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Santa Pudenziana

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Santa Pudenziana
English name: St Pudentiana
Dedication: Pudentiana
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Type: Titular and national church
Clergy: Diocesan clergy
Titular church Joachim Meisner
National church: The Philippines
Built: 4th cent., altered in 1588
Architect(s): Francesco da Volterra, Antonio Manno
Artists: Bernardino Nocchi Pomerancio Giacomo della Porta
Contact data
Address: 160 Via Urbana
00184 Roma
Phone: 06 48 14 622
41° 53.910' N 12° 29.734' E

Santa Pudenziana is a palaeo-Christian church dedicated to St Pudentiana, a legendary Roman martyr. It is also (despite appearances) a converted 2nd century Roman bath-house, and one of the few ancient Roman buildings in Rome that has never been a ruin. It is located on the Esquilino near Santa Maria Maggiore, and the postal address is Via Urbana 160. It is now the national church of The Philippines, and is a minor basilica. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons.[1] There is an English Wikipedia page .[2]


Legendary originsEdit

The church is actually on the Viminal hill, and in ancient times the street which is now the Via Urbana was the Vicus Patricius. On it was a 1st century private house, remains of which survive below the church. This was the possible origin of one of the tituli, the first parish churches in Rome, although the foundation of this one is obscured by legend. According to the tradition, the first church or chapel on the site of the house's garden was established as early as in the pontificate of Pius I (140155). It was originally known as the Titulus Pudentis, and this Pudens was probably the owner of the house.

A later fictional romantic legend, which may possibly preserve the names of real people, describes St Pudens as a Roman senator who gave hospitality to St Peter . He allegedly had two virgin daughters who were martyred, SS Pudentiana and Praxedis (who has the nearby church of Santa Prassede dedicated to her). The existence of the daughters is historically extremely problematic; "Pudentiana" probably derives from a corruption of the original titulus name as Titulus Pudentiana or "Pudentian Title". Pudens himself has been deleted from the revised Roman Martyrology.

The Termae NovaeEdit

The reason why the tradition specified the garden as the site of the original church is that the house was allegedly demolished in the year 139 (before Pope Pius) to make way for a small public bath-house known in the sources as the Thermae Novae. The original house had its rooms filled in to provide the foundations, and this raised the ground level to that of the present church. The new building had two rooms; a rectangular one which was surrounded by an ambulatory, and a second, smaller one to the west which was the entrance and locker-room and is now occupied by the present Caetani chapel. There was an exedra at each end of the main room, and remains of one survive behind the church's apse (which can be examined from the Via Cesare Balbo, running parallel to the Via Urbana to the north). Three external arcade arches on each side supported by pillars held up the outside walls. Various basins to hold different temperatures of water were set into the floor of the main room, and these survive below the floor of the present church.

Recent revisionist analysis of the site has thrown doubt on the identification of the building with the Thermae Novae, because there is a lack of obvious ancient water supply and storage arrangements in the complex. It may have been a tannery instead, but debate continues.

Conversion to a ChurchEdit

The first part of the complex known to have been used as a church was the entrance room, which was possibly a chapel used by Novatian heretics after 250. It emerges into history when, according to the Liber Pontificalis, Pope Siricius (384-99) reconsecrated and dedicated this oratory to St Peter. The clerics of the oratory were then Maximus, Leopard and Iliceus, and a surviving epigraph mentions them. Leopard is referred to as lector de Pudentiana, the first use of this name. However, a synod of 499 still refers to the Titulus Pudentis. This oratory used to have a mosaic of Christ the Good Shepherd with an inscription referring to the three clerics again (Maximus fecit cum suis), and this led to the later renaming of the chapel after the (fictional) St Pastor (Latin for shepherd).

