Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2020 (Part 1)

As she does every year, our friend Agnese is making her daily Lenten pilgrimage to the Roman station churches, and sharing with NLM the photos she takes during the processions and Masses which are held each evening. This is seventh year in a row we have done this series, and once again, we offer her our heartfelt thanks for giving our readers the opportunity to follow along with this beautiful and ancient custom of the Holy See of St Peter. Over the years, we have published a great many articles about the Station churches, which you can find by putting the words “Station churches” in the search box on the top right of the page. If you don’t know what Station churches are, you might want to read this article which Shawn posted in 2010, explaining their origin and significance.

One of the bodies that organizes the stational observances, together with the Vicariate of Rome and the clergy of the individual churches, is the Pontifical Academy for the Cult of the Martyrs (Pontificia Academia Cultorum Martyrum). On February 22nd, just before Lent began, the Academy’s long-time Secretary, Dr Pier Luigi Imbrighi, unexpectedly passed away; as a member of the Academy, he worked with great dedication to promote and expand the Lenten station pilgrimage. Agnese asks our readers, especially if they have enjoyed these posts over the years, to offer a prayer for his eternal repose.
I have titled this post “Roman Pilgrims” in the plural, since once again, we will have a second pilgrim joining Agnese, Mr Jacob Stein, author of the blog PassioXP and a student at the Angelicum. All the pictures of the first station, which we do not usually include in this series, are his.
Ash Wednesday – Santa Sabina
This station is kept each year by the Pope, with a procession from the nearby church of St Anselmo; Jacob took these photo early in the morning, as things were being set up for the Papal Mass in the evening.
The cypress-wood doors of the basilica were made ca. 420-440; seventeen of the surviving panels (out of the original 28) depict Biblical scenes, including the oldest image of the Crucifixion made for public display.
The basilica owes much of its current appearance to restoration works done in the 1920s by Antonio Muñoz; the painting on the proscenium arch around the frescoed apse is his reconstruction of what the original 5th century mosaic might have looked like, but solely in terms of outline and motif. The apsidal fresco was painted by Taddeo Zaccari in 1559, copying the motif, but not the style, of the original mosaic.
Thursday after Ash Wednesday – San Giorgio in Velabro
The church is staffed by the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross, also known in English as the Crosier Fathers, who wear a red and white cross on their scapular.
His Eminence Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology, comes each year to personally celebrated the station in his title church, which he holds in the illustrious company of St John Henry Newman; his predecessor in the title was Alphonse Card. Stickler.
From Jacob; the baldachin over the high altar, and the apsidal fresco, painted by the Roman artist Pietro Cavallini, ca. 1295. Christ is depicted in the middle, with the Virgin and St George on the left, St Peter and the martyr St Theodore, whose church is stone’s throw away, on the right.
Friday after Ash Wednesday – Ss John and Paul on the Caelian Hill
The procession passes from the gardens of the Passionist Fathers, who were given charge of the church by Pope Clement XIV (1769-74), through the medieval brick constructions which support their house, and into the piazza in front of the church. The marble blocks seen on the right are part of the podium of the temple of the divinized Emperor Claudius.
A fragmentary fresco of the 12th century behind the altar of the Blessed Sacrament.
From Jacob: the beautiful coffered ceiling, installed during a major restoration of the church in the 18th century, which unfortunately erased much of its medieval character.
Saturday after Ash Wednesday – St Augustine
In the Roman Missal, the Station is listed at a church called St Trypho, which was demolished in 1595. The relics of Trypho and his companions, Respicius and Nympha, were transferred along with the Lenten Station to the nearby church of St Augustine, and now repose in the high altar.
At many of the Lenten stational observances, large numbers of reliquaries are set out, and relics are offered for the veneration of the faithful.
The First Sunday of Lent – St John in the Lateran
Procession in the cloister before Mass
From Jacob: the base of the Lateran obelisk, the Lateran palace, and the loggia on the north side of the basilica. The palace was constructed under Pope Sixtus V (1585-90) by the architect Domenico Fontana, and completed in 1589; since the reign of St John XXIII, it has housed the offices of the vicariate of Rome. The palace was intended to be the official residence of the Popes, but no Pope, including Sixtus himself, ever decided to actually live there. The inscription above the loggia says that it was made “for blessings”, the idea being that large gatherings of pilgrims would be able to assemble in the piazza and be blessed by the Pope personally, but it has probably never been used for this purpose.
The Lateran obelisk is the largest surviving object of its kind, even though, with the loss of a large section at the bottom, it is now about 13 feet shorter and 125 tons lighter than it originally was. Begun by Pharaoh Thutmose III (1479-25 BC), and finished by his grandson Thutmose IV (1400-1390), it was set up at the famous temple of Amon in Karnak. Constantine had it and its twin brought to Alexandria, intended to send them both to Constantinople, but the Lateran obelisk was left behind until 357, when his son Constantius II had it shipped to Rome and set up in the Circus Maximus. In 1587, it was dug out of the site of the Circus in three pieces, restored, and set in its new location, traditionally (but falsely) said to be the site of Constantine’s baptism. (The twin was eventually brought to Constantinople in 390 by Theodosius I, where is still stands to this day, and set up on the spine of the great hippodrome.)

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: