Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Church Lady's latest two finds

Santa Prassede's apse - that's Paschal I with the square halo on the left
Main entrance, crunched in
by  pizza place

Main entrance, from inside... one can get the feel of
how one is supposed to enter the sacred place (but the
gate is locked)
Not far from the imposing Santa Maria Maggiore on the Esquilino in Rome, known in part for its mosaics, a somewhat unusual phenomenon for Rome churches, are two often overlooked gems of churches, with stunning mosaics themselves. Combine these two, or if you're a glutton, add Santa Maria Maggiore, for a nice outing.

The ceiling of Santa Prassede's jewel-like St. Zeno's chapel
Santa Prassede is the more hidden and, in our opinion, more jewel-like of the two.  You enter from a narrow side street, the via di Santa Prassede (the main entrance on San Martino ai Monti  is covered with a [usually] locked gate with tables from the adjacent pizza place abutting it) and at first are captivated by the classic and lovely mosaics in the apse and arch (top photo).  We almost walked out without stopping in (more like stooping in) the tiny side chapel to St. Zeno that is the mausoleum for the mother of Pope Paschal I, who built the church in the 9th century.  Once in the apse, check out the mosaic of the pope himself, carrying the church.  He has the rare rectangular halo.  Then to St. Zeno's chapel, which is completely covered in mosaics – the only one like it in Rome
Entrance to Santa Pudenziana

There are many other objects of interest in the church to those who like exploring religious art, but don’t miss a funeral statue by the 17 year-old Bernini (along the right aisle near the front of the nave).

Just a few blocks from Santa Prassede, at via Urbana, 160, is the church dedicated to her sister, Santa Pudenziana, built originally as a conversion of a 2nd century bath-house.  The church has some fascinating features, including its low standing compared to the street, which is now far above the entrance (the street was raised as part of Pope Sixtus V’s plan to provide greater access to Santa Maria Maggiore), its plain attractive facade, and its role as a minor basilica and national church of the Philippines. You can see more of the bath features on the church's walls on the street in back, via Balbo, which runs parallel to via Urbana.

Santa Pudenziana apse - count 'em, 10 apostles
In this church, like in Santa Prassede, one is captivated by the apse mosaics, the oldest in Rome, dating to the late 4th century.  There has been controversy over restorations and who is who in the mosaics (besides Christ - the only one with a halo).  Two of the apostles were destroyed in one of the restorations – if you're counting.  To purists, these mosaics are of high importance because they are an older, classical style.  We simply like to look at them and compare; they're gorgeous.

Hours for these two churches generally are 8 a.m. -12 noon and 4-6 p.m., but nothing is for certain with Rome churches.  So you can have a nice morning or afternoon hour or 2 here, and begin or end with lunch.  Reputedly the city's best kebabs are at Shawarma Station on nearby via Merulana, 271.  See Katie Parla's review.

Dianne, the Church Lady (and sometime kebab eater)

1 comment:

Laurel said...

I love these two churches as well. True gems, usually quiet as overlooked by the masses. Thanks for the great postr and reminder to go back!
Laurel Barton