Photographer's Note

In the photo are the Corinthian capitals, which predate the church; they were almost certainly recycled from the ancient Roman temple to Juno, which was on or near the site where the church now stands. The Basilica di Santa Sabina all'Aventino, located, as the name suggests, on the Aventine. Classified as a titular minor basilica and the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Preachers (Dominicans), it is located high on a hill overlooking the Tiber river, so the lovely garden adjacent offers some magnificent views of the city. It's one of my favorite spots in the city, actually, as there's a fairly sizeable orange grove just adjacent, where it's very pleasant to walk and to take in the magnificent views of the whole of Rome.

The basilica is the oldest Roman basilica in the city which has a preserved original colonnaded rectangular plan. Even from the exterior, it looks ancient, and is very reminiscent of an early church, with its tranquil austerity. The original church was reportedly built by Peter of Illyria, a Dalmatian priest, between about 422 and 432, but the original structure has been replaced. It was originally located near a temple of Juno on the Aventine, but the church was built on the site of ancient Imperial residences, including that of Sabina, a Roman matron who hailed from the region of Abruzzo. Reportedly converted to Christianity by her servant Seraphia, Sabina was supposedly martyred by beheading under either Roman emperor Vespasian or Hadrian, and was later made a saint. Seraphia was reportedly stoned to death.

The original church was replaced in the 9th century, when it was enclosed by a fortification wall. The exterior from that period largely survived, but the interior was extensively renovated in 1587, and again by Borromini in 1643, when the original medieval appearance was restored. Despite rebuilding, the church looks much as it did when it was originally constructed in the 5th century, even utilizing large white windows of selenite rather than glass.

Perhaps its most famous feature is the set of original, fifth-century carved cypress wood doors, adorned with 18 out of the original 28 panels depicting Christian scenes, one of which features what is believed to be the oldest surviving depiction of the crucifixion. The doors were not apparently initially used for the present doorway, and were perhaps not even intended for this particular structure - it appears that they have been cut down to fit the current doorway, but it's amazing that anything that old survives, especially in such pristine condition. Other remnants of its antiquity abound: the original fifth-century apse mosaic was replaced in 1559 by a similar fresco. There is also a framed hole in the floor, set into which is a Roman-era temple column that predates the church, and is probably a remnant of the Temple of Juno, which may have been razed and replaced by the basilica. The nave features 24 columns of marble with matched Corinthian capitals and bases, which were also clearly recycled from the Temple of Juno.

Also associated with this remarkable church: the original cells of the Dominican convent are remarkably well preserved, including that of St. Dominic, which was converted into a chapel; the original dining room in which St. Thomas Aquinas dined when he lived in Rome is also still preserved. It's a bit out of the way, but this and the nearby basilica of SS Boniface and Alexis, of which I've posted several photos, are well worth the effort to visit. There are few ancient churches anywhere in the world which are this well-preserved.

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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 92 W: 78 N: 1276] (2193)
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