Roman Basilica Itinerary

Duration: 3 hours

This tour is an insightful look at the beauty of the Roman basilica in its present-day Christian context. It pays attention to the christianizing of the imperial Basiliké Stoà in Constantine’s “New Jerusalem.” While admiring and learning about these magnificent buildings, we investigate the ways in which the basilica is properly understood, its architectural and ecclesiastical contexts, the privileges attached to the status of basilica, and different classes of basilica. We explore how Christians in the 4th century were prepared to build larger and more beautiful edifices for worship than the furtive meeting places they had been using thus far. We will discover how Constantine’s imperial piety and patronage of Christianity became memorialized in the construction of new churches to give physical testimony to the power and faith of the new religious community. The functional model at hand was the familiar conventional architecture of the basilica which we will see on this itinerary as we visit three extraordinary sites: the immense and magnificent Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, and the two exquisitely decorated minor basilicas of Santa Praesede and her sister Church, Santa Prudentia. At these sites we will discuss how the pre-Constantinian Christian buildings were inappropriate considering the new status of Christianity and how they also became unsuitable architecturally, not due to their pagan associations alone. We will learn how these buildings developed from 4th century basilicas into late 15th century basilicas with splendid Renaissance and Baroque architectural additions and the finest of the respective periods’ artwork and sculpture. We will appreciate how the early Christian Basilica forms the foundation of much of what we know today of Christian Church architecture.

 Contact Sacra Sorgente to participate in this itinerary: email with your request.
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