Saturday, March 16, 2024

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2024 (Part 3)

In the eleven years we have run this series, we have had a number of interruptions, when, for one reason or another, our Roman pilgrim friends were unable to make it to the stational churches. So this year we lost the second half of the second week of Lent, and the beginning of the third, to Agnese having a serious cold, work commitments, and the ever-popular Roman public transport strike. (Maybe two strikes... who can tell?) Things should be back on track now to the end of Passion week, so it’s time to do some catching up. We also have some videos from Jacob Stein’s YouTube channel Crux Stationalis, and a some photos from our newest Roman pilgrim, Fr Joseph Koczera SJ. Our thanks to them all for sharing with us these testimonies of the Faith in the Eternal City!

Monday of the Second Week of Lent – St Clement
This basilica is famously built on top of two earlier levels; the 12th-century church 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 (1st picture), makes its way upstairs and through the large portico, before entering the main church for the Mass. Also notice in the 6th 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.
Agnese has a real knack for catching photos of the station processions from one side of the portico or cloister as they make their way through the opposite side.

The church’s liturgical choir, and the three ambos which form part of it, date to a mid-6th century restoration of the old basilica; they were removed from the ruins of it and set in place in the new basilica when it was built at the beginning of the 12th century.
“Here is happily buried St Clement, Pope and Martyr.” Clement was exiled by the Emperor Trajan out to the Black Sea ca. 105 AD, and then thrown into it with an anchor tied to his neck, which became his symbol. During their evangelizing mission to the Slavs in the 9th century, Ss Cyril and Methodius discovered his remains and brought them back to Rome, so they were of course placed in the ancient basilica dedicated to him. St Cyril died while he was in Roman, and was also buried in the church; his relics are now in a side-chapel of the upper church.

Wednesday of the Second Week – St Cecilia in Trastevere
This church has for many centuries been home to a community of cloistered Benedictine nuns; the annual stational procession is one of the few occasions for which they leave their enclosure.
The beautiful Gothic baldachin over the high altar was designed and built by Arnolfo di Cambio (ca. 1240- 1300/10), who did several important sculptural projects in various parts of Italy, and was the first architect of the massive cathedral of Florence.
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 Third Sunday of Lent
In the Byzantine Rite, the Third Sunday of Lent is dedicated to the veneration of the Cross; Fr Koczera took these pictures at the church of St Anthony the Abbot, which is part of the Pontifical Russian College, very close to St Mary Major. As described in a recent article, a cross is set up in the middle of the church for veneration, from Vespers of the preceding Saturday until None of the following Friday. ~ The choir of the Russicum, as it usually called, is one of the finest representatives of the Slavic choral tradition in the world, and the Holy Week services held here are particularly beautiful.
Tuesday of the Third Week – St Pudentiana
Like some other station churches (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. In the 1920s, the church required such an extensive renovation that an alternative station was appointed for this day at the church of St Agatha. (It is apparently scheduled for another major restoration soon, so this may be the last time we see it for a while.) ~ 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).

The church has undergone many restorations, most notably, a radical transformation in the later 16th century, at a point when it was practically in ruins. This “restoration” clipped off much of the lower part of the apsidal mosaic, and a good portion of the sides as well; as a result, Christ now appears in the company of ten of the Apostles, rather than the customary twelve. In the upper part are seen the four animals which represent the four Evangelists; this is one of the oldest images of them, from the later part of the 4th century. At the time it was made, this tradition was generally accepted, but had not yet been confirmed precisely as we now know it. Ss Jerome and Augustine, who were both alive when the church was built, give slightly different explanations of which animal represents which writer, and both differ from St Irenaeus. Going from left to right, they appear in the order which Jerome gives (man – Matthew; lion – Mark; bull – Luke; eagle – John) in the prologue of his commentary on the Gospel of St Matthew. Since Jerome had lived in Rome, and been the secretary to Pope St Damasus I, who died in 384, it is quite possible that the artist or his patron took this arrangement directly from a personal conversation with the Saint.
A tradition of uncertain historical reliability has it that this church was built within the house of a Roman Senator named Pudens, who hosted St Peter for many years when he came to Rome. This side altar contains a relic said to be part of the table on which St Peter habitually celebrated Mass, the rest of which is in the baldachin over the high altar of the Lateran basilica. The sculpture of Christ giving the keys to Peter was done by the sculptor Giacomo della Porta, Michelangelo’s successor-but-one as chief architect of St Peter’s Basilica.

Wednesday of the Third Week – St Sixtus
This church was originally built at the very end of the fourth century, and known from its founder as the “title of Crescentiana.” By at least the mid-7th century, it had been renamed for St Sixtus II, the martyred Pope who is named in the Canon of the Mass, and figures prominently in the legendum of St Lawrence, since his relics had been moved here from the catacomb of Callixtus. A convent of Dominican nuns was established here within the lifetime of St Dominic, although they later moved; a new order of Dominican nuns has had it since the 1890s.
Last year, the tenth edition of this series, was the first time we showed the interior of the church, which had been for many years in the process of a badly needed restoration. This year, however, the stational Mass was celebrated in the chapter hall off the cloister, since the main church was too cold. This is the very room where St Dominic raised from the dead a young Roman nobleman named Napoleone Orsini, who had been thrown from a horse and trampled.

A relic of the True Cross.
Late medieval frescos of Dominican Saints.
Friday of the Third Week – St Lawrence in Lucina
The Crucifixion over the high altar is one of the most famous works of the Baroque painter Guido Reni (1575-1642), and one of his very last, completed in 1639-40. The very pale body of Christ on the dark background can be seen quite clearly even when standing in the piazza outside the church, and is intended to remind the viewer of the elevation of the Host at Mass.
Photos by Fr Koczera:the altar of this side-chapel contains a relic of the grid-iron on which St Lawrence was roasted alive.
The French Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) is buried in the church, with this monument to him erected by François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) when the latter was French ambassador to the Papal States.
A chapel dedicated to the Annunciation, with a copy of a painting by Reni.
Another great artist buried in the church is the highly prolific composer Luca Marenzio (1553/4-99), who write many Masses and motets, and over 500 madrigals, many on religious themes.
Two interesting inscriptions from the twelfth century, preserved in the church’s portico. The one on the left commemorates the consecration of the completed church by Antipope Anacletus II in 1130. (Since he was an antipope, Celestine III reconsecrated it in 1196.) The inscription on the right commemorates the consecration of the church’s main altar in 1112 by Cardinal Leone Marsicano, also known as Leone of Ostia (c. 1046-1115).
An image venerated in a chapel on the outskirts of Rome, the mosaic icon of the Madonna del Divino Amore, was temporarily moved to San Lorenzo in Lucina in 1944 at the instigation of Pope Pius XII, who invited the faithful to pray before the image so that the city might be spared the destruction of war. With peace restored and the image returned to its sanctuary, this memorial with a reproduction of the icon was installed at San Lorenzo in Lucina as a sign of thanksgiving.

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