Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2023 (Part 3)

For this installment of our annual Lenten station series, I have changed the title back to “Roman Pilgrims” in the plural, since Agnese was able to attend one of them. Our thanks once again to both her and Jacob for sharing their pictures with us, and be sure to check out the videos from Jacob’s YouTube channel, Crux Stationalis. It just works out that each of the churches shown here has preserved some beautiful medieval mosaics.

The Second Sunday of Lent – Santa Maria in Domnica
The apsidal mosaic of this church is one of three that survived from the time of Pope St Paschal I, who is here shown kneeling at the feet of the Virgin Mary, the titular Saint, with a square blue halo. This was a way of indicating that the person portrayed was alive at the time the image was made, dating it to before the Pope’s death in 822. 
Christ the Pantocrator at the top of the proscenium arch.
The wooden paneled ceiling was made in the time of Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici, who held the title of this church until his election to the papacy, with the name Leo X, in 1513. Each section represents a title of the Virgin Mary from an earlier form of the Litany of Loreto.  
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 first and last two 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.

The splendid apsidal mosaic is contemporary to the rebuilding of the church, in the 12th century, and is very well preserved in its original form.
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 first five photos here are by Agnese. The cloistered Benedictines sisters who have their convent at here have remained faithful to an old Italian custom by which 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.
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.

In the apsidal mosaic, St Paschal I, with Ss Cecilia and Paul, Christ, and the Apostle Peter; to the right of Peter are Cecilia’s husband, Valerian, and St Agnes. 
Relics on the high altar.
Thursday of the Second Week of Lent – Santa Maria in Trastevere
The mosaic on the upper part of this church’s façade shows the Virgin and Child with the wise and foolish virgins of the parable in Matthew 25, 1-13.

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.

Like most of Rome’s great churches, this one was completely rebuilt; in this case, in the 1140s, by Pope Innocent II. The apsidal mosaic, which is contemporary to the rebuilding, shows Christ and the Virgin, along with various Saints associated with the church.
A great shot, Jacob!

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