Tuesday, March 09, 2021

A Roman Pilgrim at the Station Churches 2021 (Part 4)

Once again, we have a good number of relics in our latest set of photos from Agnese’s visits to the Roman station churches. As always, our thanks to her for sharing these with us.

Friday of the Second Week of Lent – San Vitale
This church was first dedicated in the year 416; modern constructions around it, including the street on which it sits, the via Nazionale, are on a much higher level, and one must now descend a rather large staircase to reach it. It is a very old custom to strew greenery on the floors of churches during the station Masses, as we see in the second photo here; nobody seems to really know where this comes from or why it is done. This is the first time as far as I know that we have seen the name of the Saint written out in greenery like this (I’m also not sure why it’s in the accusative case).
Saturday of the Second Week of Lent – Ss Peter and Marcellinus
This church was originally built 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.
The Third Sunday of Lent – St Lawrence Outside the Walls
This is one of Rome’s oldest basilicas, 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 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 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
This 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. The apsidal mosaic was made in the reign of Pope Gregory IV (824-44), who was cardinal priest of this church before his election to the Papacy, following the stylistic lead of Pope St Paschal I, who had made him a cardinal.
Tuesday of the Third Week – St 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. 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).
Last May, on the feast day of the church’s titular Saint, I wrote an article about its apsidal mosaic, which is the oldest Christian mosaic preserved in a Roman church.

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