The same three clerics apparently oversaw the conversion of the main room of the bath-house into a proper basilica. An apse was inserted into the western exedra and provided with the surviving mosaic , c. 390, twelve grey marble columns were pillaged from elsewhere to provide the arcades and a new entrance was made onto the present Via Urbana. The façade of this was made from the external wall of the east exedra. The vaulted cement roof was replaced with a wooden one, and the basins in the floor were filled in and covered.

Mediaeval periodEdit

The east exedra was later demolished and replace with what is essentially the present façade, and this is thought to have happened under Pope Adrian I (772-95). A lost mosaic inscription recorded a restoration ordered by him, although it is unclear just how much work was done. Some scholars allege that the entrance prothyrum is later. The nave columns were apparently encased in pillars in this restoration.

Another lost inscription mentioned a further restoration under Pope Gregory VII (1073-85). The building of the campanile is undocumented, although this was probably provided in the reign of Pope Innocent III in the early 12th century. At about the same time a schola cantorum in the Cosmatesque style was provided like that at San Clemente, although later tragically destroyed in the great 16th century restoration.

In 1130 the church was granted to the Canons Regular of Santa Maria del Reno in Bologna, who established a monastery here. 

Cistercian monasteryEdit

Pope Pius V (1566-72) granted the complex to the Dominican penitentiaries of Santa Maria Maggiore, but they were not in possession for long. In 1587, Pope Sixtus V granted the church to the new reformed Cistercian monastic congregation of the Feuillants. As a result, a new monastery was built to the north. 

As part of the project, the church was drastically altered in 1588 by Francesco da Volterra, on orders from Cardinal Enrico Caetani. Some of the changes were very unfortunate, such as the partial mutilation of the mosaics from c. 390 and the demolition of the ancient St Pastor's Chapel to make way for the present Caetani Chapel. The wooden nave ceiling was replaced with a barrel vault, the nave pillars were opened up to reveal the ancient columns within and the ceiling of the transept was replaced by an elliptical dome. This latter was one of the first in Rome. Also the aisles were sectioned by blocking walls to create a series of side chapels; the left aisle had three arches left open, but the right aisle was completely blocked.

The Cistercian monastery was substantial, but has now been demolished. It had its main entrance on the present Via Agostino Depretis north of the junction with the Via Cesare Balbo. There was a large cloister with arcades on all four sides and a fountain in the middle, located to the north of the church and connecting to the far end of its right hand aisle via a passage. A smaller cloister, still with four arcades, was in between this cloister and the street to the east, and was separated from the latter by a screen wall. The monastery had very substantial gardens, including one occupying the street corner to the east of the church.

The Feuillant Congregation had another monastery in the city, at San Bernardo alle Terme.

Modern timesEdit

The Feuillants were suppressed in the French Revolution and not re-founded. The monastery at San Bernardo remained Cistercian, but this one did not. After the French occupation it was granted to the Canonesses at Santo Spirito ai Monti after that monastery was demolished. In 1803 Cardinal Lorenzo Litta provided a new neo-Classical main altar, and transferred the relics of St Pudenziana to it. These used to be in a small side-chapel in the left aisle.

In 1870 a restoration was ordered by Cardinal Luciano Bonaparte, great-nephew of Napoleon. The façade was heavily restored, and in the process remains of Roman buildings were found beneath the church and neighbouring buildings. It is possible that one of these houses was the original house-church belonging to Pudens, mentioned above. Unfortunately, this restoration involved the loss of Mannerist frescoes painted on the façade by Pomerancio in the 16th century. Their replacements were very poor quality, and have decayed badly.

The monastery was secularized by the Italian government two years later, and cleared for redevelopment.

The last restoration was in 1964, when the underground structures were cleared of rubble and consolidated.

The current titular is H.E. Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne.

The church was granted to the Filipino community by the Italian hierarchy, making it the national church of the Philippines. (The Philippines has the largest Catholic population in Asia.) It is served by diocesan clergy, helped by Filipina religious sisters. Next door a refuge has been set up for vulnerable and disturbed teenage girls.



