Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stational Church: Santa Sabina


~Santa Sabina all'Aventino

As early as the third century, the Church of Rome observed the season of Lent by journeying each day to a specific "Station Church" or one of the ancient and prominent churches of Rome. Here the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, gathered the people in prayer to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries. While the location and number of Station Churches changed over the years, this Lenten practice became an important symbol of unity as well as a pilgrimage of faith. Unfortunately, the custom ceased during the Avignon papacy in 1305 but interest was revived by Saint Leo XIII at the turn of the 20th century. Blessed John XXIII revived the custom in 1959.

Today's Stational Church is the St Sabina at the Aventine dedicated to the second centry martyr, St. Sabine. This is where Pope Benedict will preside over the imposition of ashes.

The church was built in the 5th century, presumably at the site of the original Titulus Sabinae, a church in the home of Sabina who had been martyred c. 114. The tituli were the first parish churches in Rome. The exact date of the foundation is believed to be 422-423, and it is known that it was founded by an Illyrian priest named Peter.

It was restored in the 8th and 9th centuries.

In 1218, the church was given to the Dominicans by Pope Honorius III, who had approved the foundation of the order. They still serve the church, although since 1370 Santa Maria sopra Minerva has been their main church in Rome. The Pope was of the Savelli family, whose palace was next to the church.

St Dominic lived in the adjacent monastery for a period soon before his death in 1221. Among other residents of the monastery is St Thomas Aquinas.

During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, some additions were made. In the 20th century, most of these were removed to restore the church back to its original state. The restorations took place 1914-1919 and 1936-1938, and were led by A. Muzo and P. Berthier.

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