Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Lenten Station At The Basilica Of San Sisto (Santi Nereo e Achilleo). Wednesday Of The Third Week In Lent.


Roman Text is taken from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal.

Italic Text, Illustrations and Captions, are taken from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.


Indulgence of 10 years and 10 Quarantines.
Violet Vestments.


File:Santi Nereo e Achilleo 02.jpg

English: Basilica of Saint Sixtus, Rome.
Italian: San Sisto (Santi Nereo e Achilleo) 
(Terme di Caracalla).
Photo: June 2006.
Uploaded by Kurpfalzbilder.de
(Wikimedia Commons)


The Station is at Saint Sixtus's on the Appian Way, a Parish Church of Rome in the 5th-Century. It was of this holy Pontiff, and, according to several authors, in this very place, that Saint Laurence begged to be permitted to accompany him as his Minister in the sacrifice of himself which he was about to make. Saint Sixtus is buried in this Church.

The candidates from among the heathen, after a period of waiting, became Catechumens at the Lenten Station, this day. Their Sponsors presented them by testifying to their purity of intention and conduct. Their names were written on tablets of ivory covered in leather, which were read at the Commemoration of the Living. After the Collect, and before the Lessons, they proceeded to the Rites of Exsufflation, of the Sign of the Cross, of the Imposition of Hands, and of that of the Salt, which are still to be found in the first part of the ceremonies of Baptism.

God, on Sinai, had commanded men, the Epistle and Gospel tell us, to honour their parents and to love their neighbours. The Pharisees added to these commandments human traditions, which consisted of formalities wholly external, to which they attached more importance than they did to the Law of Moses.



Interior of the Basilica of Saint Sixtus, Rome.
Photo: November 2009.
Source: Own work.
Author:  LPLT
(Wikimedia Commons)


The Church, therefore, seeks to put us on our guard against the observance of exterior practices of worship or Fasts, which are not united to acts of Charity. For, in order to obtain the approval of Heaven, our Penance  must come from a heart overflowing with love of God and our neighbour, for it is from the heart that the holiness and malice of man proceeds.

To bodily mortifications, let us take great care to add the practice of Virtues: Sincerity; Justice; Patience; Charity; or, as the Collect expresses it, let us impose upon ourselves Fasting of Soul and body.

Insufflation and Exsufflation

In religious and magical practice, insufflation and exsufflation are ritual acts of blowing, breathing, hissing, or puffing, that signify, variously, expulsion or renunciation of evil or of the Devil (the Evil One), or infilling or blessing with good (especially, in religious use, with the Spirit or grace of God).



Pope Leo III (795 A.D. - 816 A.D.) 
rebuilt the old "Titulus" in 814 A.D.
Mosaics in the Hall (Triclinium) of Leo III 
of the Lateran Palace (798 A.D. - 799 A.D.).
(Wikimedia Commons)


In historical Christian practice, such blowing appears most prominently in the Liturgy, and is connected almost exclusively with Baptism and other ceremonies of Christian initiation, achieving its greatest popularity during periods in which such ceremonies were given a prophylactic or exorcistic significance, and were viewed as essential to the defeat of the Devil or to the removal of the taint of Original Sin.

Ritual blowing occurs in the Liturgies of Catechumenate and Baptism from a very early period and survives into the modern Roman CatholicGreek OrthodoxMaronite, and Coptic rites. 


Catholic Liturgy, post-Vatican II (the so-called Novus Ordo 1969), has largely done away with insufflation, except in a special rite for the consecration of Chrism on Maundy Thursday. Protestant liturgies typically abandoned it very early on. Muslims include the practice to a certain degree, following the Biblical rites to a lesser extent. The Tridentine Catholic Liturgy retained both an insufflation of the Baptismal water and (like the present-day Orthodox and Maronite rites) an exsufflation of the Candidate for Baptism, right up to the 1960s:

THE INSUFFLATION. He breathes thrice upon the waters in the form of a cross, saying: Do You with Your mouth bless these pure waters: that besides their natural virtue of cleansing the body, they may also be effectual for purifying the Soul.

THE EXSUFFLATION. The priest breathes three times on the child in the form of a cross, saying: Go out of him...you 
unclean spirit and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.



Title: Pope Sixtus IV (1414-1484).
Date: Circa 1473 - 1475.
Current location: Louvre Museum, Paris.
Source/Photographer: cartelen.louvre.fr : Home : Info : Pic
Pope Sixtus IV restored the Basilica in 1475.
(Wikimedia Commons)


Santi Nereo e Achilleo is a 4th-Century Basilica Church in Rome, located in via delle Termi di Caracalla, in the rione Celio, facing the main entrance to the Baths of Caracalla. The current Cardinal Priest of the Titulus Ss. Nerei et Achillei is Theodore Edgar McCarrick.