When visitors first see the church from the Via Urbana, it looks as if it is in a hole. However it is actually the street that has been raised, as part of works ordered by Pope Sixtus V to improve access to Santa Maria Maggiore. The next street to the north, the Via Cesare Balbo, is nearer the original level and visitors are recommended to take the trouble to go round the block to see the interesting back elevation of the church there. It actually sticks out into the street; motorists beware. There is a small separate chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary located here, which sits on top of the ambulatory round the back of the apse. You can enter from the street, or you can ask the sacristan to take you in through the church. Street level here corresponds to the roof of the ambulatory.

The frontage is approached from the street via a gate in a screen made of decorative iron railings, a formal set of two transverse staircases and a small courtyard. These amenities were provided in 1870.

The church itself is on a rectangular plan; from outside it looks as if it has transepts, but these are ancillary rooms (the sacristy is on the right hand side). The dome is octagonal with a pitched and tiled roof above a projecting dentillate cornice and crowned by a large torch finial. Every other side of the drum has a vertical elliptical window. The back frontage has four unadorned brick arches on the street. The Caetani Chapel is a separate but attached building on the left side, under its own pitched and tiled roof.


The campanile is tucked into the near corner between church and chapel, and is from the early 13th century. (some sources say 1160). It is a fine Romanesque work in brick, with five storeys. The bottom storey has two open arches on each face, but the others have arcades of three arches each. The top three storeys have these arches separated by rather spindly marble columns with imposts but no capitals. The top storey is embellished by discs of green stone.


The simple, dignified but artistically very important façade was restored by Antonio Manno in 1870, on orders from Luciano Bonaparte, titular of the church. Apparently it was more or less rebuilt, although the previous form was preserved. There are two storeys, rendered in a yellow ochre which now looks shabby. The bottom storey is plain walling bounded by a pair of triply stacked rectangular pilasters without capitals.

The entrance doorway was reconstructed in the 16th century using medieval materials. It has a finely carved marble doorcase, and is protected by a prothyrum consisting of a pair of spirally fluted Doric columns supporting an entablature and triangular pediment. The sculptured frieze of the entablature is a spectacular carving from the 11th century, described below. The mural fresco in the tympanum of the pediment, by Antonio Manno, is from the 1870 restoration and depicts Our Lady enthroned with the Child Jesus on her lap.

The entablature separating the two storeys is a delightful piece of work. The architrave is a continuous barley-sugar twist, and above it the frieze is decorated in Cosmatesque style with alternate purple roundels and green squares. The projecting cornice is intricately carved with foliage and putto's heads.

The upper of the two storeys is framed by a pair of triply stacked pilasters like those below, except these are presented as framed recessed panels. They support another highly decorated entablature; the architrave has egg and dart ornamentation, the frieze has patterned polychrome roundels with the chi-rho symbol in the centre and the cornice is doubly dentillated. The crowning triangular pediment has a damaged fresco of Christ in glory enclosed in a tondo and venerated by angels. There used to be a large coat-of-arms here before the 1870 restoration.

The upper storey used to have a large arched Baroque window, which can be seen in the surviving Vasi engraving of the 18th century (see "Romeartlover" external link below). The 1870 restoration replaced this with a pair of round-headed windows with narrow twisted frames; each window has two narrow arches separated by a column with a rather debased derivative Corinthian capital. Above each pair of arches is a tympanum containing a bust; the two busts face each other and look like SS Peter and Paul.

The wall of the upper storey has seriously damaged and faded frescoes by Pietro Gagliardi depicting St Peter in the centre between SS Pudenziana and Pudens. The latter is dressed as a Roman senator. On the other side of the windows are SS Gregory the Great and Pius I. These frescoes replaced those by Pomerancio.

