Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mishap Sunday, III: Two Churches

At length we did get to see two churches we had wanted to see in the Trastevere neighborhood, St. Mary's and St. Cecilia's. Both involved considerable confusion, getting lost, discovering that even neighborhood residents had never heard of these churches, etc.
St. Mary of Trastevere, right on the Piazza della Trastevere;
as usual, not the first, not even the first Christian, church on
this ground, the earlier ones going back to the third century;
tradition suggests this was the first purpose-built Christian
church built in Rome (previously, the faithful met in houses)
and also the first to be dedicated to Mary ("Mother of God"
it says in the crypt)

Domenichino's Assumption of Mary, in the ceiling

The building materials came from either the Baths of
Caraculla or the Temple of Isis on the Janiculum; some
sources say that faces of Isis and other Egyptian deities
were hammered off as late as 1870; anyhow, note that few
of the capitals match

Nice painting all around the altar, life of Mary 

Very, very nice 13th century mosaic in the dome and

It's a very dark old building; yet we and
others noted spotlights coming on in the
altar area now and then, we scurrying about
with our cameras to get a shot; then I
noticed this little machine, which, for 50
centavos, turns on the lights for one minute;
inserting a coin, and in my most authoritative
stage whisper, I said "Let there be light!"

Natural light is still best

More wandering in Trastevere; St. Cecilia's
is probably no more than 6 blocks from St.
Mary's, but it took us an hour and half to
get there (such were the quality of our maps,
our map-reading skills; sense of direction;
advice given by half a dozen residents; etc.)

St. Cecelia's, another very old church, 5th century

It's attraction is the very striking sculpture of the saint
herself by Maderno, 1600; the pose, tradition tells us, is
exactly that of how her body was found in the catacombs;
she was martyred, decapitated, along with her husband,
St. Valerian; the church is said to be built over their house

Closer up

Getting to see the scultpure closer up meant sitting, at the
back of the church, through another entire mass or vespers
or whatever, looking pious, flipping through the real estate
magazine someone had helpfully left behind; that's two
masses in one day; anyhow, this one was was helped along
by the presence and participation of a touring choir, from
Germany, we guessed, here performing a little encore after
the service

St. Cecilia's also had very nice mosaic, including this dome

What's the square blue halo? you ask; it is how persons
living at the time of the art work's creation are depicted and
honored; in this case, the blue halo guy obviously gave
the church or financed its building; he's handing a little
model of it to St. Cecilia or some other goddess

We retraced our steps, more directly, found the bus to Termini, and were back at the campground half an hour later. Thus ended the day--20,000 steps on the pedometer--but a reminder that even a bad day touring is a pretty good day!

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