Notre Dame de Rouen. The façade of the Gothic Church in France. Photographer: Hippo1947. Licence: SHUTTERSTOCK.

18 Mar 2023

The Saturday Of The Third Week In Lent. The Lenten Station Is At The Basilica Of Saint Susanna-At-The-Baths-Of-Diocletian (Santa Susanna-Alle-Terme-Di-Diocleziano).

Canterbury Cathedral.
Photo Credit: A. G. Baxter.
lllustration: SHUTTERSTOCK

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

Saturday of The Third Week in Lent.

Station at Saint Susanna’s.

Indulgence of 10 Years and 10 Quarantines.

Violet Vestments.

Basilica of Saint Susanna
(Santa Susanna-alle-Terme), Rome.
Photo: May 2010.
Source: Own work.
Author: LPLT
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Station is at the Basilica of Saint Susanna, a Roman Virgin who was Martyred under Emperor Diocletian. This Sanctuary was one of the twenty-five Parish Churches of Rome in the 5th-Century A.D. The analogy between the circumstances of the Martyrdom of Saint Susanna (Feast Day is on the 11 August), and the account of the test of the chaste Susanna of The Old Testament, has decided the choice of the Epistle of The Mass for today.

As is often seen in The Lenten Liturgy, both Epistle and Gospel illustrate the same thought.

Today, both the Epistle and Gospel recall an accusation of adultery which falls back upon its authors. The Epistle speaks to us of the chaste Susanna, who is innocent, and the Gospel of a woman who is guilty. God avenges the rights of justice, with regard to the first, by rewarding her virtue, whilst He opens the treasures of His Mercy, towards the second, by pardoning her because of her Repentance.

Moreover, the choice of the Gospel is explained by the fact that The Stational Procession must pass through one of the most infamous Quarters of Rome, i.e., the Vicus Suburranus.

Mass: Verba mea.
Preface: Of Lent.

English: Basilica of Saint Susanna, Rome.
Français: Église Sainte-Suzanne, Rome.
Photo: September 2010.
Source: Own work.
Author: Tango7174
(Wikimedia Commons)

The following Text is from Wikipedia - the free encyclopædia.

The Church of Saint Susanna at The Baths of Diocletian (Italian: Chiesa di Santa Susanna alle Terme di Diocleziano) is a Roman Catholic Parish Church located on The Quirinal Hill in Rome, Italy. There has been a Titular Church associated with this site as far back as 280 A.D. The current Church was rebuilt, from 1585 to 1603, for a Monastery of Cistercian Nuns, Founded on the site in 1587, which still exists.

The Church has served as the National Parish, for residents of Rome from The United States, since that was established at the Church, in 1921, by The Paulist Fathers, a Society of Priests Founded in The United States. They have continued to serve at Santa Susanna since then.

About 280 A.D., an Early-Christian House of Worship was established on this site, which, like many of the earliest Christian meeting places, was in a house (Domus Ecclesiæ). According to the 6th-Century A.D. Acta of Susanna, the Domus belonged to two brothers, named Caius and Gabinus, prominent Christians.

Caius has been identified both with Pope Saint Caius and with Caius the Presbyter, who was a Prefect and who is a source of information on Early Christianity. Gabinus, or Gabinius, is the name given to the father of the semi-legendary, Saint Susanna. Her earliest documented attestations identify her as The Patron of the Church, not as a Martyr, and, previously, the Church was identified in the earliest 4th-Century A.D. documents, by its title “of Gaius”, “by The Baths of Diocletian”, or as “Ad Duas Domos” (“Near The Two Houses”). It is mentioned in connection with a Roman Synod of 499 A.D.

The Coffered Ceiling, designed by Carlo Maderno (1556 - 1629), who created the façade of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Photo: April 2007.
Author: Addictive Picasso from England.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Church of Santa Susanna is one of the oldest “Titulii” in the City of Rome. The Early-Christian Church, built on the remains of three Roman villas, still visible beneath the Monastery, was situated immediately outside the wall of the Baths, built by Diocletian, and The Servian Wall, the first walls built to defend the City.

According to Tradition, the Church was erected on Susanna’s House, where the same Saint was Martyred. In the 4th-Century A.D., it was marked with the designation “ad duas domos” (“at the two houses”). This first Three-Aisled-Basilica was almost certainly built under the Pontificate of Pope Leo III (795 A.D. - 816 A.D.).

