Rome, Italy: Basilica of Saint Praxedes: Cosmatesque Floor: Porphyry Disk Marking Ancient Well

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Sheppard, Beth M.
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19-May-17
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Italy , Rome , Basilica di Santa Prassede all Esquilino , Basilica of Saint Praxedes , Mosaic Floors , Opus Sectile , Cosmatesque Floors , Cosmati Floors , Porphyry , Saint Praxedes , Ancient Wells , Christian Martyrs , Latin Inscriptions
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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 mosaics of the marble floor, according to the opus sectile style, in which the mosaic pieces are cut in shapes to fit the component parts of the design; in this case, as part of a Cosmatesque or Cosmati floor. This style of floor was named for the Cosmati family, who led the craftsmen of Rome in creating geometrical marble decorations. The central disk in the photograph is made of red porphyry and marks the exact site of an ancient well. A total of 23 Christians whom Praxedes was sheltering in her house were horribly martyred in her presence upon discovery. Praxedes gathered their blood with a sponge and placed the sponge and the remains in the well; she was also later buried in the well for some time. Today her remains, along with those of her sister, Saint Prudenziana, lie underneath the high altar of the Basilica in sarcophagi within the crypt. The Latin inscription surrounding the disk says: "CONDITORIUM RELIQUIARUM SANTORUM MARTYRUM IN AEDIBUS SANCTAE PRAXIDIS," which means, according to Google Translate: "The founder of the relics of the holy martyrs in the house of the holy Praxis."
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