Prothyrum friezeEdit

The sculptured frieze of the prothyrum is probably from the 11th century. It is undocumented, and scholars have also suggested 8th or 14th century dates. However, the Germanic influence inferred from the style of the carved vine scrolling suggests the period given. As it exists, the work is an architectural palimpsest. There are five tondi separated by the scrollwork; the central one depicts the Lamb of God and the two flanking ones depict St Pudens' daughters carrying either vessels containing the blood of martyrs or liturgical oil lamps (the latter is more likely, given the inscriptions and the fact that there seem to be wicks). St Pudenziana is on the left, and St Praxedes on the right. The outermost pair of tondi depict their father on the left, and and St Pastor on the right.

Before the 16th century restoration, the carving probably occupied a whole doorframe. It is postulated that the two outermost tondi occupied the tops of the jambs, and were below the ones showing the daughters. This would have entailed a narrow door. An examination of the frieze reveals that there are two disjunctive fragments of scrollowork on the outer sides of the daughters, and these would have come from the rest of the jambs (the remainder of which would have been discarded).

The frieze has six inscriptions, one around each tondo and one along the upper edge. They are as follows:

Around the Lamb of God: MORTUUS ET VIVUS IDEM SUM PASTOR ED AGNUS + HIC AGNUS MUNDU[M] RESTAURAT SANGUINE LAPSUM (Dead and alive, I am both shepherd and lamb. This lamb restores with [its] blood the fallen world).

Around St Pastor: SA[N]C[T]E PRECOR PASTOR P[R]O NOBIS ESTO ROGATOR + HIC CUNCTIS VITE (sic) PASTOR DAT DOGMATE [SAN]C[T]E (O Saint Pastor, I pray that you be [my] intercessor; this shepherd gives life to all by holy doctrine; read "Vita" for "Vite").

Around St Pudenziana: P[ROT]EGE PRAECLARA NOS VIRGO PUDENQ[U]ETIANA + VIRGO PUDENQ[U]ETIANA CORA[M] STAT LA[M]PADE PLENA (Protect us, illustrious virgin Pudenziana; the virgin Pudenziana stands [before God?] with a full lamp).

Around St Praxedis: NOS PIA PRAXEDIS PRECE S[ANC[T]A S[AN]C[TIS] FER AD [A]EDIS + OCCURRIT SPONSO PRAXEDIS LUMINE CLARO (Pious St Praxedis, make us [go] to the holy temples [of heaven?] by your prayer. Praxedis meets the bridegroom with a bright light).

Around St Pudens: TE ROGO PUDENS [SAN]C[T]E NOS PURGA CRIMINA TRUDENS + ALMUS ET ISTE DOCET PUDENS AD SIDERA CA[E]LES (I ask you holy Pudens, you who pushes [inspires?], purge our offences. This kind and modest [note pun] one teaches [the way] to the heavenly stars).

Along the top edge: AD REQUIEM VITAE CUPIS O TU QUOQUE VENIRE ET IANITOR IDEM GAVIDIA PROMITTENS ET CRIMINA QUAEQUAE REMITTENS (To those desiring the rest [after death] of life: O you also come, and the same gatekeeper [will] produce joys and remit any sort of offence).



The church has a basilical plan, with two aisles. However, the latter have been obscured by having side-chapels built into them. The nave has seven bays, and discerning visitors may notice that the first pair of arcade pillars are further apart than the rest because the left hand pillar is set back slightly. Each pillar has a T-shaped plan, with the crossbar facing into the nave, and within each is embedded one of the ancient grey marble Corinthian arcade columns -rather like the sausage in a hot-dog. The nave ceiling is barrel-vaulted, and the large semi-circular triumphal arch is supported by a pair of Doric columns in black-veined white marble.

At present, entry to the church for visitors is not through the main door but through a side door in the far left hand side of the courtyard. This leads into a rectangular entrance hall occupying two bays, and the church's custodian is usually on duty here. (If it is one of the sisters, she usually speaks English.) The right hand wall of this is not parallel to the left hand, exterior wall because of the irregularity in the left hand arcade mentioned above. The church is entered through a door immediately on the right.

