Station Church, 2021: XLI

— Feria II Majoris Hebdomadae — Statio ad S. Praxedem —

The Basilica of Saint Praxedes (Latin: Basilica Sanctae Praxedis, Italian: Basilica di Santa Prassede all’Esquillino), commonly known in Italian as Santa Prassede, is an ancient titular church and minor basilica located near the papal basilica of Saint Mary Major.

The church incorporates mosaic decoration that marks it among the oldest churches in Rome. A church near this site was present since the fifth century, but the church in its current place and general layout was commissioned by Pope Hadrian I around the year 780 to house the relics of Saint Praxedes and Saint Pudentiana, the daughters of Saint Pudens, traditionally St. Peter’s first Christian convert in Rome.

The church was built atop of the remains of a 4th-century ancient Roman Thermae, privately owned by the family of Pudentiana, and called Terme di Novato (ancient Roman bath house). The two female saints were martyred for providing Christian burial for early martyrs in defiance of Roman law. The basilica was enlarged and decorated by Pope Paschal I in c. 822.

In the apse mosaic, Jesus is in the center, flanked by Sts. Peter and Paul who present Prassede and Pudenziana to God. On the far left is Paschal, with the square halo of the living, presenting a model of the church as an offering to Jesus.

On the apsidal arch mosaic are twelve men on each side, holding wreaths of victory, welcoming the souls into heaven. Above them are symbols of the four Gospel writers: Mark, the lion; Matthew, the man; Luke, the bull; and John, the eagle, as they surround a lamb on a throne, a symbol of Christ’s eventual return to Earth.

In addition to those mosaics, there are those in the Chapel of Saint Zeno, a funerary chapel which Pope Paschal built for his mother, Theodora.

The pillar of the scourging of Jesus is housed here. Brought by St Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, to Rome from the Holy Land.

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