The earth without "art" is just "eh."
Trip Start May 22, 2011
17Trip End Jun 24, 2011
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Santa Prassede: This church was built in the 9th century and I liked it because it has so many Byzantine influences. The mosaic in the apse is amazing! Christ is flanked by Peter and Paul presenting Saints Prassede and Pudenziana to him, with the pope who built the church presenting the model of the church to Christ. The Zeno chapel is dedicated to Pope Paschal II's mother, and that is amazing. Every single inch of it is in tile.
Santa Pudenziana: Pudenziana was supposedly Prassede's sister. Their father was a senator who had welcomed St. Peter into their home one night, and they were all converted to Christianity and were eventually martyred
Santa Maria Maggiore: Legend has it that in 352 Pope Liberius had a vision. Mary came to him and told him to build a church over a snow-covered spot. He thought it was ridiculous because it hardly ever snows in Rome, let alone in the summer. But on August 5th, it snowed in the exact spot this basilica is in today, and it's now one of the four major basilicas in Rome (the other three are St. Peter's, St. John Lateran, and St. Paul Outside the Walls). Every August a ceremony is held to reenact the miracle, with thousands of white flower petals fluttering down from the ceiling. The apse mosaic shows Mary being crowned by her son. The ceiling is absolutely stunning, decorated with gold donated by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. And there is a case underneath the high altar that is said to contain pieces of Jesus' cradle. There are two chapels on each side, and the one on the right is called the Sistine Chapel just like in the Vatican because it was built by Pope Sixtus V. The one on the left has the most famous icon of Mary and there used to be an annual procession in which an icon of Jesus from St. John Lateran was brought to the icon in Santa Maria Maggiore so mother and son could be reunited. Gianlorenzo Bernini is also buried here, and I think it's ironic that a really lavish baroque artist just wanted his grave to be marked by a marble slab on the floor
San Crisogono: This church is largely ignored by tourists, which is sad because it's such a beautiful early Renaissance/Baroque church. Pietro Cavallini painted the apse, "The Virgin Between Two Saints," and there are underground ruins of the original fifth-century church.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere: This church is like an oasis of quiet in a really noisy neighborhood. It was built to honor Saint Cecilia, who was martyred with her husband Valerianus. It's said that on her wedding night, she converted him to Christianity and then they lived together platonically until they were killed. The remains of their house are underneath the current church. Apparently she sang hymns for three days while she was under house arrest waiting to be killed. She was eventually stabbed in the neck. They tried to behead her but they miraculously weren't able to. There is a statue of her by Stefano Maderno under the altar, which he carved after viewing her body. The nuns also let us into the choir loft so we could see the frescoes by Cavallini of The Last Judgment! This fresco is one of the first frescoes depicting the rapture and one of the only major Cavallini works to survive.
Santa Maria in Trastevere: According to Saint Jerome, oil gushed from the ground in a veterans' hospital at the time of Jesus' birth, which was a clear sign that humanity would be saved
Santa Maria sopra Minerva: This is said to be the only true Gothic church in Rome, even though the facade is from the early Renaissance. Monks started building this church in the 13th century, but they built it over an ancient pagan temple dedicated to Minerva. The Carafa Chapel, designed by Filippino Lippi, is the most beautiful part of the church, and it depicts the life of St. Thomas Aquinas. My favorite part of the church, though, is Michelangelo's statue "Christ Bearing the Cross" by the altar. Two papal conclaves were held in the 15th century in the sacristy which was cool to see, and I got to see the room in the building next door where Galileo was tried. In the piazza outside is an elephant obelisk designed by Bernini.
Santa Maria in Aracoeli (Saint Mary of the Altar of Heaven): This church was built over an ancient Roman temple for Juno and it supposedly marks the spot where Octavian Augustus had a vision predicting the birth of Jesus. He built an altar here, which is why he's depicted in the apse, and he's the only Roman emperor to be put there. This is located in the Piazza del Campidoglio on the Capitoline Hill, and I walked around on this hill (the smallest) looking at all the cool buildings. It has the senate building, and then the Musei Capitolini, which I will definitely be returning to.
I didn't do much sightseeing on my own this week because we had midterms (I can't believe it's time for midterms already!!), but I did wander around Trastevere after seeing Santa Cecilia and Santa Maria there. Trastevere is like the artsy, hipster type area, that has all of the trendy bars and clubs. I guess it started acting as this area around 200 years ago, and it's been around forever. Thursday night I went out to dinner and out to a club with my friends to celebrate midterms being over!! Sadly, I leave Italy two weeks from tomorrow...