Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Friday, 6 March 2015

Lenten Station At The Basilica Of Saint Vitalis. Friday Of The Second Week In Lent.

Roman Text is taken from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal.

Italic Text is taken from Vitaleunless otherwise stated.

Friday of The Second Week in Lent.
Station at Saint Vitalis's.

Indulgence of 10 years and 10 Quarantines.

Violet Vestments.

The High Altar,
Santi Vitale,
Rome, Italy.
Photo: November 2006.
Photo taken by BruceJWebber; 
Transferred from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.
Author: Bruce J Webber. Original uploader was BruceJWebber at en.wikipedia
(Wikimedia Commons)

This Station is made in the Basilica, one of the twenty-five Roman Parishes in the 5th-Century, which was dedicated to Saint Vitalis by Pope Innocent I. Saint Vitalis shed his blood at Ravenna, Italy. He was the father of the glorious Milanese Martyrs, Saint Gervasius and Saint Protasius.

The Epistle and Gospel describe to us, the one in figure, the other in Parable, the destiny of the heathen and that of the Jews. The Catechumens saw in Joseph, Christ, denied by His own people, transferring to The Church, formed henceforth by all peoples, the abundance of His Blessings. They, likewise, saw in the Parable of The Rebellious Workers in the Vineyard, the reprobation of the Jews and the election of the Gentiles.

The brothers of Joseph and the Unfaithful Workers of the Vineyard uttered the same death cries: “Come, let us kill him.” But, whilst the first repented and obtained the pardon of their victim, the second persisted in rejecting Christ, the Corner Stone, and were crushed by it (Gospel).

Let us purify ourselves by the salutary Fast of Lent, in order that we may prepare ourselves to Celebrate, in a Holy Way, the coming Easter Festivals (Collect).

File:San Vitale interior.jpg

The Basilica of San Vitale (Rome), with a Christmas Crib set up in the middle of the Nave. 
This Church is 5th-Century in origin, but underwent renovations in the 15th- and 17th-Centuries.
Photo: January 2006.
Author: Anthony M. from Rome, Italy.
(Wikimedia Commons)

San Vitale is a Minor Basilica, as well as a Parish and Titular Church, Dedicated to the legendary Martyrs, Saint Vitalis, his wife, Saint Valeria, and his sons, Saint Gervase and Saint Protase. It is located at Via Nazionale 194/B, in the rione Monti, Rome, and amounts to a fragment of an Early-5th-Century Basilica.

The full name of the Church is Santi Vitale, Valeria, Gervasio e Protasio or, alternatively, Santi Vitale e Compagni Martiri in Fovea, which is its official name.

The Church used to stand on the ancient Roman street known as the Vicus Longus, which ran between the Forum of Augustus and the Baths of Diocletian. It arrived at the latter establishment just where the Church of San Bernardo alle Terme now stands, and ran down the valley between the Quirinal and Viminal hills. There were two Tituli on it, this Church and San Ciriaco, which was near the Baths.

In The Middle Ages, the area became completely de-populated and amounted to a pocket of countryside right up to the Late-19th-Century. The Vicus Longus became the Via di San Vitale, which only ran from Via Mazzarino near Sant'Agata dei Goti to Via delle Quattro Fontane and on which the Church was the only building. However, when the Via Nazionale was built, this street was mostly destroyed. A short length survives at the Eastern end, and also towards the West, where it is known as Vicolo dei Serpenti.

English: Entrance to the Basilica of San Vitale, Rome.
Italiano: Roma, porta d'accesso alla basilica di San Vitale.
Photo: June 2011.
Source: Own work.
Author: Gregorovius
(Wikimedia Commons)

The original Dedication was to Saints Gervase and Protase, alleged Martyrs of Milan. In the 4th-Century, there were no Martyrs recorded as having suffered in that City in The Time of Persecution, and this caused a problem when it became the standard practice to Consecrate the Altar of a new Church over the Relics of a Martyr or Martyrs.

St Ambrose, the famous Bishop of Milan, claimed to have had a dream in the year 386 A.D., informing him of the existence of these two early Martyrs, and two skeletons were dug up in the locality indicated in the dream. According to a letter that the Saint wrote, there was "much blood" on the bones, and this has led to the suggestion that what was found was a Palaeolithic burial dressed in red ochre. The existence of the Martyrs rests entirely on Saint Ambrose's dream and on subsequent Miracles, and they are now listed in the Revised Roman Martyrology as Martyrs of an uncertain date, Venerated from Early Times.

After the discovery of the bones, a completely un-historical legend was fabricated to give the Martyrs a biography. According to it, their parents were Saints Vitalis and Valeria. The former was actually a Martyr of Ravenna, where the Basilica of San Vitale Commemorates him, and the latter was a very obscure Martyr of the 4th-Century, who may have been a Virgin and whose place of Martyrdom is unknown.

It seems that a small Church was built on the site at the end of the 4th-Century, perhaps for Milanese expatriates (the City was the Western Capital of the Roman Empire at the time). As a result of a benefaction by a lady called Vestina, who gave her name to the Titulus, it was rebuilt about 400 A.D., as a Basilica with Nave and Aisles. This was Consecrated by Pope Innocent I in 402 A.D. The Dedication to Saint Vitalis was first recorded in 499 A.D., when it was referred to as Titulus Sancti Vitalis.

Pope Saint Innocent I (401 A.D. - 417 A.D.) 
Consecrated the Basilica of San Vitale in 402 A.D.

