This year we are presenting Medieval Mosaics Walking Tour in Rome conducted by our partners, Context Travel
Crowned by the regal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Esquiline Hill (yes, one of the seven) is home to several important early Christian churches in Rome. The artwork contained within often reflects a turning point in Roman history, when Christianity was emerging from the shadows and basking in the sunlight of its legalization and skyrocketing popularity. During the course of this walk, we will visit several places of worship which illustrate the changes in style and iconography and the role of art in Christian worship during the Medieval age.
The walk begins at the papal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The origins of this church can be traced back to the 4th century, when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in a vision to Pope Liberius, instructing him to erect a church on the Esquiline Hill which she covered in a miraculous snow fall in early August. For this reason, it still remains one of the most important pilgrimage churches in Rome. The basilica has routinely changed styles, floor plans and facades over the past 1,500 years and now boasts a complex artistic pedigree. Guido Reni, Domenico Fontana and Carlo Rainaldi, among others, have left their mark on this grand building. We will explore the visual complexities of this space as well as its historical importance for the Roman Catholic church.
From here, we will explore the two sister churches of Santa Prassede and Santa Pudenziana. Santa Prassede, a medieval jewel box of church, was built by Pope Paschal I in the 9th century. The renowned St. Zeno Chapel is a shining example of Byzantine mosaic work, a rare sight in Rome. Prassede's sister church, Santa Pudenziana, purportedly one of the earliest Christian churches in Rome, also contains wonderful mosaic work in the apse.
Throughout the entirety of this seminar we'll use each building as a platform from which to explore the ever changing face of Christian art and the complex social changes occurring within Roman society at that time. Equal attention will be paid to both the artistic and religious impacts these spaces had, emphasizing the catalytic effect between the two.