Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Stational Church: Sant'Anastasia
Sant’Anastasia is one of the original twenty-five parish churches, or tituli, of Rome. The ancient chronicles of this church relate that Saint Anastasia was the daughter of a noble Roman named Praetextatus and that she also had Saint Chrysogonus for her advisor. During the Diocletian persecution (284-305), she cared for the confessors in prison. When Chrysogonus left for Aquileia, she followed later to succor the Christians there.
After a while, she was arrested and brought before the prefect of Illyrium at Sirmium (now Mitrowitz in Yugoslavia) and condemned to death. Having escaped death by starvation and abandonment at sea, through the intercession of Saint Theodota, Saint Anastasia was finally taken to the island of Parlarmia (304?) and burned alive, staked to the ground with her arms and legs outstretched while fire kindled about her.
She has been venerated in Rome since the late-fifth century, when her name was placed in the Roman Canon of the Mass. From Sirmium in Pannonia, where her cult originated and her body was first venerated, her relics were translated first to Constantinople and then to Rome at the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century.
The titulus Anastasiae was built by the Roman foundress, Anastasia, on the site of her family mansion which lay at the foot of the Palatine Hill. Some think this Anastasia was a sister of Constantine the Great (emperor 306-337). The church rose in importance during the Byzantine period because of the cultus of Saint Anastasia by which it soon came to be known. In the seventh century, Saint Anastasia was listed immediately after the basilicas of the Lateran and Saint Mary Major. Also, in the same century, it became recognized as the “Collect” church where the crosses were kept to begin the Lenten Stations. Perhaps most importantly, this church is known as the traditional site of the second papal Mass of Christmas.
Beneath the church are subterranean chambers and passages communicating with the nearby imperial palaces of the Palatine. Under the high altar are the relics of Saints Fausta and Anastasia. Also in this church are the veil of Our Lady and the mantle of Saint Joseph, said to have been brought from Palestine by Saint Jerome. On the right side is an altar to St. Turibius, a Spanish priest and Bishop of Lima. Turibius baptized St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres, two of the most popular saints of South America. The altar on the left side of the church is very ancient – tradition tells us that St. Jerome celebrated Mass here and that St. Gregory distributed ashes here on Ash Wednesday. A chalice preserved in the church is said to have been used by St. Jerome.