Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stational Churches of Lent: Ember Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent

Station: St. Peter's Basilica
(Collecta: S. Maria in Transpontina)

[As we are all more than familiar with St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, it hardly needs many photos. Accordingly, I've decided to focus on the pre-renaissance Constantinian basilica of St. Peter's for the most part.]

And finally, new St. Peter's:

Bl. Ildefonso Schuster, The Sacramentary:
St. Mary in Transpontina stood, as ancient writers tell us, in capite porticus; that is to say, between the Aelian Bridge and the colonnade which led to St. Peter's. Near by was the terebinthus Neronis... The church was destroyed, perhaps, under Pius IV (1559-65), and the one which now bears its name is not an ancient building, nor does it stand on the original site, but about three hundred yards nearer the Vatican.


The station at the Vatican Basilica was prompted by the eminently Roman idea that every transmission of ecclesiastical power, through the conferring of one of the sacred orders, was derived from the supremem power of Peter... The surroundings were especially inspiring. That ancient basilica... was the monument of the victory of Christianity over Paganism, on the very spot where Nero crucified the first Pope.

From the Churches of Rome Wiki:
The story of the basilica starts with the martyrdom of Peter. It is built on the site of the Circus of Caligula and Nero, where the Apostle and first Bishop of Rome was crucified in the year 64 or 67. Peter was buried in the cemetery next to the Circus. In the second half of the 2nd century, a monument was erected over St Peter's tomb. Eusebius of Caesarea, Church historian and Bishop at Constantine's time, referred to it as a trophy symbolizing the Apostle's victorious faith. Part of this memorial is still visible in the crypt. It was originally 1,80 meters wide and 2,30 meters high.

The first church here was built about 324–329 over the tomb of St Peter, on the orders of Emperor Constantine. Preparation of the area, which was difficult to build on, was started earlier, in 319. It was consecrated by Pope Sylvester I in 326, and it is thought that construction was completed in 349...

The 3rd century memorial to the Apostle remained the center of attention. It was set in a rectangular, marble-coated prism which was visible from the nave. Through an opening in the pavement, objects such as strips of cloth could be lowered down to the monument to make relics. The monument was surmounted by a bronze canopy supported by four twisted columns.

In front of the basilica was an atrium, with a fountain in the shape of a pine cone. The façade had rich mosaic decoration showing symbols of Christ and the Apostles. Inside the basilica, the nave was about 91 metres long. It ended in a triumphal arch, with mosaic decoration showing Constantine donating the basilica. Beyond that, the apse has a mosaic depiction of Christ with Peter and Paul. On the walls of the nave, there were frescoes showing scenes from the Bible, as well as portraits of the popes.

Under Pope St Leo the Great (440–461), the façade and nave were decorated with mosaics and frescoes. The sanctuary was altered by Pope St Gregory the Great (590–604). By raising it 1-1.5 meters, he made it possible to build the first semi-circular crypt. This made it easier for pilgrims to venerate the tomb of the Apostle, as they could now approach it by one staircase and leave by another. The high altar was moved to the confessio, exactly above the tomb.

Pope Leo IV (847–855) built walls around the area of the basilica, to protect it from raiding Saracens. It was therefore given the name "Leonine City".

The sanctuary was raised further under Pope Callixtus II (1119–1124), to protect and preserve respect for the shrine of St Peter.

In 1377, when the papacy returned from Avignon, the Vatican was made the official residence of the Pope.

The basilica was in a bad state by the time of the papacy of Nicholas V (1447–1455). He asked Bernardo Rossellino to design a new church. Work started 1452, but at the death of Nicholas V in 1455 it was suspended for nearly 50 years, with the exception of some activity during the papacy of Paul II. By then, they had not gotten further than demolishing the old basilica. It was Pope Julius II (1503–1513) who finally started work on the new basilica. Donato Bramante was given the job of designing it. He designed a Greek cross plan, with a large central dome. At his death in 1511, Raphael, Fra Giocondo da Verona and Antonio da Sangallo were commissioned to continue. As more space was needed, a longer nave was added, creating a Latin cross plan rather than a Greek cross. As the last of the three new architects, da Sangallo, died in 1546, Michelangelo was asked to complete the church. He attempted to return to Bramante's design, and it is mainly in the area of the apse that his work can be seen. He also designed the main dome, but died before it was completed. Vignola followed, and then in 1573 Giacomo della Porta. The dome was completed by Domenico Fontana in 1589, and inaugurated in 1593.

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