the 1590s; despite this, it remains an important example of the early Church’s use of the iconography of imperial power. Christ is dressed as the Emperor, and the Apostles as senators. Many of the early Christian Emperors did not believe that their authority ended at the church’s door, and many of the early heresies were either promoted or created by the Roman Emperors. Images of this sort send the message that in the Church, Christ and His Saints are the ruling power.
This is the sixth year we have done this series on the Roman station churches, and for six years in a row, the station church for the Wedensday of the Third Week, San Sisto Vecchio, is closed for restoration. The station is therefore transferred across the street to the Basilica of Ss Nereus and Achilleus.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent - Statio at San Sisto Vecchio, currently transferred to Ss Nereus and Achilleus. (I have explained the church’s other name, “Titulus Fasciolae - the title of the bandage”, which is seen here written over the door, in an article on the station churches of Holy Week.)
The martyrs Ss Nereus and Achilleus were buried at the catacomb of Donatilla, about 2 miles away down the via Appia; Pope St Gregory the Great preached a sermon about them in a small church on the site. Their relics were later removed to the church of St Adrian in the Roman Forum. In 1596, the famous historian Cesare Baronius, one of the first Oratorians and a close friend of St Philip Neri, was made cardinal of this church, then practically a ruin, which he restored from top to bottom, and transferred into it the relics of the titular Saints. He also had the full text of St Gregory’s sermon carved into the throne, imagining it (incorrectly) to be the very throne from which it had originally been delivered.
Cardinal Baronius was also the author of the first post-Tridentine revision of the Martyrology, and worked with St Robert Bellarmine on the second edition of the Roman Breviary, published in 1602. His work focused on the lives and passions of the Saints, and was particularly concerned to emphasize the witness which the martyrs of the Rome had borne to the perennial Faith of the Catholic Church, against the claims of the early Protestants that Rome had corrupted the true teaching of the Gospels. He therefore had several images of the early martyrdoms painted on the walls of this church, dedicated to two very ancient martyrs, traditionally said have suffered in the later part of the first century.
Thursday of the Third Week - Ss Cosmas and Damian

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