Friday, April 7, 2017

New Series of Posts... soon.

It's been great being able to share with so many of you the many experiences and great history of the Station Churches here in Rome.  But, sadly, that series comes to an end (even though there are a few more churches to visit).

You see, tomorrow I leave Rome to begin a 5-day walk on the Camino de Santiago - the ancient pilgrim route which ends in Santiago de Compestella, Spain.  We hope to arrive there on Holy Thursday and then participate in the Sacred Triduum there in Santiago.  

Then, Easter Sunday, we begin part two of our journey - a few days in Lisbon, Portugal - then on to Fatima - just a month prior to the 100th anniversary of the apparitions.

I'll post things as I can.

Be assured of my prayers!  Please remember me in yours as well.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent - Sant'Apolinare

St. Apollinaris, the founding bishop of the see of Ravenna, may have been born near Antioch in Syria, though this is uncertain.  He is recorded as having been the first bishop of Ravenna and persisted in his ministry there despite being physically beaten many times, sometimes almost to the point of death.  He finally died after one such attack in Classe, a suburb of Ravenna.  While the exact date of his death is unknown, some hypothesize that it took place under Septimus Severus, at the turn of the third century.  The first record of a church on this site is during the pontificate of Pope Adrian I (r. 772-795), with general agreement that the church dates from the late seventh or early eighth century.  Previously, this was the site of the Baths of Nero and Alexander and the administration of the marble quarries during the imperial period.  The dedication to St. Apollinaris may come from the fact that Rome was under Byzantine control at the time, with the administration based in Ravenna.  It is thought that Basilian monks were the first in residence here.  The first church was demolished and replaced with the current one by Pope Benedict XIV, being dedicated in 1748.  At the time it was attached to the German College.  This was run by the Jesuits, and after their suppression in 1773, the college building passed through the hands of several other organizations until being recently renovated to house the University of the Holy Cross, run by the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei.  In 1990, the basilica came under the control of Opus Dei.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent - San Marcello

As he lay dying in the stables to which he had been condemned to labor, the aged Pope Marcellus would hardly have imagined that this church in his name would one day stand on this site.  Elected in 308, he was faced almost immediately with the issue of the re-admittance to communion of those who had denied the faith during the persecutions - to which issue he responded by upholding the traditional period of penance.  Arrested some months later, he was made to work in the imperial stables just off the main road which is now the Via del Cross.  Some traditions say that this had been the location of an oratory consecrated by him, turned into stables by the Romans to humiliate him and the Church.  After suffering in the difficult labor, he would die shortly thereafter.  His remains are venerated here -  buried under the high altar.


In the late fourth and early fifth century, the first church was built here in his honor as part of a program to replace house churches with larger structures.  This woulds soon enter into history for the dubious honor of being the seat of the antipope Boniface in 418, a role it would again serve in the early twelfth century when another antipope occupied the church.  A baptismal font, built sometime soon after the fifth century, was present here, of which the remains were discovered in 1912.  This marks the church as being of some significance, since the ordinary place of baptism was still the Lateran.  

Adrian I undertook repairs here in the late eighth century, and sometime in the early twelfth century the church was completely demolished and replaced with a new one.  However, a fire on 23 May, 1519 would cut the life of this church short - with the most significant survivor of the disaster being a crucifix, now venerated in a side chapel.  This crucifix is brought to St. Peter's Basilica during jubilee years to be venerated by the faithful.

There was a lovely prayer available to pray before this crucifix.  I offer it here for you to spiritual join me in this pilgrimage:

I kneel at your feet, O Crucified Jesus, to adore and thank you for the gift of your life to me.
You wipe away my tears, you are my support in the difficult moments, you listen to my complaint; you accept my paint together with yours.   You know my tired heart, happy only to love you, and you help me to accept the difficulties of life.  Often I don't think of your pain and I come to present mine to you, but you set your hands on me and console me, you take care of my wounds with your love, you welcome me into your arms and make me feel your heart which burns of love for me.
I knock now at your heart asking you this grace...
If what I ask is according to your will, grant it to me, O Lord.  O Crucified Jesus, your Mother Mary is near to you; welcome all suffering people and be their consolation and hope.  Amen.

