Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2018 (Part 6)

This year’s is the fifth edition of our Lenten series of visits to the station churches, and for five years in a row, the station church for the Wednesday 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. The same holds true for Santa Susanna on Saturday, also closed for a major restoration; the station is therefore held across the piazza at Santa Maria della Vittoria, the home of one of Bernini’s greatest sculptural achievements, The Ecstasy of St Theresa.

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.)

Fr Alek took some pictures on a visit to San Sisto last year, although the church itself is in such bad shape that no one is allowed into it. This chapel is within the ancient chapter house of the Dominican Sisters who have been at the church since 1219; its columns were taken from the ancient basilica when its size was reduced in the 1200s.
This painting in the cloister depicts an apparition of the devil to St Dominic which is said to have happened at the convent of San Sisto. A demon appeared to him at night in the form of a monkey, which mocked him for ignoring the poor and sick in favor of his studies; in response, Dominic ordered the ape to carry his candle, saying, “Thy name was Lucifer before thy fall, and light again thou now shalt bear and be, at least, of some use.” Powerless, the demon was forced to serve the Saint in this manner until the taper burned down and singed his hands, at which point he fled.
Thursday of the Third Week - Ss Cosmas and Damian
In the first year of this series, Agnese was unable to make this station because an important foreign dignitary was visiting the Colosseum, and the entire area leading up it, including the street by which one reaches this church, was closed. The tradition continues, and this year, she was prevented from getting there by one of the endless strikes which make life in Italy so ... colorful. These are all from Fr Alek, starting with the portraits of the titular Saints in the ceiling of the nave, which was added to the church in the 1620s.
A part of the mosaic of the apse, which dates from 527 AD, with St Peter presenting one of the two Saints (they are not visibly distingished from each other) to Christ.
In the 1620s, the church was divided into two parts by the insertion of a floor two stories above the original floor, since the area was within the Tiber’s flood-plain, and the church was a musty ruin. The black columns seen here were removed from the altar of the lower church and reinstalled in the new altar of the upper church, as was the 13th-century fresco of the Madonna and Child.
Friday of the Third Week - San Lorenzo in Lucina
Within this side altar are enclosed the relics of part of St Lawrence’s grill.
In the magnificent painting of the Crucifixion by Guido Reni (1575-1642), the body of Christ is pale and white against a much darker background. The effect is not evident here because of the lighting, but normally, one can see the body of Christ raised above the altar at a distance, even standing outside the church in the piazza, a reminder of the Elevation of the Host during the Mass. (Fr Alek)
Saturday of the Third Week of Lent - Santa Susanna, currently transferred to Santa Maria della Vittoria. (Fr Alek) 
The façade of Santa Susanna
The North American College held its stational Mass in the morning across the piazza at Santa Maria della Vittoria, as did the Vicariate of Rome in the evening. Originally a chapel dedicated to St Paul and administered by the Discalced Carmelites, it was was rededicated to the Blessed Virgin in 1620 after the Battle of White Mountain, which reversed the progress of the Reformation in Bohemia.
Decorations in the ceiling. “Let the victory be ascribed to my name.”
The Fourth Sunday of Lent - Holy Cross “in Jerusalem”
Built in 325 to house the relics of the Lord’s Passion that were brought to Rome by St Helena, the designation “in Jerusalem” refers to the tradition that soil was brought from the Holy Land to Rome and spread over the ground where the church was to be constructed. This was the traditional station church also for Good Friday, where the Pope would venerate the relics of the True Cross. (Also from Fr Alek. Readers may remember that we covered a Mozarabic Mass celebrated here two years ago.)
Part of the fresco of the apse, a work of the late 15th-century variously attributed to Antoniazzo Romano or Marco Palmezzano.
An ancient Roman statue of Juno, found in Ostia and transformed into St Helen by the addition of the Cross (as well as the head and arms, which were missing at the time of its discovery.)

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