Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Lenten Station At The Basilica Of Saint Nicholas-In-Prison (San Nicola-In-Carcere). Saturday Of The Fourth Week In Lent.

Roman Text is taken from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal,
unless otherwise stated.

Italic Text is taken from

Saturday of The Fourth Week in Lent.
      Station at Saint Nicholas's-in-Carcere.

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

Indulgence of 10 Years and 10 Quarantines.

Violet Vestments.

English: Basilica of Saint Nicholas-in-Prison
(San Nicola-in-Carcere),
Rome, Italy.
Català: San Nicola in Carcere és una església a RomaItalia.
Italiano: San Nicola in Carcere è una chiesa di Roma
Español: San Nicola in Carcere es una iglesia en RomaItalia.
Deutsch: San Nicola in Carcere ist eine Kirche in Rom
Photo: March 2012. 
Source: Own work. 
Author: sailko
(Wikimedia Commons) 

The Station is at a Church built on the ruins of three pagan temples and Consecrated to Saint Nicholas. It is called "in Carcere" because, in former times, it had a dungeon.

Here are Venerated the Remains of The Holy Martyrs: Mark; Marcellinus; Faustinus; Simplicius; Beatrice. The Remains are contained in an ancient urn, placed under The High Altar. The Interior, in the form of a Basilica, is very harmonious.

Interior of San Nicola-in-Carcere.

Interior of San Nicola-in-Carcere.

However, before the 8th-Century A.D., The Lenten Station was kept at Saint Laurence "in Lucina"; this is why so many allusions to "Light" are made in this Mass. Water is also often mentioned; it reminds the Catechumens of The Water of Baptism for which they are longing; besides, it alludes also to the fact that The Stational Procession, coming from the Church of Sant'Angelo "Piscium Venditor" (at Castel Sant'Angelo) had to walk along the River Tiber.

File:San Nicola in Carcere 1.jpg

A side-view of the 
Basilica of San Nicola-in-Carcere.
Photo: August 2007.
Uploaded by
Author: Cristian Martinez 
from Mexico City, Mexico.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Isaias, from whom the Introit and the Epistle of the Mass are taken, sees hastening from all sides the Catechumens and Public Penitents who are waiting with Holy Impatience for The Easter Feast, when, at last, their Souls may quench their thirst in The Springs of Grace through The Sacraments of Baptism and Penance.

They were in darkness and Jesus gives them Light (Epistle), for He tells us, in the Gospel, that He is The Light of The World and that he who follows Him walketh not in darkness, but in The Light of Life.

[Jesus was at Jerusalem, at the beginning of the third year of His public ministry, to assist at The Feast of Tabernacles. Two large "Sconces" (A Sconce is a type of light fixture affixed to a wall, in such a way that it uses only the wall for support, and the light is usually directed upwards, but not always), lighted in the temple, could be seen from the whole City of Jerusalem. It was then that Jesus declared Himself to be The Light of The World].

Let us also, by Penance, cast out sin from our hearts, and let us ask Christ to fill them with The Light of His Grace.

Mass: Sitiéntes.

File:Ripa - s Nicola in Carcere 1010806.JPG

Basilica of Saint Nicholas-in-Prison
(San Nicola-in-Carcere),
Rome, Italy.
Photo: April 2007.
Source: Own work.
Author: Lalupa.
(Wikimedia Commons)

San Nicola-in-Carcere, Rome, is a Church Dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra, the Patron Saint of Sailors and of Children, and the remote cause of the phenomenon of Santa Claus. It is a Minor Basilica and a Titular Church, and is also the Regional Church for those people from Puglia and Lucania living in Rome. However, it is no longer a Parish Church. The address is Via del Teatro di Marcello 46 in the rione Ripa, just north of the Bocca del Verità.

The Left Aisle of 
San Nicola-in-Carcere,
Rome, Italy.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Church, is that it incorporates the remains of three temples of The Republican Era (2nd-Century B.C.), which used to stand in a row, side by side in the ancient Forum Holitorium, with their entrances facing East. It is difficult to determine, from the extant sources, which temple was dedicated to which divinity, but the consensus is as follows.

The Northernmost was dedicated to Janus, and had two rows of six Ionic Columns of Peperino at the Entrance and eight Columns down each side. Two Columns survive to the North, and seven Columns to the South, embedded with their Architrave in the Church's North Wall. Well-preserved parts of the Podium also survive in the Crypt.