The most holy Crucifix remained providential intact after the fire that, in the night between the 22nd and 23rd of May, 1519, destroyed the ancient Basilica.  It is an ancient, majestic and expressive wooden sculpture of the XIV century covered with gold dust.  

Beginning in 1525 and continuing for the next 70 years, the work of reconstruction took place, with the orientation of the church being reversed so that the facade faced the Via del Cross.  The later years of the 17th century would see some final modifications to the site, as the Romanesque campanile was demolished and the current facade, designed by Carlo Fontana, was constructed.  The interior was restored in the 1860's, and it is in this form that the building comes down to us today.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday of the 5th Week of Lent - Santa Maria in Via Late

Taken from and "Procedemus in Pace."  
If the Via del Corso could tell the tale of its history, it would make for quite a story, since along this route would have passed some of the great figures of this city's history: not only Caesar coming into the city after crossing the Rubicon and Constantine after his victory as Milvian Bridge, but also a continuous stream of ordinary folk, among whom may well have been the great Apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul.  Tradition holds that he stayed here for part of his time in Rome.  Archeologists have found remains dating back to the first century A.D. beneath the church, possibly being part of the actual house in which St. Paul stayed.  In the third century, a large outdoor portico with several small shops was built on this site, running from here up as far as Piazza Venezia.  At some point after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, some of this structure was converted into a diaconia, part of which was a small oratory.  This transformation happened possibly as early as the late fifth or sixth century.  Some rooms from this oratory remain underneath the present church, and in these are fragments of frescoes depicting various Christian scenes, including some of the imprisonment of St. Paul.  Some centuries later the diaconia was replaced by a church, consecrated in 1049.  This church had the opposite orientation as the current one, with the sanctuary being closer to the Via del Corso, also known as the Via Lata or “wide street” because this was one of the largest streets in the city at the time.  Around this time, this church became used for the stational Mass of today, as the assigned station, St. Cyricaus, had by then fallen into ruin.

At the end of the fifteenth century, this church was in turn replaced with the current one, with demolition beginning in 1491 and the new church, with the orientation changed so that it faced the Via del Corso, being dedicated in 1506.  At this time the Triumphal Arch of Diocletian was also demolished, which once stood near the current location of the front doors of the church.  The present church owes most of its appearance to the mid-seventeenth century.  Beginning in 1636 and continuing over the next 15 years, the interior was renovated, beginning with the apse and sanctuary and continuing with the nave.  The current façade, complementing the surrounding palace of the Doria-Pamphilij family, was built between 1658 and 1662, with the lower church, including some of the remains of the old diaconia, being restored at the same time.  Decoration continued into the early eighteenth century, giving us the current appearance.  Pope Pius IX was a canon here in the time before his election to the papacy.

It is from the modern Via del Corso, as busy as in earlier ages, that you enter this church today.  While the lower church is usually closed, you reach it through the doors opening off of the left side of the porch.  The interior is clearly a piece of its time, being richly adorned in the baroque style.  The deep red columns compliment the dark wood of the furnishings.  The walls are decorated with paintings illustrating scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin and Christ.  Int he left aisle are side altars dedicated to St. Lawrence and St. Paul, while on the right are the baptistery and altars dedicated to St. Andrew, St. Nicholas and St. Blaise.  
The sanctuary has a long choir, screened off from the side aisles, in front of the high altar in the apse.  The apse is decorated with a scene of the Assumption, designed by Bernini.  In the center is an icon of the Madonna Protectress, dating from the 3rd quarter of the 12th century.  Within the high altar are the relics of the martyrs St. Cyriacus, the patron of today's original station, and St. Agapitus.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday of the 5th Week of Lent - San Crisogono

Although one would never suspect it approaching this basilica, which sits along the side of a busy city street, this location has a strong claim to being the site of the oldest purpose-built church in Rome.  It is connected with the name of Chrysogonus, a fourth century military officer martyred under Diocletian in 304 in northern Italy, near the city of Aquileia.  His cult soon became popular in Rome, with his name being included in the Roman Canon.  Soon after these persecutions ended, a large hall was constructed on this site, to which an apse was later added.  Many archeologists see this as a building intended from the start for Christian worship, apparently built even before the Edict of Milan.  

