Sunday, September 22, 2013

BASILICA OF St. AGNES OUTSIDE THE WALLS

BASILICA S. AGNESE FUORI LE MURA
Built at the time of Honorius I (625/638) near the site of the basilica built in the year 342 abandoned after the last renovation of Symmachus (498/514)
It was four times larger and the large impressive ruins are still conspicuously visible nearby
It was built by Constantina, the daughter of Constantine (306/337) over the catacomb that housed the body of St. Agnes
Among the popes who had it restored Julius II Della Rovere (1503/13) and Paul V Borghese (1605/21)
Entrance on Via Nomentana and RECTORY with porch built in 1856 by Andrea Busiri Vici (1818/1911)
ROOM OF PIUS IX
Fresco painted in 1858 by Domenico Toietti (active 1840/62) representing the event during which the floor sank beneath the feet of the pope Pius IX Mastai-Ferretti (1846/78) who was unharmed
This persuaded him even more to proclaim the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854: not that Mary has conceived Jesus as a virgin, as is commonly and erroneously believed, but that she was born without original sin
"Annunciation" 1454 and thirteenth century frescoes
1590 with inscriptions  on the walls taken from the catacombs
The basilica was built at basement level to have the relics of S. Agnes at the same level of the floor. It used to stick out from the ground just from the clerestory up, until the excavation of the seventeenth century when Cardinal Alessandro Ottaviano de' Medici, freed the fa├žade and created the current front entrance
The CEILING replaced the original trussed ceiling in 1606 for Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati, restored and painted in 1855
Ancient columns with Corinthian capitals and galleries known as MATRONEUM, unique in Rome with columns of the seventh century
OVE THE ARCH OF THE APSE
Fresco "Martyrdom of St. Agnes" by Pietro Gagliardi (1809/90)
ON THE SIDE WALL AND ON THE ENDONARTHEX (inner narthex)
"Women saints" 1856 by Domenico Toietti and Giuseppe Sereni (1823/after 1888)
2nd CHAPEL ON THE RIGHT
"Bust of Jesus" in bronze by Nicolas Cordier (1567/1612) wrongly attributed to Michelangelo
Marble diptych with "Sts. Stephen and Lawrence" 1490 School of Andrea Bregno (1418/1503)
APSE
Mosaic with "St. Agnes in the center flanked by Popes Symmachus and Honorius I" made at the time of Honorius I (625/638) one of the finest examples of Byzantine art in Rome where the figures express a wise almost immaterial symbolic synthesis
CIBORIUM 1614
Beneath the MAIN ALTAR remains of Sts. Agnes and Emerenziana (Agnes' sister)
Behind the altar "Statue of St. Agnes" by Nicolas Cordier who completed a torso sculpture of ancient oriental alabaster with a shade of agate stone
To the left of the altar Roman "Marble candelabra"
Catacomba di S. Agnese
Catacomb of St. Agnes
Excavated in the third and fourth centuries BC. There are no paintings
Three levels for about 6 km (3.7 miles), divided into four regions:
Regio 1 - Pre-Constantinian, second half of the third century. St. Agnes was buried here. She died when she was only 12 years old in the area of the Stadium of Domitian (Piazza Navona), it is unknown whether decapitated or burned. The persecution during which she was killed is not known either: Decius (249/251), Valerian (257/260) or Diocletian (303/305)?
Regio 2 - fragmented and devastated by the "corpisantari", tomb raiders
Regio 3 - Behind the apse of the Honorian Basilica towards north, used since the late fourth century
Regio 4 - The closer one to the Mausoleum of St. Constance. Necropolis with pagan mausoleums and columbaria in tombs and burial chambers overlapping. There are both incineration and inhumation burials dating from the mid-second century AD. Some maybe belonged to men of praetorian rank
Mausoleo di S. Costanza
Mausoleum of St. Constance
Built 342 for Constance and Helena daughters (or grandchildren) of Constantine, as a structure attached to the basilica
First it was transformed into a baptistery and then in 1254, at the behest of Alexander IV (1254/61), it was transformed into a church dedicated to the never existed St. Costance
The oldest Christian mosaics in Rome made between 337 and 361:
In the vault of the ambulatory "Geometric and ornamental patterns, depicting scenes of harvest" with "Portraits of Constantine and her husband Hannibalian"
In the small apse to the right "Christ entrust St. Peter a scroll" and in the small apse to the left "Traditio Legis" late fourth century. These mosaics were restored in 1843
In the niche opposite the entrance "Copy of the sarcophagus of Constantine" (the original is in the Vatican Museums)
"The relationship of light quantity between the central part and the ambulatory is underlined by the repetition, along the radial direction, of the connecting element: the column. The couples of columns give a "slow down" effect and make you feel more the osmosis from one value to another; the strong entablature that connects them to form a strong structural node, free the arches from any apparent effort, gives their curve value of deep connection between the area of light and of shadow" (Giulio Carlo Argan)
In some niches one can read the graffiti of Bentvogels, an association of Flemish and Dutch artists in the seventeenth century. They had chosen the mausoleum as their home believing it was a Temple of Bacchus (misled by the subject of the mosaics) and they used to drink merringly inside

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