Saturday, March 19, 2022

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches (Part 3)

Our thanks once again to Agnese and Jacob for sharing with us their photos and videos of the Lenten stational churches in Rome. This particular set has a lot of really good photos of reliquaries, which many churches make a special display of for the station day.
Monday of the Second Week of Lent – St Clement
This basilica is famously built on top of two earlier levels; the 12th-century church (seen below in the second and third pictures) sits on top of a church of the 4th century, which in turn sits on top of two ancient Roman buildings, one of the later 1st and another of the mid-2nd century. (All three of these levels are accessible to the public.) The procession begins in the ruins of the ancient basilica, makes its way upstairs and through the large portico, before entering for the Mass. Also notice in the 1st photo the custom of strewing greenery on the floors of churches during the station Masses; nobody seems to really know where this comes from or why it is done.
When the ancient basilica was buried in order to turn it into the foundation of the new one, the whole altar and choir (seen above) were dismantled and reassembled on what is now the upper level. The altar seen here, therefore is a new construction, installed to make the lower church usable again.

In the background are seen some of the frescoes added to the church in the later part of the 11th century, shortly before the ancient church was burnt down and then buried, and thus in relatively good condition. This painting shows St Clement celebrating Mass.

The procession passes around the courtyard before entering the church.
Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent – St Balbina
A friend of mine used to joke that half of the churches in Rome could be given the same name, “Our Lady of Perpetual Restoration”, which is funny precisely because it is so close to the truth. For years now, the church of St Balbina on the Aventine Hill has been closed for restoration, and the station transferred to nearby San Saba; this year, neither Agnese nor Jacob was able to get there.  
Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent – St Cecilia
The angle of this photograph hides the fact that the bell-tower of this church leans a couple of degrees to the left. The columns in the porch were despoiled from ancient Roman buildings, as was so commonly done in the Middle Ages.  
The famous statue of St Cecilia by Stefano Maderno, depicting her as her body was said to have been found when her tomb was opened in 1599.

The beginning of this video shows an old Italian custom to which the cloistered Benedictines sisters who have their convent here have remained faithful. Whenever a procession is held, someone will stand near the door of any church which it passes and wave a smoking thurible back and forth, although it is not lifted up by the chain and swung towards a particular person or object as one does during the Mass.  
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent – Santa Maria in Trastevere
In the 18th century, a canon of this basilica named Marcantonio Boldetti (1663-1749) brought a large number of inscriptions from various catacombs, and placed them in the walls of this church’s portico. Mariano Armellini (1852-96), author of Le Chiese di Roma, one of the most useful and comprehensive guides to the churches of Rome, calls him the “pio saccheggiatore - pious plunderer” of the catacombs. Boldetti himself, and a distant relative of Armellini, Cardinal Francesco Armellini dei Medici (1470-1528) are buried in the church.

Friday of the Second Week of Lent – St Vitalis
San Vitale 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 the church.

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent – Ss Peter and Marcellinus
This church was originally constructed 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 nearly as much as San Vitale.

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