"Church/ Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Monday 11th July 2011
It is of the "Seven Churches" of the Jubilee pilgrimage and is one of the most sacred places of the capital of the Christianity. It was probably Constantine who around 320 ordered the works of transformation of a great rectangular palace Palazzo Sessoriano, serving as an imperial residence before, into the place where the relics collected by his mother St Helena during her trip to the Holy Land could be preserved.
The basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem) [Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme] is also called Heleniana or Sessoriana. It rises on the area previously occupied by the Sessorium, a residential complex owned by the Emperor, started in the first half of the third century AD, which included the real palace, a circus and an amphitheatre (currently called Anfiteatro Castrense) successively englobed within the Aurelian Walls. Later the palace became the residence of Helena, mother of Constantine.
Entering the church, you will see the perfect elliptical shape of the atrium, an original sign of the Baroque style. The nave is decorated by the Cosmatesque style. The columns, which are somewhat covered by the restoration, are of Roman age. Around the first half of the IV century, Constantine made a basilica out of the atrium of the palace where to keep the relics of the Holy Cross, brought to Rome by Helena after a journey to Palestine.
The external walls of basilica belong to that palace, and inside of them was modeled Palaeo-Christian basilica with apse and double row of columns.
An important intervention took place under pope Lucius II in 1144 when a bell-tower was built, but decisive for basilica changed happened in 1741-1744 under Benedict XIV with the help of architects D.Gregorini and P.Passalacqua. Apart from internal restoration were also created the impressive theatrical facade and oval vestibule executed in rococo style. The 18th century interior has the nave and aisles separated by granite columns. The Cosmatesque pavement was restored in 1933. The vault paintings of St Helena in Glory, and the Apparition of the Cross towards the east end are by C.Giaquinto (1744).
Near the west door is the epitaph of Benedict VII who is buried here. The second south altarpiece of St.Bernard introducing Victor IV to Innocent II is by C.Maratta. Above the high altar, with the basalt tomb which encloses the remains of Saints Caesarius and Anastasius, is a graceful 18th century baldacchino. In the apse is a large fresco cycle of the Invention of the Cross attributed to A.Romano. The tomb on the east wall, of Cardinal Quinones, is by J.Sansovino. The altar is reserved for the pope and the titular cardinal of the basilica. The vault mosaic was restored by B.Peruzzi and later by Francesco Zucchi. It represents Christ and the Evangelists, Saints Peter and Paul, St Sylvester (who died here at Mass), St Helena, and Cardinal Carvajal.
A stairway on the right of the ciborium leads down to the Chapel of St. Helena dated back to the age of Constantine with the ceiling decorated by a magnificent mosaic, which is the remaking of an original dated back to the age of Valentinian the Third, attributed to Melozzoda Forlì (around 1484) or to Baldassarre Peruzzi (around 1510). The statue on the altar is a Roman original found in Ostia and transformed into St. Helena adding the cross and replacing the head.
At the end of the north aisle in the Chapel of the relics, by Florestano di Fausto (1930), are preserved three pieces of the True Cross, a nail (12,5 cm long), a part of elogium, i.e. a board placed on the Cross (INRI "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudeorum"), and two thorns from the crown (3cm long). These relics for 1610 years stayed in the Chapel of St Helena where the saint ordered the ground brought from the Holy Land be spread under the pavement. The entrance is prohibited for women who can enter here only once during the year on March 20, when the feast of the chapel's dedication takes place.
The remarkable salon of the Biblioteca Sessoriana (Library) in the adjacent convent with the vault decorated with frescoes by Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1724-1727) deserves to be mentioned.
Church/ Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem)
Piazza di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, 12 (Next to the Aurelian Walls and to the Amphiteatrum Castrense, between the Basilica of St. John Lateran and Porta Maggiore.)
00185, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Rione Esquilino (Termini - Via Nazionale) (Roma centro)
Church/ Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem) is Shown By "Map L Zone" As "4"
Hours: Daily from 7:00 to 12:45 / 15:30 to 19:30. Mass times: Weekdays: 7.00, 8.00; 18:30, Holidays: 8.00, 10.00; 11.30, 18.30. During the celebrations are not allowed to visit the Chapel and the Chapel of the Relics of St. Helena. Schedules are subject to change. Please contact the church before visiting.
It is possible to reach the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem by tram 3 or by bus 571 (from Monday to Saturday), which stop right in front of the church; by subway Linea A, from Manzoni and San Giovanni stops; from Porta Maggiore, by tram.
From San Giovanni to Santa Croce: Take subway Linea A, exit on "San Giovanni" stop, bypass the Aurelian Walls, go straight Carlo Felice street for about four hundreds meters until you arrive at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Square.
From Manzoni to Santa Croce: Take subway Linea A, exit on "Manzoni" stop, walk on San Quintino street until you arrive at the cross with Statilia street, turn left until the cross with Santa Croce in Gerusalemme street, go straight Santa Croce street for about one hundreds meters until you arrive at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Square.
From Porta Maggiore to Santa Croce: From Porta Maggiore, turn right on Statilia street, walk by Statilia street until the cross with Santa Croce in Gerusalemme street, go straight Santa Croce street for about one hundreds meters until you arrive at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Square.
Phone Number & Fax: +39 06 22.214.171.124
Church/ Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem) official website: http://www.santacroceroma.it/contacts.php