Sunday, July 7, 2013

Saint Agnes Outside the Walls

I'd been reading Margaret Visser's "The Geometry of Love" -- a book-length analysis of Saint Agnes Outside the Walls -- but I didn't expect to see the church. It would  have been too complicated a bus ride.
 Our Roman friend, Mariella, grew up in that neighbourhood and offered to show us.
 Visser begins her book with this line: "The church stands with its back to the road. It turns away, quietly guarding its secret." We had to descend the street beside it to an open gate.
A funeral service had just finished so we were able to enter into the 8th century Romanesque church while the lights were still up bright.
Agnes is about to meet her fate in this fresco.  She was beheaded for refusing to deny Christ.
The Byzantine-style mosaics over the altar are gorgeous. 
 A back staircase takes us to the crypt with St Agnes' tomb directly below the church altar. She was martyred 1,700 years ago.
This long staircase is another entrance to the church. Bill and Mariella and I used it to get to the Mausoleum of Santa Constanza. 
 The walls are scattered with fragments from the classical past.
Impossible not to want to snap some souveniers.
 If you enter at the top of the stairs this would be your view down the staircase.
 The Romanesque Mausoleum of Santa Constanza was built in the 4th century AD by Emperor Constantine for the tombs of his daughters Constanza and Helen.
 Why is it that Romanesque structures look like flying saucers landed from other worlds?
The Mausoleum is built in a circular form with light flooding into its center.
The building was later consecrated as a church with Constanza's tomb becoming its altar.
The frescos and mosaic ceilings are breathtaking.
Thank you for making our visit to the church and mausoleum possible, Mariella!


  1. Just watched the Visser film 'Geometry of Love' what a thrill to have seen this church up close and personal. A true gem.

  2. It's a great film -- available from the library in Toronto. Shelley, we were so lucky to have our guide lead us there. Now I have to finish the book.

  3. Very interesting - I hope I can get there someday.
    Lisa R-R

  4. Just another reason to go to fabulous Roma! Glad you enjoyed, Lisa.