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A new favourite church in Rome

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Rome has such a wealth of beautiful and important sites that no matter how often I've visited, there are always rich discoveries to be made.

Sometimes these are places that I have heard about but never really investigated properly. Maybe they were a bit too far out of my way, or kept odd opening hours and I didn't make enough effort to gain entrance.

Santa Prassede is one such church. It is an absolute gem, dating from the 9th century, and almost completely overshadowed by the mighty Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore that is only steps away.

Santa Prassede has a very dull and unassuming exterior but this hides a magnificent interior, with fantastic Byzantine mosaics and lovely frescoed angels scattered about high on the walls. (There is also a wonderful Annunciation at the back; another for my collection! There are poor photos below.)

All in all, it offers a beautiful but not overpowering environment.

The basilica was built over a fifth century church also dedicated to Santa Prassede, who was sister of Santa Pudenziana and daughter of St. Pudens. (According to legend, Pudens gave shelter to St. Peter in around 50 AD.)

There are splendid mosaics in the apse but my favourites are the wonderful 9th century mosaics in the side Chapel of St. Zeno (shown in the top photos.)

This chapel was built as a mausoleum for Theodora, mother of Pope Paschal I (817-824) who erected this basilica. It is the only chapel in Rome entirely lined with mosaics.

Mosaics fill the triumphal arch and the entire interior of the Chapel of St. Zeno and were made from fine glass tesserae, which may have been taken from earlier mosaics.

The outer face of the arch features mosaics of the New Jerusalem, with doors guarded by angels. The inner face of the arch has Christ flanked by a row of saints.

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Comments (9)

Anne:

Definitely making a note of this church for my Roman holiday with my mom (was about to write "next" month, but just realized our trip is "this" month!! Woohooo!!)

sandrac:

Whoo-hoo is right! I'm excited for you -- I'll be watching your blog for updates!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, these mosaics are beautiful. I had not heard of this church before so I really enjoyed learning about it. Maybe one day when I get to revisit Rome I will be able to visit.

Thanks so much for sharing.

sandrac:

Hi Kathy, I take it that you won't be passing thru Rome on your trip this fall? I'm so curious to hear more of your travel plans!

wow - look at those mosaics! Stunning. At first I thought it was Ravenna.

Wow! What an amazing find! I will have to add this to my list of churches to check out the next time I am in Roma.

sandrac:

Hi Jerry, It's like a very mini-Ravenna!

Girasoli, you would be able to take such fantastic photos here! The frescos and mosaics are very high on the wall, or on the ceiling, and as you can see, I simply wasn't steady enough with my little camera to do them justice. But I know you'd know how to work around that!

Wow, what a great find. That mosaic in the first photo is awesome. Love her expression. And a great Annunciation to add to your collection!

Have a great weekend!

Colleen:

So happy you were able to visit Santa Prassede! I remember being surprised at such gorgeous mosaics in a church I never heard mentioned.

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