Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2024 (Part 1)

This year marks the eleventh time we have run this series on the Lenten station churches in Rome! Last year, our dear friend Agnese Bazzucchi, the original Roman pilgrim, was unable to do most of them due to work commitments, but this year, she is back to attending them regularly. In past years, she has sometimes been joined in this series by other people; one of them, Mr Jacob Stein, whose work we have shared many times, will also be providing photos this year, as well as videos from his YouTube channel Crux Stationalis. Today they are also joined for one of the stations, St Peter in Chains, by another old friend from Rome, Fr Joseph Koczera SJ, and hopefully for some more occasions as the season goes on. We thank them all in advance for helping to keep up one of our favorite annual traditions - feliciter!

We start with a photo by Agnese of the Forty Hours devotion which the FSSP church in Rome, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, does every year on the three days before Ash Wednesday, according to a long-standing and widely-imitated custom which was observed in the Eternal City for centuries.

Thursday after Ash Wednesday – San Giorgio in Velabro
The stational observances are organized by the Vicariate of Rome and the Pontifical Academy for the Cult of the Martyrs; here we see the banner of the latter being carried in procession outside the church. 
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 (among many others) Bl. John Henry Newman; his predecessor in the title was Alphonse Card. Stickler.
The fresco in the apse show Christ with the Virgin Mary and St George on the left, and on the right, Ss Peter the Apostle and Sebastian. The church was originally dedicated to both of the soldier Saints, and the Gospel assigned to the day is the healing of the centurion’s servant, Matthew 8, 5-13.
Friday after Ash Wednesday – Ss John and Paul
This church has been the home of the generalate of the Passionist Order since it was given to them by Pope Clement XIV (1769-74). In 1887, a member of the order, Fr Germanus of St Stanislaus, began to dig under the church, hoping to identify the precise location of the titular martyrs’ burial. His excavation led to the discovery of a complex of twenty rooms from several different periods (late-1st to mid-5th centuries), which can now be visited by the public. Here we see the clergy and faithful gathered in one of the rooms for the procession which precedes the Mass... 
then makes its way alongside the building under these medieval support arches...
to the piazza in front of the church. The building within which the lower part of the church’s medieval bell-tower is now partially enclosed is the house of the Passionist generalate. Their founder, St Paul of the Cross, had a brother named Giovanni Battista (John the Baptist), himself now a Venerable, to whom he was very close, and who was instrumental in helping him found the order. Many years after the latter’s death, Pope Clement XIV gave the basilica to St Paul to be the first “retreat”, as the order’s houses are called, in Rome, in remembrance of his beloved brother, since the martyrs John and Paul were also brothers.
Decorations on the site of their martyrdom.
The titular Saints of the church represented in the coffered ceiling. 
Saturday after Ash Wednesday – St Trypho
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. This church is particularly diligent in bringing out all of its relics for the station day.
The First Sunday of Lent – St John in the Lateran
This is something of a signature camera shot for Agnese, catching the stational processions from the opposite side as they makes their way through the various cloisters. 
Monday of the First Week of Lent – St Peter in Chains
These photos are all by Fr Koczera.
The relics of the chains with which St Peter was held in prison, which give the church its name.
Michelangelo carved this statue of Moses, one of his most famous pieces, for the tomb of Pope Julius II (1503-13); the other sculptures on it are generally described as the work of various assistants, although some have been attributed to the master himself. The tomb was originally supposed to be set up in St Peter’s basilica, which Pope Julius began to rebuild, but after his death, the plans for it were repeatedly scaled down, until his heirs agreed to take delivery of what little had been completed, and set it up in his former cardinalitial church.
In 1706, the painter Giovanni Battista Parodi decorated the basilica’s ceiling with a fresco of a famous miracle attributed to the chains, which is also recounted in the Roman breviary, in the Matins lessons of the feast of St Peter in Chains. A count of the Holy Roman Empire was possessed by an evil spirit which caused him to bite himself; when he accompanied the Emperor Otto II to Rome in 969, Pope John XIII placed the chain around his neck, at which the demon was expelled.
The tomb of Renaissance humanist and polymath Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64), who was created a cardinal by Pope Nicholas V in 1448 and had St Peter in Chains as his titular church. His coat of arms, which he designed himself, has a crayfish on it as a nod to his family name, Krebs, German for crayfish.
Another monument to one of the church’s titular cardinals, Cinzio Aldobrandi (1551-1610), decorated by this impressive figure of Death by Pierre Le Gros the Younger (1666-1719).

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