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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces (a very small excerpt from)
a chapter of
Le chiese di Roma dal secolo IV al XIX

by Mariano Armellini

published by the
Tipografia Vaticana

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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 p686  S. Crisogono

It is one of the most famous basilicas of Rome and of the Trastevere, and still today partly retains its original disposition, though we should not believe the level of the present church identical with that of ancient times, which the discoveries in the nearby excubitorium of the Vigiles show to have been lower. In fact the origins of the church go back to the first days of the peace of the church, when the ground of the city in this part of the Trastevere was on a level with the floor of the excubitorium; traces of the old Constantinian church therefore very likely remain under the floor of the current basilica of Chrysogonus. In about 731, Pope Gregory III, as we read in the Liber Pontificalis, restored the roof and decorated the walls and the apse with paintings. He also founded near the basilica a monastery dedicated to SS. Stephen, Lawrence and Chrysogonus, which he placed under an abbot not subject to the titular priest of the basilica. Among the monks living there at that time was Stephen, who in 768 was elected pope, as recorded in the same book. Paul I, at the instance of Pepin, gave this church to Marinus. The titular in 1123 was Giovanni da Crema, the same who imprisoned the antipope Burdinus (Honorius II's apostolic legate to England), and to whom St. Bernard wrote letter CLXIII. In that same year 1123 Giovanni da Crema dedicated an oratory near the church, as can be read in an inscription affixed to the right of the main altar; the church itself being threatened by ruin, he rebuilt it and it was then blessed by the pope himself.

Another inscription indicates that in 1157 an altar was dedicated in the church, the titular of which was Guido Bellagio, a Florentine cardinal. Under the pontificates of Innocent and Honorius III its titular was the celebrated English cardinal Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, who played so prominent a rôle in the religious annals of the United Kingdom, which he made tributary to the Apostolic See.º

Benedictine monks owned the church until the 12c, and after them secular clergy, as can be gathered from a privilege of Innocent III granted it in 1200, where it is stated to be a mother parish to the dependent churches of S. Salvatore della Corte, S. Bonosa, S. Agata, and S. Stefano.

 p687  In later times the church fell to the canons of S. Salvatore, and then in 1480 to the Carmelite Fathers of the Original Observance: they remained there until the pontificate of Pius IX, who assigned the church to the discalced Trinitarian Fathers for the Ransom of Slaves. The interior of the church is still of the basilican form, with three aisles supported by columns of various provenances and orders; the triumphal arch is, on the other hand, supported by two magnificent porphyry columns, rare in both material and size. In the center of the ceiling up to the present century there had remained a famous painting by Guercino depicting the titular saint of the church; it was removed and sold and made its way to England, and is now replaced by a copy. The pavement of the church is of 13c Cosmatesque work, but that of the side aisles incorporates many fragments of pagan and Christian funerary inscriptions removed from our catacombs in the 16c. At the end of the right aisle is the tomb of the Ven. Anna Maria Taigi, who died in Rome in 1837, and whose memory still glows with that same Sun that lit up her life.

On the front of the church is read the following inscription: SCIPIO S. R. E. PRESB. CARD. BVRGHESIVS M. POENIT. A. D. MDCXXVI.

In the 17c, in the garden of the basilica of S. Crisogono there stood a small base for a statue of Good Shepherd, on which this inscription could be read:



This very rare 4c monument gives us the name of a Christian sculptor of that time and confirms that even in the first Christian centuries the faithful had no aversion to statuary and set images of this kind as objects of veneration in places of worship.

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Page updated: 13 Oct 10