Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Church of St Gregory the Great in Rome

After reading yesterday’s post about St Gregory the Great, our friend Jordan Hainsey sent in some photographs of the principal Roman church dedicated to him, known as “St Gregory on the Caelian Hill.” The church was originally just an simple oratory on the property of a villa which belonged to Pope Gregory’s family, and which he converted into a monastery; it was from this place that he sent the monastery’s quondam prior, St Augustine of Canterbury, and his companions on the famous mission to the Anglo-Saxons. As is the case with many Roman churches, it was originally dedicated to another Saint, in this case, the Apostle Andrew, but later came to be renamed for its founder; since 1573. it has been a Camaldolese monastery.

At the entrance to a side chapel is an ancient Roman marble chair from the 1st century B.C. which is held by tradition to be the cathedra on which Pope Gregory sat when presiding at liturgies in the church.

On one of the sanctuary’s side walls is late-7th century icon of the Madonna and Child. Tradition claims that Saint Gregory prayed before this picture, and that the Madonna spoke to him.
Adjacent to the church in the garden is a complex of three chapels. Inside the one dedicated to Saint Barbara is a large marble table, at which twelve poor people were invited to take a meal every day, being served by St Gregory himself. The walls are covered with frescoes by Antonio Viviani of 1602, and includes a panel showing the story of how an angel once arrived disguised as one of the twelve poor people, and was entertained by the saint before suddenly vanishing.

At the end of the right side aisle is the Chapel of Saint Gregory; the altarpiece by Sisto Badalocchio shows Saint Gregory Inspired by the Holy Spirit. (1606)

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