The right hand arcade is completely taken up by side-chapels. The first three bays are occupied by the Chapel of St Augustine, which is completely walled in. The next three bays have three chapels open to the nave but separated by blocking walls. The left hand aisle has the entrance hall mentioned, and the bay next to it is occupied by a walled-in chapel which used to contain the relics of St Pudenziana. The rest of this aisle is open. Here, just outside the entrance to the Capella Caetani, there used to be a holy well. The legend alleges that the two holy sisters hid the corpses of three thousand martyrs, mopped up their spilt blood and poured what they had collected into the well. This is marked by a square porphyry slab in the floor; obviously, the excavations below the church has ensured that the well is long gone. In this aisle also may be examined some epigraphs found during the archaeological investigations, including that mentioning the three founding clerics Maximus, Leopard and Ilicius.

Remains of the original bath-house windows, blocked up when it was converted into a church, are visible on the nave walls, which have had the plaster scraped off them to reveal the ancient masonry. On the floor are marks that indicate the plan of the older buildings beneath the church.

The presbyterium with its ambulatory occupies three bays. The latter is part of the ancient bath-house, and here can be seen some ancient walling and flooring together with the original vault. In the far corners of the ambulatory are two chapels in niches. Three smaller niches are in the far wall of the transverse corridor of the ambulatory between these. Above the ambulatory and behind the apse is the Marian Oratory, the existence of which is not obvious from inside the church. Its entrance is actually in the left aisle, just on the far side of the Caetani chapel.

Apse mosaicEdit

The apse mosaic, from about 390, is the oldest in Rome and is of the first importance. However there is documentary evidence for restorations up to the 19th century, and this is a slight worry to art historians involved in analysis. The lower part of the mosaic was destroyed in the 1588 or 1598 restoration. It is dimly lit, as it must have been when it was made. If you wish to see more of the details, insert a coin in the machine to the right of the sanctuary to turn on more light for a few minutes.

The theme is Christ presiding over his apostles in an arcaded courtyard. Two figures of the apostles have been destroyed; the two nearest Christ are St Peter on the left, and St Paul (replacing Judas) on the right. Only Christ wears a halo, as is expected in mosaics of such an early date. He holds a book inscribed Dominus Conservator Ecclesiae Pudentianae "The Lord, Preserver of the Church of Pudentiana". A comparison of the naturalistic style of the figures with the iconographic tradition of the Byzantine style is instructive. Here we have a precious survival of the more ancient Classical style of painting familiar from the catacomb frescoes; there is no use of anti-perspective, the faces (except for Christ) do not directly face the viewer and the gestures are natural instead of posed. The magisterial figure of Christ, seated on a gilded throne embossed with jewels and cushioned with purple fabric, recalls ancient representations of Jupiter. The apostles are dressed in togas, like Roman senators.

There has been some disagreement about the two female figures behind SS Peter and Paul. Traditionally they were regarded as being SS Pudentiana and Praxedes, but this is certainly false because they are crowning the two foremost apostles with wreaths. Rather they seem to represent Ecclesia and Synagoga, the Gentile and Jewish elements of early Christianity. The former figure is crowning Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the latter is crowning St Peter, the Apostle to the Circumcision according to his own statement at the Council of Jerusalem .

The buildings in the background may be the churches built by emperor Constantine at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem rather than a depiction of the Heavenly Jerusalem from the Apocalypse as is also claimed. An indication of this is the gemmed cross, which is probably a depiction of the precious reliquary case containing the True Cross . This was kept in Jerusalem until it was lost by the Crusaders at the battle of the Horns of Hattin. If this interpretation is correct, the round building to the left is the Anastasis which corresponds to the present rotunda at the Holy Sepulchre, and the square building to the right is the Martyrion or the enormous lost basilica to the east of Golgotha. The cross itself is placed on a mount, Golgotha, which Constantine left open to the sky.

