Santa Maria in Via Lata

— Feria III infra Dominica Passionis — Statio ad S. Cyriacum —

Today is confusing. We go to Santa Maria in Via Lata, but discover below how we moved from a Station so far away from today’s — it has to do with devotion to S. Cyriacum.

I’ll post the YouTube video later this evening.

The ancient station of Saint Cyriacum, indicated in the Roman Missal, recalls the very old titular church which was already in use by the fifth century. It is remembered many times in the Liber Pontificalis, but the ancient structure had fallen into ruins by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Its situation is known from an ancient room located under the Ministero delle Finanze towards the Via XX Settembre (near the baths of Diocletian — which is now the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, near the train station “Termini”).

Santa Maria in Via Lata is number 851

The church (the structure near the Collegio Romano) was restored by Sergius I (687-701) but continuous flooding by the Tiber made the foundations unsafe (just remember once a boat even made it all the way to the Spanish steps during a flood of the Tiber). Nevertheless, another church was completed here by Leo IX (1049-1054) and it is this church which Eugenius IV (1431-1447) united to the possessions of the adjoining suppressed convent of Santi Ciriaco e Nicolo. In 1491, Pope Innocent VIII ordered a complete reconstruction and expansion of the church of Santa Maria in Via Lata, which required the church of San Ciriaco to be demolished. It is attested that San Ciriaco was located precisely where the high altar of Santa Maria in Via Lata is today (on Via del Corso).

The image of the High Altar: Mary, fountain of light, star of the sea.

First of the four ancient Deaconries, this church records in its name the intramural part of the Via Flaminia. According to a strong tradition, St. Paul is said to have spent two years of his imprisonment here under house arrest and also to have written the Letter to the Hebrews while living here. If this is true, then it was here that Paul converted Onesimus to the Faith. Some add that St. Luke, and perhaps even St. John the Evangelist, might have stayed here for a time as well. Relics here include the head of St. Cyriacus, the body of the 3rd century deacon and martyr, St. Agapitus, and the remains of many other martyrs, including Sts. Largus and Smargdus. The underground oratory of four rooms contains paintings of the imprisonment of St. Paul, and some ancient travertine pillars.

Fresco in the underground crypt of St. Paul being led to prison

Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878) was once a canon of this church, and a bust to his memory has been placed near the altar on the right side. The church is familiar to those who come here for Eucharistic Adoration; the nuns who pray before the Blessed Sacrament here are Le Figlie della Chiesa. Above the altar is a 13th century icon of the Vergine Avvocata, said to have caused many miracles. The tomb of the poet Antonio Tebaldeo (1453-1537) is at the end of the left aisle. It was designed in 1776. Tebaldeo was a friend of Raphael, who painted a portrait of him of which a copy is found here; the original is in the Vatican Pinacoteca. Also found here are the tombs of the families of Joseph and Lucien Bonaparte.

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