|English name:||St Praxedes|
|Type:||Minor basilica Station church|
|Titular church||Cardinal Poupard|
|Built:||8th century, enlarged in 9th century|
|Address:|| 9/a Via de Santa Prassede/ Via San Martino ai Monti|
|Phone:||06 48 82 456|
Santa Prassede is an ancient church dedicated to St Praxedes. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons. 
The first church here was probably built in the time of Pope St Siricius (384-399) and was one of the tituli, the first parish churches of Rome, known as Titulus Praxedis. The first definite mention of the church is from 489.
The present church is the one built by Pope Adrian I c. 780, completed and altered by Pope St Paschal I c. 822. It was enlarged at that time mainly to serve as a repository for relics from the catacombs. It was the first church in Rome since Santa Sabina to be modeled on San Pietro in Vaticano.
Some changes were made in the 16th century by St Charles Borromeus, with Martino Longhi the Elder as architect. His restorations were not altogether successful. Later, Ludovico Cardinal Pico della Mirandola also had it renovated.
Among the titulars of the church we find Giovanni Cardinal Colonna (13th century); Anchier Cardinal de Troyes, who was assassinated in the church during a popular uprising in 1286; St Charles Borromeus (titular 1564-1584),; and Ludovico Pico della Mirandola (titular 1728-1731). The current titular of the church is H.E. Paul Cardinal Poupard.
Many visitors to this church enter by the side entrance, in Via de Santa Prassede. I recommend going round the corner to enter through the portico from Via San Martino ai Monti, where a double flight of steps from the 16th century, commissioned by St Charles Borromeus, will take you into the atrium. Please note that the gate to this entrance may be locked, in which case the side entrance must be used. This gives you a better idea of what the ancient church was like. One of the columns imbedded in the walls is ancient, and the other medieval.
The façade was originally decorated with mosaics, but now only a few fragments by the left window remain.
The bell-tower over the left arm of the transept was built in the 12th century.
Adjacent to the church is a Vallombrosian Benedictine monastery, with an institute of philosophy and theology.
The church has a basilical plan, with a nave separated from two side aisles by 16 ancient columns and six pilasters. There are chapels off the aisles.
The floor was made by Antonio Muñoz in the 20th century, in imitation of the Cosmatesque style.
To the right of the main entrance (note that most visitors enter through the side door) is a marble slab, which is fixed into the wall. It is said that St Praxedes once slept on it. A statue of the saint stands in front of the slab.
On one of the piers in the right aisle is a stone tablet commemorating the c. 2.300 martyrs whose relics were moved from the catacombs by Pope St Paschal I (817-824). The tablet is from the 8th century, but was restored/reworked during the Renaissance. The church is decorated with frescoes depicting the deaths of the martyrs; each martyr depicted is identified by an inscription.
The apse mosaic was made during the pontificate of Pope St Paschal I. It is in the Byzantine style, and is one of the most important examples of the Roman school of that style. It looks very much like the apse mosaic in Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, with Christ among the clouds being awarded the crown of victory from the hand of the Father. He is flanked by Sts Peter and Paul, holding their arms round the shoulders of Sts Prassede and Pudentiana. Pope St Paschal is seen holding a model of the church, and the saint on the right side is probably the martyr St Zeno. The mosaic can be dated to the reign of St Paschal since he has a square halo, showing that he was alive when it was made. In the palm tree next to the pope there is a phoenix, a symbol of immortality. The blue band at the base is a common symbol of baptism, and here it is even inscribed JORDANES, the River Jordan in which the sacrament of baptism was instituted. The Lamb of Good is shown with 12 sheep symbolising the Apostles. The inscription records the building by Pope St Paschal I and the dedication to St Praxedes:
EMICAT AULA PIAE VARIIS DEOCRATA METALLIS
PRAXEDIS D(OMI)NO SUPER AETHRA PLACENTIS HONORE
PONTIFICIS SUMMI STUDIO PASCHALIS ALUMNI
SEDIS APOSTOLICAE PASSIM QUI CORPORA CONDENS
PLURIMA S(AN)C(T)ORUM SUBTER HAEC MOENIA PONIT
FRETUS UT HIS LIMEN MEREATUR ADIRE POLORUM
meaning: "The hall beams are decorated with various (precious) metals, in honour of the saintly Praxedes who has found pleasure with the Lord in heaven above, through the zeal of the Supreme Pontiff Paschal, raised to the Apostolic See, who collected the bodies of numerous saints and laid them beneath these walls, trusting that by his service he has merited as place in your house."
Paschal I is depicted wearing golden robes with a square nimbus which symbolizes that he was living during the time this mosaic was created and paid for it. Above Paschal I there is a golden palm tree with a phoenix that represents resurrection. There are lambs underneath Jesus and the Saints. These lambs may represent all of Jesus’s followers as the shepherd otherwise known as the flock of faithful, or they can be understood as the 12 apostles.
The mosaics on the arches are also from the time of Pope St Paschal I; in one of them you can see his monogram. On the triumphal arch, the one closest to the nave, Heavenly Jerusalem is depicted. The arch over the opening to the apse is decorated with motifs from the "Apocalypse of John"; the elders of the Apocalypse are presenting crowns to the Lamb of God.