Next to the cross on either side are symbols of the Evangelists on a background of a cloud-stippled sky; this is the oldest preserved example of these symbols occurring together.

Works of artEdit

On top of the triumphal arch is the coat-of-arms of Cardinal Enrico Caetani, supported by two angels. The same heraldry is in the centre of the nave vault, which is otherwise undecorated.

The Neo-Classical high altar is attached to the wall of the apse, and has two Ionic columns in pavonetto marble supporting a projecting trabeation. It is decorated with three paintings by Bernardino Nocchi, made in 1803, depicting The Glory of St Pudenziana in the centre and St Timotheus and St Novatus to each side.

The elliptical dome was designed by Francesco da Volterra. It is decorated with a fresco by Pomerancio depicting Angels and Saints before the Saviour. Some of the angels are playing musical instruments. The pendentives also show angels by the same artist.

The following description is anticlockwise, from the side entrance in the lower left hand corner of the nave.

On the counterfaçade above the main entrance are two paintings: to the right is St Augustine of Hippo by Giacinto Gimignani , and to the left is The Baptism of St Pudens by Avanzino Nucci.

The large enclosed chapel in the lower right hand corner is dedicated to St Augustine. It has its own entrance to the outside, and is very rarely found open. It contains another depiction of St Augustine, of the school of Pietro da Cortona, as well as an Assumption by Ludovico Gimigniani which used to be the main altarpiece of Santa Rita da Cascia alle Vergini.

On the wall separating this chapel from the nave is an anonymous 17th century canvas showing The Baptism of St Pudens again, and the memorial to Cardinal Wladimiro Czaki by Pius Welonski.

Then come the three side chapels to the right. The Chapel of the Crucifix, the first, has a bronze crucifix by Achille Tamburini as well as a Guardian Angel by Antiveduto Grammatica. The second chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy, and has a 17th century altarpiece depicting her. The flanking canvases depicting The Nativity of the Madonna and The Nativity of Christ are by Lazzaro Baldi, and he is also responsible for the wall fresco showing the Annunciation and the lunette frescoes showing the prophet Jeremiah and the Erythraean Sibyl. The third chapel is dedicated to St Bernard of Clairvaux, and has an anonymous altarpiece showing him. The flanking canvases are by Michele Cippitelli, and showThe Ecstasy of St Catherine of Siena and The Vision of St Bernard. The high quality stucco decoration is of the 18th century. The reason for this dedication is that this saint was the founder of the Cistercian monks.

The entrance to the sacristy is just beyond the Chapel of St Bernard. It has a ceiling fresco depicting The Conversion of St William of Aquitaine attributed to Filippo Napolitano, and carved wooden panelling of the 18th century.

Then comes the right-hand entrance to the ambulatory. Straight ahead, in the corner where the passage turns, is the Chapel of St Pudens. It has a modern statue of the saint, and seriously damaged vault frescoes by Avanzino Nucci. The corresponding chapel in the left hand corner is dedicated to St Peter. It has a celebrated 16th century statue of Christ handing the Keys to St Peter by Giovan Battista della Porta, which was made in 1594. This chapel contains part of an ancient wooden altar, allegedly used by St Peter. Tradition claims that the chapel replaces an oratory in the same site, built in memory of St Peter in the 5th century, but scholars now consider this to have been the Chapel of St Pastor. The vault frescoes, almost completely fallen off, are by Giovanni Baglione.

In between the entrance hall and what is left of the left hand aisle is the little shrine chapel of St Pudenziana, which has its entrance on the aisle. It is almost never open. On its wall is the memorial to Cardinal Luciano Bonaparte the restorer, and an anonymous Tuscan canvas showing SS Pudenziana and Praxedis Burying the Martyrs.

