Santa Sabina

Santa Sabina

The Basilica of Saint Sabina is a historical church on the Aventine Hill in Rome, Italy. It is a titular minor basilica and mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Preachers, better known as the Dominicans.

Significance

Santa Sabina is the oldest extant Roman basilica in Rome.

Builder

Santa Sabina was built by Peter of Illyria, a Dalmatian priest.

When

Built between 422 and 432 AD, the church was built on the site of the 4th-century house of Sabina, a Roman matron who was beheaded under the Emperor Vespasian or Hadrian because she had been converted to Christianity and later declared a Christian Saint.

Renovation and Restoration

In the 9th century, it was enclosed in a fortification area and the interior was largely renovated by Domenico Fontana in 1587 and by Francesco Borromini in 1643 and the Italian architect and art historian, Antonio Munoz restored the original medieval appearance of the church.

The bell tower was built in the 10th century and remade in the Baroque period.

Similarity

It has a similar design to the great basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, which was built later.

 Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo
Tragedy

Sadly nearly all of the original mosaic decoration, which would have been as sumptuous as that of Ravenna’s basilicas, has disappeared.

Facts

The tall, spacious nave has 24 columns of Proconnesian marble

Nave of Santa Sabina

The 5th century door of Santa Sabina is easy to overlook. The ancient door contains 18 panels of narrative carvings, most depicting biblical scenes. Its frame is made of 3rd century marble spoils.

5th century door of Santa Sabina

The original 5th century apse mosaic was replaced in 1559 by a very similar fresco by Taddeo Zuccari.

An interesting feature of the interior is a framed hole in the floor, exposing a Roman era temple column that pre-dates Santa Sabina.

hole in the floor

In 537, Pope Siverius hid there to escape from Belisarius.

In the 10th century the basilica was combined with the fortress of the emperor Albericus II and became the point of reference for the imperial faction

The feast-day of St Sabina is 29 August, which is celebrated here with liturgical solemnity.

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