Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stational Church: Santa Maria in Via Lata

The ancient station of Saint Cyriacum, indicated in the Roman Missal, recalls the very old titular church which was already in use by the fifth century. It is remembered many times in the Liber Pontificalis, but the ancient structure had fallen into ruins by the beginning of the seventeenth century. Its situation is known from an antique room located under the northwest pavilion of the Ministero delle Finanze towards the Via XX Settembre. In 1492 San Ciriaco was registered among the abandoned churches. It ruins, in the proximity of the Baths of Diocletian, rested in the vineyard of the Certosini who inhabited the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

The church was restored by Sergius I (687-701) but continuous flooding by the Tiber made the foundations unsafe. Nevertheless, another church was completed here by Leo IX (1049-1054) and it is this church which Eugenius IV (1431-1447) united to the possessions of the adjoining suppressed convent of Santi Ciriaco e Nicolo (which stood on the Piazza del Collegio Romano). Innocent VIII (1484-1492) rebuilt the church again, in the form that we see it today.

First of the four ancient Deaconries, this church records in its name the intramural part of the Via Flaminia. According to a strong tradition, St. Paul is said to have spent two years of his imprisonment here under house arrest and also to have written the Letter to the Hebrews while living here. If this is true, then it was here that Paul converted Onesimus to the Faith. Some add that St. Luke, and perhaps even St. John the Evangelist, might have stayed here for a time as well. Relics here include the head of St. Cyriacus, the body of the 3rd century deacon and martyr, St. Agapitus, and the remains of many other martyrs, including Sts. Largus and Smargdus. Try to go down into the underground oratory of four rooms containing paintings of the imprisonment of St. Paul, and some ancient travertine pillars.

Blessed Pius IX (1846-1878) was once a canon of this church, and a bust to his memory has been placed near the altar on the right side. The church is familiar to those who come here for Eucharistic Adoration; the nuns who pray before the Blessed Sacrament here are Le Figlie della Chiesa. Above the altar is a 13th century icon of the Vergine Avvocata, said to have caused many miracles. The tomb of the poet Antonio Tebaldeo (1453-1537) is at the end of the left aisle. It was designed in 1776. Tebaldeo was a friend of Raphael, who painted a portrait of him of which a copy is found here; the original is in the Vatican Pinacoteca. Also found here are the tombs of the families of Joseph and Lucien Bonaparte. ~From Pontifical North American College, Station Churches of Rome

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