A 337 A.D., epitaph inscription in the Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura celebrates the late Cinnamius Opas, Lector of a Church known as Titulus Fasciolae; the name has traditionally been explained as the place where St. Peter lost the foot bandage (fasciola) that wrapped the wounds caused by his chains, on his way to escape the Mamertine Prison


In the Acts of the Synod of Pope Symmachus, 499 A.D., the Titulus Fasciolae is recorded as served by five Priests. This same building is recorded as Titulus Sanctorum Nerei et Achillei in 595 A.D; therefore, the dedications to Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, two soldiers and martyrs of the 4th-Century, must date to the 6th-Century.



Basilica of San Sisto (Santi Nereo e Achilleo), Rome.
Photo: June 2006.
Source: DSCN0317
Uploaded by Kurpfalzbilder.de
(Wikimedia Commons)


In 814 A.D., Pope Leo III rebuilt the old Titulus. In the 13th-Century, the relics of the two martyrs (Santi Nereo e Achilleo) were transferred from the Catacomb of Domitilla to the Sant'Adriano, whence they were transferred to this Church by Cardinal Baronius.

The Church degraded with time, and in 1320, according to the Catalogue of Turin, it was a Presbyterial Title with no Priest serving. So, Pope Sixtus IV restored the Church on occasion of the Jubilee of 1475, while the Jubilee of 1600 was the occasion for the last major restoration, funded by the scholarly antiquarian, Cardinal Cesare Baronio, who commissioned the frescoes.



File:Saints Domitilla, Nereus and Achilleus.jpg

Title: Saint Domitilla with Saints Nereus and Achilleus.
Date: Circa 1598 and circa 1599.
Current location: Chiesa dei Santi Nereo e Achilleo, Rome.
(Wikimedia Commons)


Behind its unassuming facade, the Church is built according to the typical Basilica plan, with a single Nave and two Side Aisles. The original Columns were replaced in the 15th-Century by octagonal Pillars, and the Nave is characterised by the large fresco decorations commissioned by Cardinal Baronio.

The Cardinal, in his iconographic scheme timed for the 1600 Jubilee, emphasised the role of the Roman martyrs during the early centuries of Christianity. The execution of the frescoes was entrusted to a minor painter, generally thought to be Niccolò Circignani, called "Pomarancio". There are a lot of gruesome details and blood all over the walls, but the pastel colours soften somewhat a fearsome effect of the pictures.



File:Santi Nereo e Achilleo interior 1.jpg

The Ciborium and High Altar, 
Basilica of San Sisto (Santi Nereo e Achilleo).
Photo: June 2006.
Source: DSCN0316
Uploaded by Kurpfalzbilder.de
(Wikimedia Commons)


The mediaeval Ambo is set on a large, porphyry urn taken from the nearby Baths of Caracalla. The low Screen, separating the Choir, is faced with 13th-Century Cosmatesque-style inlays. A white marble candelabra was brought here from San Paolo fuori le Mura. The Ciborium, dating from the 16th-Century, is raised on African marble columns.

The spandrels of the Arch, at the end of the Nave, retain some of the former mosaics of the time of Pope Leo III, with a central Transfiguration in a mandorla. The High Altar, made of three Cosmatesque panels, houses the relics of Nereus, Achilleus, and Saint Flavia Domitilla; all three of whom were brought here from the Catacomb of Domitilla. Next to the Altar, there are two pagan stones, depicting two winged spirits, taken from a nearby temple.

In the Apse, behind the Altar, is the Episcopal Throne, assembled under the direction of the Antiquary, Cardinal Baronius, re-using lions in the Cosmatesque style, that is associated with the Vassalletto school, which support the armrests; on the back-rest, is inscribed the opening and closing words of the twenty-eighth Homily of Saint Gregory the Great, inscribed under the mistaken tradition that he preached them here, in front of the relics of Saints Nereus and Achilleus on their Feast Day. 


When Cardinal Baronio ordered the inscription, he did not know that the relics were originally buried in the underground Basilica of the Catacomb of Domitilla, so thought that this was the place where Saint Gregory preached.

The Arch of the Apse has mosaics of the 9th-Century with the Annunciation, the Transfiguration, and the Theotokos (Madonna and child).



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