Caetani chapelEdit

Off the left aisle is the entrance to the chapel of the Caetani family. The demolition of the ancient Roman and palaeo-Christian oratory dedicated to St Pastor in order to build it was a crass piece of vandalism, but the result is a fine Baroque work. It was designed by Francesco Volterra, and after his death in 1601 Carlo Maderno completed it. The work was commissioned by Cardinal Enrico Caetani in 1588, and resembles the Sistine Chapel at Santa Maria Maggiore in its polychrome richness. The marble work was by Giambattista della Porta, and Valsoldo executed the angels in the corners, the putti on the window frames and the relief medallions showing scenes from the life of St Pudens.

The sculptured altarpiece depicting the Adoration of the Magi is by Pier Paolo Olivieri, although completed by Carlo Mariani. The latter artist is responsible for the pair of angels supporting the family coat-of-arms. The two funerary monuments in the chapel commemorate Cardinal Enrico Caetani and Duke Filippo Caetani. Paolo Rossetti executed the mosaic of SS Praxedes and Pudenziana Collecting the Blood of the Martyrs in 1621, which is above the entrance. The same artist was also responsible for the panels showing the Evangelist in the ceiling and angels and sibyls in the lunettes; all these were to designs by Federico Zuccari.

In four niches at the sides of the monuments are statues allegorically depicting the Cardinal Virtues. Prudence is by Claude Adam, and is often mistaken for St Pudenziana. Fortitude is by Gian Antonio Mar, Justice by Vincenzo Felici and Temperance by Carlo Malavista. All these were executed around 1650.

A miracle is said to have occured in the chapel in 1610, when a doubting priest had his faith reaffirmed when blood spilled from a consecrated vessel.

Marian OratoryEdit

The walls of this small edifice, reached by the doorway in the left aisle and a walk along the side of the church, rest on those of the ambulatory below. It is mediaeval in date, and contains a very interesting cycle of frescoes dating probably from the late 11th century. These are now damaged, but fortunately drawings were made in the 17th century when they were in better condition, and these are now kept in the Royal Library at Windsor in England.

On the right of the entrance is a Crucifixion of the 17th century. Over the altar is Our Lady and the Child Jesus with SS Praxedis and Pudenziana. The left hand wall has St Paul Preaches, and Baptizes Pudens and his Family, and the right hand wall has The Baptism of Novatus and Timothy. On the wall facing the altar is An Angel Crowning Valerius, Tiburtius and Pope Urban and in the vault is an Agnus Dei surrounded by the symbols of the Evangelists.


The entrance to the underground domus, about nine metres below the floor of the church, is in the left hand corner of the Caetani chapel. Unfortunately, the clearance work in the mid 20th century was done without proper archaeological supervision. The original 1st century house has left six square rooms measuring about 5 metres each side, and these have non-figurative mosaic floors. One rare and interesting example of these has larger fragments of polychrome marble set into the small white tessarae. Above these rooms are tunnels supporting the foundations of the ancient bath house. These are 1.5 metres below floor level and are each 16 metres long, 4 metres wide and 7 metres high. One contains a 9th century fresco showing St Peter between SS Pudenziana and Praxedis; interestingly, Pudenziana is spelt "Potentiana".

Liturgy and accessEdit

The feast of St Pudenziana is celebrated with great solemnity on 19 May (the cult is now confined to this church), as is that of St Praxedis on 21 July.

Mass is celebrated in Filipino languages (Tagalog, Cebuano and English) as well as in Italian. The posted opening hours are 08:00 to 12:00; 16:00 to 18:00. As always with churches in Rome, these are liable to change.

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Nolli map (look for 188)

"De Alvariis" gallery on Flickr

Roma SPQR web-page with gallery

Info.roma web-page

"Romeartlover" web-page

"Kunsthistorie" photo gallery

"Paradoxplace" web-page (excellent photos)

"Smarthistory" article

"Gliscritti" photo-gallery

"E-architect" photo gallery

"Roma Sotterranea" web-page

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