Faith and history at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Basilica in Rome
It’s been a while since I haven’t updated this little blog of mine, and for a number of good reasons, among which are a heavy workload, my decision to redecorate and refurbish my house (almost done!), and frequent updates of my other blog focused on my international travels, Chasing The Unexpected. Obviously, I haven’t forgotten about this blog of mine about Rome, and since I still live in the eternal city, I’m always more into unearthing its priceless treasures and hidden gems. So slowly, but I assure you, relentless, I’m getting back on track, visiting and suggesting interesting sites, taking photos around the city and joining cultural tours to dig deeper into local history, society and traditions.
This is also how I ended up last Sunday to impressive Santa Croce in Gerusalemme basilica, translating basilica of Jerusalem’s Holy Cross, in the Esquilino neighbourhood. This church is another piece of the puzzle to remind us once more that Italian and Catholic traditions here lie side by side with cultures and faiths from all over the world.
Sitting a stone’s throw away from San Giovanni in Laterano square and almost leaning on the legendary Aurelian Walls, the basilica’s name means right what it says, reliquary of pieces from the Holy Cross since the 4th century. Part of the ancient pilgrimage route of the Seven Churches, it’s not a mystery why this basilica was very much cherished by the Knights Templar.
Its origins date back to the 3rd century, when the Esquilino area was part of Rome’s outskirts, place of the imperial complex consisting of the Sessorium palace, the Helena’s baths, the Variano Circus and the Castrense Amphitheater, later included in the Aurelian Walls. Commissioned by emperor Constantine, the church’s original title was Helena’s basilica, named after the emperor’s mother, and was built inside the Sessorianum palace. Apparently, it was Helena herself who found the sacred relics of the Christ’s passion in Jerusalem on the mount where he was crucified, and who later brought them to Rome.
As history goes, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme basilica underwent repeated renovation endeavors, and from an early-Christian church it was remodeled into a Romanesque-style building in the 12° century during the reign of Pope Lucius II, to finally obtain the late-Gothic look it has today, result of the work of architects Pietro Passalacqua and Domenico Gregorini, commissioned by Pope Benedict XIV in the 18° century.
Even though a rather popular church and attraction, this was my first time at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme basilica, and while I’m not exactly the perfect Catholic devout and church-goer, it’s impossible not to gape in awe at an art masterpiece.
Below are some more shots I took there.
In case you want to visit, the church is open for visitors from Monday to Sunday 7am-12,45 and 3,30pm-7,30pm, while the daily Mass celebrations follow the timetables of Monday to Saturday at 8am and 7pm, and Sunday at 8am, 10am, 11,30am, 7pm.