Behind the high altar is an oil painting of St Praxedes Gathering the Blood of the Martyrs, painted c. 1730-35 by Domenico Muratori.
A staircase leading to the confessio lies between the steps to the sanctuary. The shrine was decorated by the Cosmati in the 13th century. The relics of Sts Prassede and [Pudentiana]] are kept here in an ancient sarcophagus - it was not originally intended for the two saints. They were translated here in 822 by Pope St Paschal I. In their sarcophagus, there is also a sponge said to have been used by the sisters to collect the blood of martyrs. In the three other sarcophagi are relics from martyrs moved here from the catacombs. A sarcophagus on the left has a relief showing Christ as the Good Shepherd and Jonah resting on the beach after his encounter with the sea monster - both were popular motifs in early Christian art. Jonah is also depicted at the entrance to the crypt; the lintel above the doorway has a relief of Jonah being swallowed by the whale, taken from the 3rd century sarcophagus of a woman called Ulpia, whom the inscription identifies as "the rarest of wives". The altar at the end of the corridor has cosmatesque decoration. There are also fragments of early Christian tombs here.
In a chapel on the right-hand side of the nave are vestments and articles of clothing that belonged to Pope St Pius X.
The Chapel of St ZenoEdit
The Chapel of St Zeno, which lies off right aisle, contains 9th century mosaics depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary and saints on the inner arch and Christ and the Apostles on the outer. The mosaics are in the Byzantine style, which is rare in Rome. The chapel was built by Pope St Paschal I in honour of his mother Theodora, and as her burial place, to enshrine the relics of St Zeno and St Valentine, which were brought here from the catacombs. The plan of the chapel imitates a cubiculum (small room) in the catacombs. The lintel and columns at the entrance are ancient spolia.
There is a mosaic portrait of Paschal's mother, inscribed 'Theodora Episcopa' (Bishop Theodora), with Sts Praxedes and Pudentiana and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Theodora is depicted with a square halo, indicating that the image was made when she was alive. Above them is a lunette with a mosaic of the Lamb of God with four deer drinking from streams.
In the ceiling is a medallion of Christ Pantokrator supported by four angels.
The mosaic of the Madonna and the Divine Child in a niche behind the altar is from the 13th century. Sts Praxedes and Pudentiana flank Our Lady and the Child. Christ holds a scroll with the words EGO SUM LUX, "I am the light (of the world)" (John 8,12). Above the architrave is a lunette with a mosaic of the Transfiguration.
On the right-hand side is a depiction of The Harrowing of Hell (Anastasis). Christ is breaking down the gates of Hell to rescue Adam and Eve and other Old Testament figures waiting for him. This is a motif fit for a funerary chapel, as it symbolises not only death as the beginning of a new life, but also the hope of salvation through the endless mercy of Christ. It first appears in the 7th century, and became very popular in Rome in the next two centuries.
Several ancient spolia are used; one of the most interesting is a recarved capital used as a columns base.
From St Zeno's chapel, you can enter the sanctuary of the Pillar of the Scourging. The relic was brought from the Holy Land in 1223 by Giovanni Cardinal Colonna the Younger, but it is unlikely that it is authentic. The marble and work is of too high quality for such a pillar, and there is a Pillar of the Scourging, of a more realistic form, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The relic is encased in glass below a baldachino of a rare type of marble, made in 1898. Regardless of its authenticity, it does provide a good setting for contemplation over the Passion of Christ. St Charles Borromeo celebrated Mass in this room daily while he was in Rome, and St Bridget of Sweden often came here to pray.
The church also has two other relics of Our Lord: A small piece of the seamless garment, and a small portion of the Crown of Thorns.
On the left side of the nave The Cappella Olgiata, also known as the Chapel of St Charles Borromeo, has a table where the saint entertained the poor.
In the Cappella del Crocefisso, Chapel of the Crucifix, is a Medieval crucifix. Attempts to date it varies from the 13th to the 15th century. Tradition claims that it was here when St Bridget of Sweden used to pray in the church in the 14th century, and that it once spoke to her. It is possible that the crucifix we see today is more recent, and replaces the one St Bridget saw here.
In the large chapel off the end of the right aisle is the tomb of Cardinal Anchero Pantaléon (known in French as Anchier de Troyes), Archbishop of Troyes, and nephew of Pope Urban IV who died in 1286. The funerary monument has been attributed to Arnolfo da Cambio. Here is also the tomb of Cardinal Alfano, made by Andrea Bregno. The fragments of sculpture in the chapel are from the 9th century furnishings of the church.
There is a small souvenir shop in the sacristy. Among the normal souvenirs are also facsimiles of the book Notizie al Pellegrino della Basilica di Santa Prassede, a pilgrim guide to the church written by Fr. Benigno Davanzati in 1725.
The celebration of the Easter Vigil is said to be especially beautiful in this church.
Normally open daily 07.30-12.00 and 16.00-18.30.