File:San Nicola in Carcere Rome.jpg

Basilica of Saint Nicholas-in-Prison
(San Nicola-in-Carcere),
Rome, Italy.
The two Columns, standing on the Left
of the picture, are "Peperino Columns".
Photo: July 2008.
Source: Own Work.
Author: Jensens.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The site of the middle temple is occupied by the Church; the temple was dedicated to Juno Sospita and was in the Ionic Style. Three Columns survive (out of six Columns), embedded in the façade, and other Remains exist in the Crypt and also at the end of the Left Aisle.

The Southern, much smaller, temple was dedicated to Spes ("Hope" personified as a goddess). It was in the Doric Style, with six Columns at the Entrance and eleven Columns down each side. Seven Columns of the North Side are embedded in the South Wall of the Church.

There used to be a fourth temple, just to the North, the temple of Pietas, built by Manius Acilius Glabrio, who was Consul in 191 B.C., but this was demolished for the construction of the Theatre of Marcellus.

English: San Nicola-in-Carcere,
with Roman Relics attached.
German: San Nicola-in-Carcere (Rom)
mit altrömischen Relikten.
Photo: May 2007.
Source: Own work.
Author: Berthold Werner.
(Wikimedia Commons)

How the three temples became a Church is completely obscure. A surmise is that the middle temple was converted into a Church in the 6th-Century A.D., but there is no documentary evidence at all. The name "Carcere", meaning "prison", is also puzzling. There is a reference, in Pliny, which reads: " . . . Templo Pietatis exstructo in illius carceris sede ubi nunc Marcelli theatro est" ("The Temple of Piety was built on the site of the prison, where the Theatre of Marcellus now is"), but, if this is the same prison, it requires a memory of it to have persisted for at least seven hundred years.

The High Altar,
Basilica of San Nicola-in-Carcere,
Rome, Italy.

Alternatively, one of the temples could have been used as a prison during periods of civic disorder during the Early-Dark Ages, such as the Sacking of the City by Barbarians in the 5th-Century A.D., or The Gothic Wars in the 6th-Century A.D. Citizens may have been imprisoned in order to extort ransoms. However, these theories again have no documentary evidence. The puzzle of the name caused people in The Middle Ages to mistake the Church for the site of The Mamertine Prison.

The first certain reference is from 1128 A.D, attested by a Plaque in the Church recalling its rebuilding and Consecration. The Inscription is not easy to read, and the Diocese has the year as 1088 A.D. The Dedication to Saint Nicholas was perhaps as a result of the Greek population, then living in the area, as the Saint has always been popular in The Byzantine Rite. However, he has long been popular in The West, as well, and his Shrine is at Bari (which is why this is the Puglian Regional Church).


Basilica of San Nicola-in-Carcere,
Rome, Italy.
Photo: July 2006.
Source: Flickr
Author: Patrick Denker
Reviewer: Mac9.
(Wikimedia Commons)

In the 11th-Century, the Church was known as San Nicola Petrus Leonis, referring to the Convert Jewish Pierleoni family, who rebuilt the nearby Theatre of Marcellus as a fortress. (They became famous Roman Patricians in The Middle Ages.) It was re-modelled in 1599, when the present Mannerist façade was added, and restored in the 19th-Century on the orders of Pope Pius IX.

In the 20th-Century, the edifice almost succumbed to the nationalist passion for excavating and exposing the surviving architectural Remains of The Roman Empire. The surrounding buildings, many of them Mediaeval, were demolished, leaving the Church isolated. When Mussolini 's grandiose Via del Mare road scheme was executed, the present wide road was pushed through at a much lower level than the original street, and hence the Church is now only accessible in front by steps.

An engraving, by Vasi, shows the "Streetscape" before all this destruction (see the "Romeartlover" external link at "Romeartlover" web-page with Vasi engraving "Roma Sotteranea" web-page). A further unfortunate result was that the surrounding area was depopulated (few people live around here, even now), and this left the ancient Parish unviable. The Parish was Suppressed in 1931, and the Church made dependent on Santa Maria-in-Campitelli.

An image depicting the position of the present Basilica
in relation to the original three Roman Republican-Era temples.



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