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Bill Thayer

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Good Materials + Good Restoration:
The Church Improves with Age


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The raised altar forms a unit (presbyterium) with the confessio of St. George: the small arched base where the saint's bones now rest.

As with many of the older churches in Rome, we don't know when S. Giorgio was founded. We do know the basilica was already an important church by the 8c, when Pope Zachary chose it to be the repository of the bones of St. George.

The building is neither very large nor very elaborate, but much care has been lavished on it. By all critical accounts, each remodelling or restoration was successful: not often the case in the Eternal City, where churches have frequently been reworked to display wealth, power and the latest architectural fashions. Here, however, a 9c redesign seems to have been particularly conscientious; the later mediaeval ciborium (baldacchino) fits beautifully into the space; the 1926 restoration was a good one, as was another completed in 1986.

We are used to thinking of buildings decaying due to the unspecified ravages of "time". Here at S. Giorgio, as very often, it is not time but the evils of human beings that are to blame. In July 1993, the basilica, an easy target, was the victim of a Mafia car bomb that blew off most of the portico, destroyed some of the windows, and seriously wounded a number of people.


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The photos above, and the stone fragments near them, are a witness to the damage; but S. Giorgio underwent a new restoration, and has reëmerged, to my mind, as one of the most attractive churches in Rome.

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[ 2/18/00: 1 page, 3 photos ]

Although S. Giorgio is an attractive and harmonious whole, the area around the altar has received special attention, as is fitting: the 11c‑12c marble ciborium and the great fresco by Cavallini (13c) combine to produce a very beautiful result. So much so that, you may have noticed in the footer bars, the photo you see to the left is also the one I use as my icon image for the Churches of Rome homepage.

Page updated: 18 Feb 00