Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Another out-of-the-way church in Rome: San Sebastiano

Saint Sebastian
Church lady decided it was time for a break from all that Fascist architecture, graffiti and social analysis.  Instead she offers Christ’s footprints, a Bernini pupil’s sculpture, catacombs, a check-off list if you’re doing your seven-church pilgrimage in Rome, to  name a few.

1612 facade
These are all found at the Basilica of San Sebastiano, at the cross-roads of via Appia Antica (the ancient Appian Way) and via delle Sette Chiese – “7 Churches Road.”  Built in the 3rd or 4th century, this quiet, lovely church was redone in the early 17th century.  Among its treasures is the statue of an unusually recumbent Saint Sebastian, complete with gold-tipped arrows (photo at top).  The statue is so Berniniesque that some think its sculptor, Bernini’s pupil Antonio Giorgetti, did it from a Bernini sketch. 

in case you wanted a close-up
If that’s not enough, there are Christ’s footprints, the pole on which Sebastian met his arrows, and other relics.  The San Sebastiano catacombs, next to and under the church, were the first to be called catacombs (a word meaning underground cemetery, apparently derived from the Greek for "hollow"--Bill). 

If you want more on the iconography of this popular saint, Catholic Online has a good bio, tho' needless to say it doesn't talk about him being a gay icon.

Renaissance-worthy interior
It’s hard to say anything on the via Appia is off the beaten track; that’s really a non sequitur.  But, approaching San Sebastiano from via delle Sette Chiese as we did, one feels almost as a pilgrim might have.  And, unless a busload of tourists has just arrived to descend into the catacombs, you’ll pretty much have San Sebastiano to yourself, a treat in Rome. 


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