The Church has been restored several times. The first restoration on record was that of Pope Leo III, about 800 A.D., during which he donated many precious items to the Basilica.

The most comprehensive rebuilding was that of Pope Sixtus IV, before the 1475 Jubilee. The Aisles of the Nave were demolished and the Arcades walled up, to create the rather elongated Single-Nave Church which exists now. The Apse was left untouched, but the ancient Narthex was also enclosed and converted into a Vestibule. After this, the Church was then granted to the Theatines after they were founded in 1525. However, it was then transferred to the Jesuits, in 1598, by Pope Clement VIII. They carried out a complete restoration, and used it mainly an a subsidiary Church for their Noviciate, based at Sant'Andrea al Quirinale. It is clear that the Church lacked a pastoral function at the time.

It was restored again in 1859 and has been served by Diocesan Clergy since 1873. After the construction of the Via Nazionale, the previous, very quiet, area became rapidly and completely built-up and, as a result, the Church was made parochial by Pope Leo XIII in 1884.

The new road was actually the result of a proposal by Pope Pius IX, in response to the obvious need for proper access to the City Centre from the Train Station, but the Italian Government, after 1870, mutated this into a typical straight-and-level 19th-Century Civic Boulevard. As a result, the Church, in its valley, was left well below the new road level, and is now accessed by a rather alarming flight of steps.

The Church was renovated in 1937-1938, the Narthex being restored to its original condition, and was again renovated in 1960.

File:Roma San Vitale.jpg

English: Basilica of Saints Vitalis, Valeris, Gervase and Protase.
Italian: Basilica di Santi Vitale e Compagni Martiri in Fovea.
Latin: Basilica Ss. Vitale, Valeria, Gervasio e Protasio.
Photo: September 2009.
Source: Own work.
Author: Gobbler
(Wikimedia Commons)

The first Cardinal Priest of the Church was Gennaro Cardinal Celio, appointed in 494 A.D., by Pope Saint Gelasius I. Saint John Cardinal Fisher, who was Martyred by King Henry VIII of England during The Reformation, was the Titular of Saint Vitale in 1535 A.D. The current Titular is His Eminence, Adam Joseph Cardinal Maida, Archbishop Emeritus of Detroit in the USA.

The Portico, or Narthex, is the most ancient part of the Church, possibly dating back to the 5th-Century. It was altered at the end of the 16th-Century, but restored to its presumed original condition in 1938. The Inscription over the entrance, with the Coat-of-Arms of Pope Sixtus IV, was, however, preserved.

The façade is very simple. The Narthex is of brick, and has solid walls at the sides and corners. In front, there are five Arches with Voussoirs of tiles on edge, and these are separated by four Marble Columns. These have debased Composite Capitals, carved in Travertine when the Narthex was built, and above these are Imposts.

Coat of arms of Adam Maida.svg

Armorial Bearings of His Eminence, 
Cardinal Maida, 
Titular of Saint Vitale.
Date: January 2013.
Source: Own work.
Author: SajoR.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The two outer Arches have Imposts only where they meet the walls, which looks odd. The roof of the Narthex is pitched and tiled, and slopes up to the absolutely plain Nave frontage, which contains a rectangular window, the sill of which is in line with the upper roofline of the Narthex. This window was apparently once an oculus.

The finely carved wooden entrance doors have two relief panels depicting the Martyrdoms of Saints Cosmas and Damian, one on each door.

The Church has a single Nave, with no Arcades, but with two Pilasters, without Capitals, near the Triumphal Arch. There are two Side-Altars either side of the Nave, which are not recessed into Chapels, but are enclosed in Aedicules, formed of a pair of Marble Corinthian Columns, supporting an Entablature and Triangular Pediment. The modern Ceiling is flat and of varnished wood, and was inserted in 1938.

Saint John Fisher, 
by en:Hans Holbein the Younger.
Date: 1497 - 1543.
Author: Hans Holbein the Younger. 
(Original uploader was Mwanner at en.wikipedia)
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Apse has been preserved from the original building. The painting it contains depicts The Ascent to Calvary, and was executed by Andrea Commodi. To the Left, Saint Vitalis is depicted being Racked, and, to the Right, he is being Buried Alive. These frescoes are by Agostino Ciampelli.

The High Altar is decorated with the Arms of the Della Rovere Family, and a painting of The Saints to whom the Church is dedicated. In front of this is the modern Altar, used for Masses facing the people, a high-quality sculptural work depicting the Triumph of the Lamb of God.

The walls are painted with scenes of Martyrdoms, painted in the 17th-Century, which, when you first see them, appear to be merely bucolic landscapes with views and trees. The scenes are separated by trompe-l'oeil columns painted on the flat wall. There are Inscriptions on each scene, explaining whose Martyrdom is depicted. An amusing anachronism can be seen in the Martyrdom of Saint Ignatius of Antioch - he faces the lions in a meadow, with The Colosseum in ruins in the background. This cycle of frescoes is by Tarquinio Ligustri and Andrea Comodo.

The Feast of Saint Agnes is Celebrated on 21 January, with a Triduum starting on 19 January. Saint Vitalis and Companions are Celebrated on 28 April. Saint Giuseppe Cottolengo is Celebrated on 30 April - the new Calendar places his Feast on 29 April but, since that would mean Celebrating two major Feasts in a row, the old date is used.

St Andrew Daily Missal (Traditional Mass)

Available (in U.K.) from

Available (in U.S.A.) from

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