Wednesday, February 20, 2013

San Ceciliae: The Church of St. Cecilia

What: Church dedicated to St. Cecilia; her body is buried in the crypt here
Where: in Trastevere, built over the house of St. Cecilia

  • The urn in the fountain in front is over 2,000 years old, forerunner of the modern holy water font
  • Palinpcest--the bel tower is medieval, the facade is baroque
  • Baldacchino is gothic, contemporary with Dante

Famous sculpture of St. Cecilia's incorrupt body exactly as it was found in the catacombs
Baldacchino and apse mosaics
Single rose that was in bloom in the courtyard out front on the cold day we visited

San Benedetto in Piscinula


What: church built in the house where St. Benedict stayed during his time in Rome
Where: in Trastevere
When: 500 AD

  • smallest bell tower in Rome
  • oldest bell tower in Rome, dates back to 1067
  • has the only Cosmati floors in Rome that have not been reset
Cosmati floors

San Chrisogono

What: church taken care of by the Trinitarian Fathers, who were founded in the middle ages to ransom slaves
Who:  restored by Scipione Borghese


  • the floors are opus sectile style, done by the Cosmati family
  • The incorrupt body of Blessed Maria Tiagi, a Roman housewife who died in 1837, is here
  • A relic of St. John of Matha, founder of the Trinitarian Fathers, is here
  • The relics of St. James the Lesser and of St. Chrisogono are here
Incorrupt body of Blessed Maria Tiagi

Encased relics of St. James the Lesser, an apostle

Santa Maria in Trastevere

Facade of S. Maria in Trastevere
What: one of the earliest places of Christian worship in Rome, the oldest church dedicated to Mary
Who: early Christians; Pope Innocent III commissioned the building of basilica over original 3rd/4th century structure
When: structure dates from 1140
Where: in Trastevere, "accross the Tiber" literally (trans-Tibere)
Why: In 38 B.C. oil spring up out of the ground miraculously.  This was interpreted as a sign of the imminent coming of Christ, the "Anointed One" (anointed with oil)

  • In the Portico (front area of church, not inside):
    • 2 coats of arms, the current pope's and the titular cardinal's
    • Scallop shell=sign of the pilgrim and baptism
    • Fragments of the catacombs cover the walls
  • Elaborate doors emphasize that when one enters a church, he or she is entering into a different, sacred space
  • Floors are "Opus Sectile"
    • the colors, patterns, and variation of the floors are meant to remind us of creation
  • Granite columns inside are from the Nile, have ionic capitals
  • Monks invented cursive handwriting when copying manuscripts
  • Mosaics
    • date back to either 1140 or 1290, products of the high middle ages, made by Greeks
    • Intermediate mosaics--Mary's life
    • Annunciation
      Nativity of Christ
      Visit of the Magi
      Presentation of Christ in the temple
      The Dormition of Mary
    • Lamb and sheep and upper mosaic figures
    • note the lamb and sheep
      • Lamb in the middle=Christ, sheep=apostles
      • sheep=symbol of charity; provides all, asks for nothing
      • the sheep are coming from Bethlehem and Jerusalem
      • God the Father is represented as the small hand over Christ's head
    • Mosaic on the facade (outside): Mary with the virgins with oil

  • Arms of chair=griffins
    • griffins are half eagle, half lion--king of land and sky--symbol of Christ, King of all
  • Aedicula--the image of Mary on the bell tower
  • The roof is wooden, must be restored every 500 years
  • Baldacchino
    • the canopy over the altar
    • the lower part is darker to remind us of earth
    • the upper part is lighter to remind us of heaven
    • Porphyry--the dark purple stone used on the lower part of the baldacchino

  • Palinpsest
    • the mixture/layering of styles and periods in a single structure
  • Balustrade
    • railing with posts, Baroque and Rennaissance
  • Contrapposto
    • the play of opposing forces in sculpture
    • seen in the statues of popes in front of S. Maria in Trastevere
  • Spolia
    • the reuse of building materials
  • Dies Talias
    • what Romans called the day they died, means "birthday;" the day they died was the day they were born into eternal life
  • Opus Sectile
    • the colors, patterns, and variation of the floors are meant to remind us of creation
  • Entasis
    • intentional swelling on the shaft of the column to create an optical illusion
  • Apse
    • semicircular area behind altar

Altemps Chapel

What: "winter chapel," baroque style
Where: side chapel in Santa Maria in Trastevere
Why: commemorates the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which was the Church's response to the protestant reformation
Painting depicting the council.  The women are representative of the Church, the devil, and various virtues

Santa Maria Della Scala

What: Carmelite church; "Our Lady of the Steps"
Where: in Trastevere


  • The right foot of St. Teresa of Avila is here
  • Tomb of Cardinal Nguyen is here
  • Perfect acoustics
  • Painting of the beheading of John the Baptist by Honthorst is here
  • Intarsia
    • inlaid marble
  • Tenebrism
    • figures emerging out of dark background
Side altar dedicate to St. Therese of the Child Jesus

San Giovanni Della Malva

What: Albanian Catholic's church in Rome
Where: in Trastevere

  • originally dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, John the Baptist, and John the Evangelist