A wall of gratitude

10 May

Alessandro had a business meeting this morning, and as a woman of leisure I decided to accompany him and wander the surrounding neighborhood.

cc: santagnese

He deposited me where he felt certain I could stroll and do some window shopping, but I asked him if there were any ancient Roman ruins nearby that I could explore. Somewhat exasperated by my enthusiasm of all things ancient Roman, he rolled his eyes and expressed doubt.

After a brief scouting mission, I was delighted by the sight of a structure in the distance that looked distinctly ruinous. I probably walked the entire perimeter  before I found an entrance into the grounds of the Mausoleum of Constantia, or Santa Costanza.

Constantia was one of the 2 daughters of the great Roman emperor Constantine, and this mausoleum was initiated by her father in approximately 350 CE, after her death.  Much of the artwork and architecture remarkably still exists in its original state, almost 2 millenia later.

cc: seier + seier

Although the external structure appears rather boxy; when you wander inside, the interior possess a beautiful symmetry and the original mosaics on the ceiling represent early Christian art.  The early church often integrated pagan traditions and symbols, and these can be found in the Bacchic (wine) motifs on the sarcophagus and in some of the ceiling mosaics.

The mausoleum is located beside the Basilica of Saint Agnes, a 12 (or 13?) year old martyr/virgin who suffered a grisly fate on January 21, 304 CE at the hands of her intended ancient Roman husband’s family.  According to Wikipedia:

The Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and on Agnes’ refusal he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. Various versions of the legend give different methods of escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. In another the son of the prefect is struck dead, but revived after Agnes prayed for him, causing her release. There is then a trial from which Sempronius excuses himself, and another figure presides, sentencing her to death. When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her, or, in some other texts, stabbed her in the throat.

It’s remarkable to stumble across something like this place in an unassuming neighborhood of Rome, but it was in the garden that I found something truly special: the wall of gratitude.  In 1945, a devotee built this intimate grotto to offer thanks to the Madonna for her grace received, and since then many have left marble tablets inscribed with their gratitude.

I made an offering, lit a candle, and gave heartfelt thanks for the new life I am starting in Rome with Alessandro, and for all the blessings I have and the grace that exists in my life.

This lovely place is a little further away from the central part of Rome, but fairly close to the area I wrote about yesterday, the Quartiere Coppedé.


One Response to “A wall of gratitude”

  1. world citizen in Rome May 10, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    This is 10 min from where I live!! Basilica St. Agnese!

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