Pope Sixtus IV (1475-1477) proceeded to rebuild the Church, probably a single Nave with two Side Chapels. In 1588, it became the last great rebuilding effort of Cardinal Girolamo Rusticucci, Cardinal Protector of The Cistercian Order, with construction running from 1595 to 1603. One of the objectives pursued with greater commitment from Rusticucci, as The Vicar General of Pope Sixtus V, was to renew The Life of The Religious Orders.

A reflection of that action can be seen in a figurative programme decorating the walls of the Church. The main themes are: Defence of Chastity, against corruption of morals, and the victory of The True Faith over any temptation to idolatry and heresy. They were joined by the exaltation of the Virginal choice of Saint Susanna and her Prayerful attitude. Rusticucci wanted to highlight and connect these themes to the inseparable bond that his Church had with the Cistercian Nuns, whose Monastery occupied the site.

Pope Sixtus IV rebuilt of The Church of Saint Susanna.
Title: Pope Sixtus IV (1414-1484).
Date: Circa 1473 - 1475.
Current location: Louvre Museum, Paris.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Rusticucci, a lover of “Tradition”, chose from the best of that time, which came from the fruitful artistic outpouring from The Counter-Reformation. Consequently, he gave the assignment to Carlo Maderno (1556-1629) for architectural renovations made to the Church. It was he who was the designer of its Travertine facade.

The frescoes of The Central Hall (six scenes from The Life of The Chaste Susanna) are by Baldassare Croce of Bologna (1563-1638). To Cesare Nebbia, a native of Orvieto (1536-1614), can be attributed the frescoes in the Dome and Apse, in which are reproduced some scenes from The Life of The Saint.

The Altarpiece of The High Altar, depicting The Beheading of Saint Susanna, is by Tommaso Laureti of Palermo (1530-1602). Camilla Peretti, sister of Pope Sixtus V, was a great benefactor of The Cistercian Nuns, and helped build their Residential Quarters, including The Chapel of Saint Laurence, whose frescoes are the work of Giovan Battista Pozzo (1563-1591).

The Painting of the Altar, depicting The Martyrdom of The Holy Deacon (Saint Laurence), is also by Nebbia. Large statues of the major Prophets, and two of Saints Peter and Paul, are attributed to Giovanni Antonio Paracea, called Valsoldo.

In the Sacristy of the Church, you can see, through the glass floor, part of the Early-Christian Church and the remains of the Roman house, which is said to be the home of the father of The Saint. A Roman sarcophagus with fragments of painted plaster was discovered in modern times. The excavations also unearthed a Tympanum, depicting: The Lamb of God on a Blue background and flanked by Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist; a Madonna and Child between Saints Agatha and Susanna; plus five beautiful busts of other Saints.

Isaac Hecker, Founder of The Paulist Fathers.
Photo: 1890 (approximately).
Source: Paulist Fathers Archives.
Author: Unknown.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Behind The Chancel, separated by an Iron Grating, is located the splendid Monastic Choir, a large rectangular room. It was built in 1596 by Cardinal Rusticucci, as attested by the Coat-of-Arms in the centre of The Choir’s rich, carved, wooden-coffered, floor. The Choir Stalls were donated by Pope Sixtus V and are repeatedly mentioned in the Old Guides as one of the finest Choirs extant in Roman Monasteries.

The walls are adorned with frescoes depicting Saints and scenes from The Old Testament. The artist who created these paintings was Francesco Di (1676-1702). Also in The Choir, in the four branches of the two Niches that preserve the Reliquaries, appear Saint Benedict of Nurcia and Saint Scholastica (on the Left) and Saint Bernard and Saint Susanna (on the Right). all by the Umbrian painter Avanzino Nucci (1599). Filippo Fregiotti painted the frescoes in a Chapel inside the Enclosure in 1719.

According to Tradition, the structure became a Church around 330 A.D., under the Emperor Constantine I, when the Basilicas of numerous House Churches came to be adapted for Liturgical use. The Basilica was T-shaped with a central Nave with twelve Columns on each side, flanked by Side Aisles. All that is left of these two Side Aisles, after the Late-16th-Century rebuilding, are the two Side Chapels of the Basilica Church.

In The Synod of 565 A.D., the Church is first referred to by the Title of Susanna; the Church has been dedicated to her Veneration ever since. In the “Acta”, Susanna is Martyred with her family, when the girl refuses to marry the son of Emperor Diocletian; the occasion of Susanna’s Martyrdom is a literary Trope that is familiar in other “Passions” of Virgins in The Roman Martyrology.