Looking down into the foundations of the original church
Later in the fourth century, further provision for liturgical functions was made, a sign of the increasing level of comfort that Roman Christians felt about publicly expressing their faith.  This building apparently lasted until the early twelfth century, as the current building was begun in 1123 somewhat to the right of the original basilica; the left row of columns in the nave stand over the right wall of the original church.  The floor of the current basilica dates from around this period, being a good example of cosmateque stonework.  Mosaic sections of the floor near the sanctuary depict the heraldic symbols of the Borghese family, added under Scipione Cardinal Borghese.  He is largely responsible for the current interior of the building, dating from a renovation in 1623.  The cardinal’s name can be found on the pediment over the porch, as well as on the ciborium over the altar.  A further renovation was carried out in the mid-1860s, from which the chapel at the end of the left aisle and the choir stalls in the apse are the two most noteworthy additions.  This was shortly after the basilica was placed in the care of the Trinitarian Order, who still serve here today.

Symbol of the Trinitarians inside the Baldacchino
Up the left aisle is a chapel dedicated to Bl. Anna Maria Taigi (1769-1837) - a Trinitarian tertiary who is recognized for her sanctity in family life, her charitable deeds, and her mystical prayer life.  Her body is under the altar, over which is an image of Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners.  Other images are of Trinitarian saints, including St. Felix of Valois prayer with the Blessed Virgin, and another of her giving money to St. John de Matha for the payment of a ransom.  These two saints are the founders of the Trinitarian order, originally created for the purpose of freeing Christian slaves.

Above the baroque ciborium in the sanctuary is a stucco relief depriving the trial and martyrdom of St. Chrysogonus.  Lower is a late 13th century mosaic of the enthroned Madonna and Child between St. Chrysogonus and St. James the Greaser  relics of both os whom are beneath the high altar, visible through a grate.

Entering the sacristy we were able to go down to the excavations of the earlier church (mentioned above).  Normally it is difficult to get down there - but they opened it up for us this morning.  Incredible to see the ancient foundations of this Church!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sunday of the 5th Week of Lent - St. Peter's

Today, as we begin "Passion-tide" the Station schedule has us return to St. Peter's Basilica.  Since I am not in Rome today, we'll take a break.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday of the 4th Week of Lent - San Nicola in Carcere

We come today to one of the most unique churches in the stational list, St. Nicholas in Prison.  St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra, in present-day Turkey, in the early fourth century.  He was imprisoned during the persecutions of Diocletian, being released after the Edict of Milan.  Just over a decade later he would be among the defenders of the orthodox party at the First Council of Nicea.  He is perhaps better remembered for the many charitable deeds he performed during his ministry, such as paying the dowry for three daughters of a poor man (thus becoming the man behind St. Nicholas - AKA Santa Claus)

The current church building is built in the remains of three Roman temples which once stood on the edge of the Forum Holitorium, the vegetable market of the ancient city.  After the decline of the city during the middle of the first millennium, the church of St. Nicholas was built on their site.  It is possible that one of these had been used as a prison for a time, leading to the name of the church.  The church was certainly in existence by the late eighth century, likely beginning as a diaconia.  The columns were recycled, likely from one of the temples on this site.  In the medieval period some additions were made to the church, including the bell tower, which is built in a different style than most in the city.  The current façade dates from 1599, and the interior was renovated under Bl. Pope Pius IX in the mid-nineteenth century.