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Santa Maria in Trastevere

Mosaic of nursing Mary in Santa Maria in Trastevere

Friday, 6/26 - Rome

On our first day in Rome, in the midst of trying to keep ourselves up for 30 hours straight to stave off jet lag, we headed down the street from our hotel to see the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. (Trastevere, where we stayed, is a region of Rome across the Tiber from the rest of Rome: Trastevere = trans-tiber-y.) It is (may be) the first place, ever, where mass was openly celebrated, and the first church dedicated to Mary the Mother of God. Above, you can see part of the 12th-century mosaic on the façade, which is apparently the earliest iconic representation of Mary nursing. (Edit: Downsampling is unkind to mosaics; I recommend clicking on the picture, then clicking the "All sizes" button on the Flickr page to see it larger.)

Pope Callixtus (maybe) founded the church in the 3rd century, and Pope Innocent II rebuilt it in the 12th. Both of them are (supposedly) buried in the church. You can see Mini Innocent II kneeling at Mary's feet, above.

Mosaic on the façade of Santa Maria in Trastevere
We were unable to determine why some of the lamps are lit and some are not — the women with unlit lamps are also uncrowned, so they may be less enlightened, or less virginal, than the others.

Statue of Pope Innocent II in Santa Maria in Trastevere
Innocent II says "Enh, whatcha gonna do?"

Fragments of inscriptions in Santa Maria in Trastevere
The façade is full of fragmentary epitaphs in Latin, Greek, and pictographs. Those of you who know adfamiliares may be able to guess how excited this made her.

An inscription in Santa Maria in Trastevere
Early evidence of the Fonzarelli family. Additionally, adfamiliares will tell you that this is very exciting because it comes from a time when Romans were still writing "X" as "XS".

The apse was astonishingly opulent, my first exposure to the spiritual overload I experienced in Rome's churches. To the right of Jesus and Mary, in the dome, you can see Pope Innocent II (holding the little church, with quite an expression on his face), Saint Lawrence, and Pope Callixtus.
Apse in Santa Maria in Trastevere, with candles

Apse mosaic in Santa Maria in Trastevere

Apse in Santa Maria in Trastevere

Ceiling in Santa Maria in Trastevere
I only got one photo of the ceiling, and it is sadly blurry, but it serves to show that the ceiling is overwhelmingly ornate as well.

Cherubs carrying a coat of arms in Santa Maria in Trastevere
Those Medici stick their balls in everything. Here their arms (the six balls) are quartered with the arms of Genoa (the cross) and the rampant goat, beautifully inlaid in marble on the floor, that represents some cardinal or other:

Coat of arms in Santa Maria in Trastevere
(Correction: it is an ibex, emblem of the Altemps family, and this appears to be the crest of Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps.)

Cosmati pillar in Santa Maria in Trastevere, marking the site of the miraculous spring of oil
This Cosmatesque pillar marks the site of a miraculous spring of oil that sprang from the ground upon the birth of Jesus. (The stream of oil is visible pouring from the church in one of the mosaics in my Flickr set. I leave finding it as an exercise for the reader.) The Cosmatesque mosaic pattern continues on the floor:

Cosmati floor in Santa Maria in Trastevere

Cosmati floor in Santa Maria in Trastevere

Statue of Saint Anthony of Padua in Santa Maria in Trastevere
These are intercessory prayer notes tucked in around the feet of Saint Anthony of Padua. They fill his arms and every cranny of his robes, too. If you look at the large photo, you can make out a few phrases.

The creepy eyes of Cardinal Bussi in Santa Maria in Trastevere

The creepy eyes of Cardinal Bussi in Santa Maria in Trastevere
We saw a lot of creepy things in Italy — we saw the skeleton of a young girl wired to the ceiling of a crypt, holding a scythe of bones, for instance — but nothing topped the coat of arms of Cardinal Bussi in the Bussi Chapel. The eyes of the Dark Lord staring out facelessly from a black background are the stuff of nightmares.

Sepulchre of Pope Innocent II in Santa Maria in Trastevere
The sepulchre of Pope Innocent II (died 1143).


My complete set of Santa Maria in Trastevere photos is up on Flickr, and as I add new sets they will go into my Italy 2009 collection.
Tags: honeymoon, italy, rome
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