Saturday, March 07, 2009

Santa Maria in Domnica

For those of you who follow the round of Stational Churches during Lent you will notice that the stational church for the Second Sunday of Lent is the Stational Church of Santa Maria in Domnica.

(Photo:Nina Aldin Thune)

I visited this charming little church on an Autumn morning in Rome, after walking up the Clivus Scauri, past where Pope Gregory the Great lived. The term "Dominca" it is suggested comes from the term dominica sotto praedia namely, that the church was sited in an area of Imperial dependence. Archaeologists have found that this church, founded upon an earlier one, was connected to a diaconal hall. These halls were set up after the collapse of the Roman Empire after the church took over the distribution of the corn "dole". This task was managed by the deacons.

At the end of the papal struggle against the Iconoclasts, Pope Pascal II (pontificate 817-824AD)built this church, which features for the first time Our Lady holding the child Jesus as a central icon in the apse.

You can see Pope Pascal II, as the small figure (about the same size as Jesus) kneeling at the foot of Mary touching her foot in homage. Note the square halo around the Pope, indicating that the mosaic was undertaken in his lifetime.

For those of you with an interest in how churches are oriented. This one is oriented in the same way as St John Lateran and St Peters, with the apse at the western end and the doors at the East. The celebrant would therefore celebrate facing the congregation. Presumably the Altar originally had a ciborium, but it looks about 18th century to me. Cardinal de Medici (later Pope Leo X) arranged a major makeover in the early 1500s (Medici lions all over the place on the outside) and the sanctuary had a makeover in the 1950s.
This church is the titular church of H.E. Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. I hope that he gets a chance often to celebrate Mass here.

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