Station Church, 2021: XXXVII

— Feria V infra Dominica Passionis — Statio ad S. Apollinarem —


The Basilica di Sant’Apollinare alle Terme Neroniane-Alessandrine (“Basilica of Saint Apollinaris at the Baths of Nero”) is a titular church in Rome, Italy, dedicated to St Apollinare, the first bishop of Ravenna.

The church was founded in the early Middle Ages, probably in the 7th century. It is first mentioned in the Liber Pontificalis under Pope Hadrian I, using spolia from the ruins of an imperial building. The first priests who served the church were probably eastern Basilian monks who had fled from persecution during the iconoclast period.

It is listed in the Catalogue of Turin as a papal chapel with eight clerics and in 1574 was granted to the Jesuits by Pope Gregory XIII, and it was used as the church of the next-door Collegium Germanicum in the Palazzo di Sant’Apollinare, which was later united with the Hungarian College to form the Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum. This remained a Jesuit institution until the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, when this church passed to the Lazarists.

In the late 17th century, the church was in a poor state of repair. Its rebuilding was considered over a long period but wasn’t carried out, probably due to the lack of funds. Despite this, in 1702 a chapel was redecorated and dedicated to St Francis Xavier, and a statue of the saint commissioned from Pierre Le Gros who carved the marble with extraordinary virtuosity (the statue was preserved when the church was eventually rebuilt some 40 years later and is still in situ).

Only in 1742, Pope Benedict XIV commissioned Ferdinando Fuga to rebuild the church. Fuga added a new façade in the late 16th century style, with Baroque elements. It has two stories, with Ionic columns in the lower and Corinthian ones in the upper. The lower level has a central doorway flanked by windows. Above the door is a triangular tympanon. On the upper level is a large central window with a balcony, and two smaller windows to the sides. The façade is crowned by a double tympanon. Fuga also reconstructed the dome. The church as a whole was rededicated in 1748.

Francesco Antonio Zaccaria, writer and archaeologist, who died in 1795, was buried in the Chapel of St Ignatius of Loyola here.

In 1984 the church was elevated to minor basilica status.

On 18 December 1990, the church was granted to the Opus Dei, and is now part of their Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

The church has a single nave. Along the side are pilasters with Corinthian capitals holding the arches to the side chapels. In the barrel-vaulted ceiling is a fresco of The Glory of St Apollinaris, by Stefano Pozzi.

The high altar was made on orders from Pope Benedict XIV, with stucco decorations by Bernardino Ludovisi and an early 17th-century altarpiece depicting St Apollinaris’ Consecration as Bishop of Ravenna. The crypt contains relics.

The elliptical Chapel of Graces, which is outside the church proper, is accessed through a doorway on the left. It contains a 1494 fresco of The Virgin, Queen of Apostles which, survived the Sack of Rome because the priests had covered it with lime and was then rediscovered in 1645 when two boys and a soldier took refuge in the church during an earthquake. A marble frame with golden stucco cherubs was added by Peter Anton von Verschaffelt.

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