Rome’s Basilica of Santa Prassede

Rome’s Basilica of Santa Prassede stands on an unassuming side street just steps away from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.  This 8th Century church was built to house the remains of Saints Praxedes (Prassede in modern Italian) and Pudentia (who gave her name to the nearby Basilica of Santa Pudenziana). Confusingly, it’s not known whether either saint ever existed, although they are reputed to have been martyred for facilitating Christian burial. Their father, Pudens, is mentioned in the Bible, and tradition has it that he was Rome’s first Christian convert who housed Saint Peter during his time in Rome before both were martyred by Nero.

The current church dates back to the 8th Century,  and was commissioned by Pope Paschal I, who was involved in restoration work on a number of basilicas including Santa Maria Maggiore and old St Peter’s.  Santa Prassede was built over an earlier, likely 5th Century, structure.  It is famed for its Byzantine mosaics, visible in the pictures below.  The mosaicists had likely decamped to Rome when the Eastern Orthodox church temporarily rejected their work during periods of iconoclasm. We sadly didn’t get into the famed Chapel of St Xeno which is the burial place of Paschal’s mother Theodora, as it was busy during our visit.

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Chapel of St Zeno Source: Jeff Pearson via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

These Cosmatesque floor designs are reminiscent of other churches across the city, and beautifully patterned.

The church is also famous as the home of part of the pillar upon which Jesus was flogged, although the authenticity of this remains in question.

So, a small church but a lot to see.

15 comments

  1. Fabulous as ever. We went into a Basillica (don’t know what it was called and don’t know exactly where as we were wantering the side streets after the Ara Pacis) and inside it was absolutely stunning. The ceiling was breathtaking. It did strike us that, small or large, churches could not be described as understated!

  2. Gorgeous church…those mosaics are astounding. How interesting to think, according to tradition, that Prudens was Rome’s first Christian convert and that he housed St. Peter. Nice post, Marilyn. Thank you!

  3. Santa Prassede is an absolute gem. I was there in October and was just mesmerized by the mosaic floor and the chapel with the tomb of Theodora. I must have really been in awe because I didn’t take a single foto- which is very not like me. Grazie for taking them for me. Ciao, Cristina

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