Rome, Italy: Basilica of Saint Praxedes: Main Apse 1

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Sheppard, Beth M.
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Italy , Rome , Basilica di Santa Prassede all Esquilino , Basilica of Saint Praxedes , Apses , High Altars , Baldachins , Corinthian Columns , Mosaic Floors , Cosmateque Floors , Byzantine Art , Mosaics , Porphyry Columns , Triumphal Arches , Jesus Christ in Art , Saints in Art , Saint Praxedes in Art , Saint Prudenziana in Art , Saint Zeno in Art , Pope Paschale I in Art , Second Coming of Christ in Art , Halos in Art , Saint Peter in Art , Saint Paul in Art
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The Basilica of Saint Praxedes (in Italian: Basilica di Santa Prassede, commonly known as Santa Prassede) is a Catholic basilica located in the Rione Esquilino (or district of Esquiline). Esquiline is the name of a Roman hill, one of seven on which the ancient city was built. The church was rebuilt by Pope Pasquale I in 822 CE and was restored multiple times since then. It was built principally as a resting place for the relics of Roman martyrs and was dedicated to the second-century Saint Praxedes, who was the daughter of a Roman senator. Along with her sister, Praxedes provided comfort and care to Christians persecuted in the Roman Empire. The sisters were murdered for burying early Christian martyrs, which defied Roman law. The church is known for being the most important example of early Christian Byzantine art in Rome because of the mosaics decorating its apse and side chapels. The photograph shows the main apse of the church. Central in the photograph is the high altar, emphasized with a baldachin topping four red porphyry and multiple marble columns. This elaborate structure of Baroque style was built by the order of Cardinal Luigi Pico della Mirandola in 1730. The relics of Saints Praxedes and Prudenziana are contained below this high altar in sarcophagi within a crypt. The triumphal arch, the arch of the apse wall, the half dome of the apse (as well as the Chapel of St. Zeno, not pictured here) are covered in original 9th century mosaics and are famous features of the Basilica. The triumphal arch is the first of the three mosaic scenes encountered by the viewer, but it is largely cut off in this photograph in the upper left and right. The arch of the apse wall is the next colorful mosaic scene and contains the monogram of Pasquale at its center. This arch, and the half dome of the apse, depict the Second Coming of Christ. In the apse mosaic, the Hand of God comes down to the central figure of Christ, who has three bands of blue in his halo representing the Trinity. Behind Jesus is the River Jordan, in which He was baptized. He is flanked by Saint Paul (on the left), who is presenting Saint Praxedes, and Saint Peter (on the right), who is presenting Saint Pudenziana to God. It is thought that St. Zeno is the figure depicted on the far right. Pope Paschal is also present on the far left, with the square nimbus (halo) of the living, presenting the church to Christ. The square nimbus is very rare in Christian iconography. Below that scene are two rows of lambs (representing the Apostles) coming from the holy cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, processing to the central Lamb of God. Above the Hand of God on the arch of the apse wall is a medallion with Paschale's name, and above that is a medallion depicting a throne with a lamb sitting on it, symbolic of the Second Coming. Seven candles and four angels flank the throne, plus the four symbols of the Evangelists, with the elders of the Apocalypse below on this arch of the apse wall.
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