THE CHURCH OF SANTA CECILIA IN TRASTEVERE – ROME
The magnificent basilica of Santa Cecilia is located on the homonymous square of the Trastevere district and lies on the ancient home of the Roman martyr Cecilia and her husband Valeriano. Legend has it that the construction of the church was determined after the transfer of the corpse of Santa Cecilia from the cemetery of San Callisto to the place where his house once stood, at the behest of Pope Paschal I. Santa Cecilia was also found guilty for trying to convert her husband Valeriano and her brother Tiburcio. In the right aisle of the basilica opens today the chapel, where are located the remains of the caldarium, the old bathroom that was the scene of the ordeal to which the saint was subjected at the hands of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. For three days her captors exposed her to an extremely hot steam, but she emerged unscathed. Then they decided to behead her, but again, according to the legend, she survived; then she was hardly beaten three times on the neck, but she continued to live for three days, before receiving the palm of martyrdom on 22 November 230. The body of Cecilia came to light in 820 a.C., from the catacombs of San Callisto, miraculously intact, in a white quilted robe of gold, just as Pope Urban I had buried her.
Between the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries the basilica has taken the shape it has today, with the porch, the bell tower and the cloister. Of this period are the precious remains of the fresco of the Last Judgment by Pietro Cavallini (1290), that was hidden for centuries by the choir of nuns. In 1600 came the opportunity to realize the new confessional, the sanctuary and the side altars. In fact, during the restoration ordered by Cardinal Sfrondati, the body of the saint was exhumed to re-assess its state of preservation. Kept in a box of cypress in an urn of marble, the body was still in perfect conditions and was exposed for the veneration of the faithful for a month and then it was buried in the crypt, in a luxurious silver case.
This was the reason for the commission of the famous statue of marble placed under the altar, by Stefano Maderno (1600), which reproduces the position in which the body of St. Cecilia was found, lying on its side, with the head rotated in the opposite side and with three fingers up, a gesture that indicates the Trinity.
In the eighteenth century, at the behest of Cardinals Troiano Acquaviva and Giacomo Doria, there were more renovation works that endowed the basilica with the monumental baroque table with four columns on which lies a long entablature and a pediment with the arms of Cardinal Acquaviva. Across the portal there is a courtyard in the center of which lies a square pool of early Christian origin, representing an ancient cantharus, a container where the faithful practiced ritual ablutions before entering the church. The current use to wet the fingers in the bowl of holy water remains the memory of this ancient custom. The facade of the basilica of Santa Cecilia is simple: the bell tower, punctuated by five orders, ends with a belfry that houses a bell of the thirteenth century and two more bells donated by the titular cardinal of the church in 1344; then there are three naves divided by square pillars, which incorporate the ancient columns of the basilica. The apse is a Carolingian mosaic with Christ at the center and, among the figures on his sides, we recognize, on the left, St. Paul, St. Cecilia and the donor Pope Paschal I.
THE CHURCH OF SAN CRISOGONO IN TRASTEVERE – ROMA.
Built in the fourth century, the basilica located on Viale Trastevere is one of the oldest in Rome. The first structure was probably intended by Sylvester I and the total reconstruction of the upper layer dates from the twelfth century, and was later revised in 1626 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, as indicated on the front. The latest project of Giovanni Battista Soria obeys the will of Scipione Borghese himself, who wished that the heraldic emblem of his family, an eagle and a dragon, would be shown as much as possible in the church.
The interior of the upper basilica has elements of both medieval and baroque art fused together; there are twenty-two columns, the remains of earlier buildings, and the main altar dates back of 1127, while the canopy was built in 1627; there is a Cosmati floor very well preserved, while the baroque wooden coffered ceiling hosts a copy of a painting by Guercino, the Glory of San Grisogono (a nineteenth-century English buyer bought the original). On the left side of the entrance, is exposed the seventeenth century monument of Cardinal Giovanni Jacopo Millo, authored by Carlo Marchionni and Pietro Bracci. Other masterpieces are the Three Archangels of John St. John, the Crucifixion by Paolo Guidotti, Trinity and Angels by Giacinto Gimignani, and the Guardian Angel by Ludovico Gimignani. The remains of the basilica were discovered only in 1907, through a careful investigation that followed the archaeological excavations. The rooms of some of the oldest houses of the late Roman republic can now be accessed from the sacristy.
In the area of the apse is visible the first compartment of the ancient confessional, where the relics of St. Grisogono lie; this area of the nave is called in Latin pastophoria, a service room beside the apse used in Eastern churches. On the right there was a diaconium, a sort of modern sacristy, while a second room was probably used as a baptistery. The old structure has several ancient baths including a larger one that suggests the conversion of a former commercial space, perhaps a workshop equipped for the dyeing of fabrics. This theory is also supported by the information we have on the area surrounding the church, formerly a place of business. Excavations have revealed frescoes of the eighth and eleventh centuries, among them Pope Sylvester catching the dragon, St. Pantaleone healing the blind, St. Benedict healing the leper and The Rescue of San Placido.
THE CHURCH OF SAN COSIMATO IN TRASTEVERE – ROME
The church of San Cosimato and its convent were built around the middle of the tenth century on Piazza San Cosimato in Trastevere by the noble Benedetto Campagna. The building was consecrated by Alexander II and dedicated to the Saints Cosmas and Damian and the Saints Benedict and Emerenziana, but due to the simplification which came as a consequence of the oral language the church is known just as San Cosimato.
The two cloisters of the ancient monastery are above the entrance of the church. The former cloister is among the biggest of medieval Rome: a square garden enclosed by porches with columns and arches of brick. The second cloister is smaller and was built by Pope Sixtus IV on the occasion of the restoration works of 1475, which rescued the sacred building from the serious state of decay into which it poured. Nine arches held up by pillars decorated with octagonal travertine capitals with floral motifs frame its square shape, while the center retains a cistern dating from the days of Pius IX. For a brief period the “Camaldolesi” monks took care of the complex; then, because of the misbehavior of the monks, it was given to the order of nuns named “prisoners of San Damiano” who had the merit of preventing the demolition of the monastery in 1643 during the construction of the walls of the Janiculum. However, after 1870 the Italian authorities decreed it to civilian use, expropriating it and transforming it into an hospice. Currently it hosts some departments of the hospital Nuovo Regina Margherita. The facade of the church is simple, characterized by a portal carved in Renaissance style by some students of Andrea Bregno. The small bell tower preserves the Romanesque style.
The interior is designed with a single room and retains little of the original features, altered by the works of 1871. On the main altar is exposed the work of Anthony Massaro The Madonna with the child. The fresco is linked to a legend that wants it covered with votive offerings in the Basilica of St. Peter in 600, and then stolen, stripped of its votive and thrown into the river Tiber. It floated in the river and was rescued by Pope Leo X, who had it placed in a shrine, built in front of the Bridge of Senators where it was found. The faithful did not like the location and, in protest, they hung the fresco from a rafter of the now vanished church of San Salvatore. Passing by, a young pious saw rays of light miraculously emanating from the image; hence, helped by the faithful of Trastevere that rushed here, he took it off and handed it to the monks of San Cosimato.
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