SAN SEBASTIANO FUORI LE MURA – Memories of first Christians


We have already hitherto seen how many churches and Basilicas in Rome recall to us the memory of the first Christians. This is probably why Rome can be considered a “Holy City”, because its soil was drenched with the blood of many martyrs since the beginning of Christianity. Another example of this is the Basilica of San Sebastiano fuori le mura (outside the walls) on VIa Appia Antica.

We read this description about this church: “The parish was erected on April 18, 1714 with the bull of Pope Clement XI and entrusted to the Friars Minor of the Roman Province, who succeeded the Cistercian Monks, with the decree “Instante ex muneris” of Mons. Nicola Caracciolo, archbishop of Capua, Deputy in charge with the same powers of the Cardinal Vicar, Gaspare di Carpegna, who died on April 6, 1714. The Cistercian monks administered the parish until June 23, 1826, when Leo XII with the apostolic letter “Ex locis sacris” entrusted the church to the priests of the Order of Friars Minor of St. Francis of the Observance, establishing that they enjoyed the same congruity received by the Cistercians plus another monthly income. The Franciscans still administer the parish (Cfr. A. Ilari, Curad’anime ad catacumbas, in L’Oss. Rom 21 March 1982).”

It was believed that the bodies of the apostles Peter and Paul were temporarily guarded here in this church. Moreover, Pope Gregory the Great pronounced his homily “Supra evangelia” in this place.  The church contains many works of art, including that of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The church is also home to an interesting tradition that is well explained in the website of the Basilica: “The church of the “Domine Quo Vadis” is one of the first churches located on the Via Appia Antica, about 800 meters beyond Porta San Sebastiano. The Church has medieval origins, but was rebuilt in 1600. It takes its name from the oral tradition according to which the apostle Peter, fleeing from the city to avoid martyrdom, meets Jesus to whom he addresses the following words “Domine quo vadis (Lord, where are you going)?” And the Lord replied “Venio Romam iterum crucifigi (I am coming to Rome to be crucified again)”. Peter, aware of the rebuke, turns back to face his destiny and Jesus disappears but, in disappearing, he leaves the impressions of his footprints on the road. As evidence of the incident, within the Church there is a stone with the imprints “of His holy feet,”  left by Jesus precisely on the site where the Church now stands. The stone is actually a copy: the original is in fact preserved in the Basilica of San Sebastiano. The second name with which the church is known: Santa Maria “in Palmis” derives from this episode.”

So, here we have a church that is certainly worthy of a visit. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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