Rome, Italy: Basilica of Saint Praxedes: Detail of Main Apse Mosaic

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Sheppard, Beth M.
Issue Date
19-May-17
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Image
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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 a detail image of the main apse mosaics of the church, depicting the Second Coming of Christ. Central in the photograph is the top of the high altar's baldachin. This elaborate structure of Baroque style was built by the order of Cardinal Luigi Pico della Mirandola in 1730. The main apse is covered in original 9th century mosaics which are famous features of the Basilica. In the apse mosaic, the Hand of God comes down to the central figure of Christ, who has three bands of blue and white 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. (The right row and the Lamb of God are blocked in the photo by the baldachin.) Above the Hand of God on the arch of the apse wall is a medallion with Paschale's name. Above that, on the arch of the apse wall, is a central 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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