An altar in Santa Maria di Trastevere, covered with notes, prayers and offerings – reminding me of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
We met at S. Maria di Trastevere, a nice change of pace as the basilica is only two or three minutes from our apartment (whereas the Campo is almost 2km away). The basilica was founded in the 340s CE (built on the site of a 2nd century church) and is one of the oldest churches in Rome. The basilica has undergone several remodels, including a 17th century renovation by Carlo Fontana and 19th century interior renovation under Pope Pius IX.
We convened to discuss both the use of spolia (the column capitals were taken from the Baths of Caracalla) and the 13th century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini. According to Paul Hetherington, this particular mosaic cycle (Scenes from the Life of the Virgin, including six narrative scenes and a donor panel) is preeminently important as it shows the stylistic evolution in Cavallini’s work. Hetherington established a chronology of Cavallini’s works, situating the S. Maria mosaics between Cavallini’s fresco of The Last Judgment for S. Cecilia and the apse paintings in S. Giorgio al Velabro. Based on some high-quality detective work, Hetherington arrived at a new date for the S. Maria mosaics (1298 vs. 1291) based on Cavallini’s progression as well as period specific (1300-1308) minutia present in the donor panel.
Afterwards, we grabbed coffee and headed over to the basilica of S. Cecilia. On the way, we passed this amazing little pasticceria (confectionary) and I couldn’t help but stop and take a few pictures. Anyway, back to S. Cecilia: we were there to view the remains of Cavallini’s partially destroyed Last Judgment, accessible from the nun’s choir loft at the back of the basilica. The frescoes were amazing, and Hetherington’s argument about Cavallini’s maturation was apparent, but the highlight of our visit was definitely the wedding. That’s right, this week we have seen a funeral (S. Pudenziana last Tuesday) and a wedding – featuring a young bride decked out in a classic cake-topper dress. Seriously, this girl was sporting at least 30 yards of train – she had to have six (6!) cute little girls walk her down the aisle and, I’ll admit, watching her stand, sit, kneel at the altar was almost amusing – in a beautiful, sentimental kind of way.