English: Pope Benedict XVmet
The Superior General of The Paulist Fathers in 1921.
Français: Photo de Benoît XV prise vers 1915.
Date: Circa 1915.
Source: Library of Congress.
Author: Unknown.
(Wikimedia Commons)

After World War IThe Paulist Fathers, Founded in New York City in 1858, had grown to such an extent that they felt the time had come to seek approval of their Religious Institute, from The Holy See, in order to be able to work throughout the Worldwide Church. They also wanted to establish a Procurator-General, in Rome, to co-ordinate their work with The Vatican.

To this end, The Superior General of The Society, the Right Reverend Thomas Burke, C.S.P., went to Rome in January 1921 to meet with Pope Benedict XV. During this trip, they noticed the Church of Santa Susanna, as it was adjacent to The American Embassy to Italy at the time. Its location made it of interest to the Americans.

The Paulists opened The Office of The Procurator-General, in the City, the following Spring, headed by Thomas Lantry O’Neill, C.S.P. In the meantime, Burke’s brother, also a member of The Society, had approached President Warren Harding, to make him aware of their interest in making use of the Church to serve the growing American population of Rome. Harding made a request for this to The Apostolic Nuncio to The United States, Archbishop Giovanni Bonzano, during the course of a meeting they held that June. Bonzano transmitted the request to the Vatican Secretary of State, with the recommendation that it be granted as a gesture of goodwill to The United States.

Accordingly, in December 1921, Pope Benedict XV authorised The Paulist Fathers to administer Santa Susanna as the National Church in Rome for the American Residents of Rome and visitors from The United States of America. The Abbess of the Monastery gave the Keys of the Church to the new Pastor on 1 January 1922. Cardinal William Henry O’Connell of Boston presided at the first Public Mass for The American Community of the City on 26 February 1922.

His Eminence, Cardinal [William Henry] O’Connell, Archbishop of Boston. Presided at the first Public Mass at Saint Susanna’s in February 1922.
Photo: Date unknown.
Source: Library of Congress.
Author: Bain News Service.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Some controversy arose from the Establishment of the Parish. The first was the fact that the Cardinal, who held the Title to the Church, had died during the Summer of 1921, leaving the Church with no legal owner according to Italian Law. Another, was the installation of electrical lights in the Church, to which Americans were accustomed, but was shocking to The Roman People.

Further, there was a claim on the Church, by The Ambassador of Romania, for use as a National Church for the people of his Country. The ownership issue was not settled until the end of 1924, when Bonzano, the former Apostolic Nuncio, and now a Cardinal, requested a Transfer of his Title to this Church. Once in his hands, he formally appointed O’Neill as the Rector of the Parish.

The High Altar frescoes,
Basilica of Santa Susanna, Rome.
Photographer: Dave Dwyer
Illustration: FLICKR

Since 1958, the Post of Cardinal Priest, with the Title “Sanctæ Susannæ”, has been given to the Archbishop of Boston, upon his creation as a Cardinal. The most recent such appointment was that of Bernard Francis Law, who, in 2002, resigned the Archbishopric but kept the Title of “Santa Susanna”. He died in 2017.

Pope Sergius I restored it at the end of the 7th-Century A.D., but Pope Saint Leo III, the fourth Pope who had been Pastor of this Church, rebuilt it from the ground in 796 A.D., adding the great Apse and conserving the Relics of the Saints in the Crypt. A vast mosaic of Christ, flanked by Pope Saint Leo III and Emperor Charlemagne and Saints Susanna and Felicity, was so badly damaged in the 12th-Century, by an earthquake, that the Interior was plastered over in the complete renovation that spanned the years 1585–1602 and frescoed by Cesare Nebbia.

Pope Saint Leo III (750 A.D. - 816 A.D.) was the fourth Pope who had been Pastor of Saint Susanna’s. He rebuilt the Church in 796 A.D. These Mosaics of Pope Saint Leo III are in the Hall (Triclinium) of The Lateran Palace (798 A.D. - 799 A.D.)
(Wikimedia Commons)

A façade, in Travertine, remained to be constructed. The present Church of Santa Susanna, on its ancient foundations, was the first independent commission in Rome for Carlo Maderno, who had trained as an assistant to his uncle, Domenico Fontana, the Chief Architect of Pope Sixtus V. In 1603, Maderno completed the façade, a highly influential Early-Baroque design. The Entrance and roof are surrounded by Triangular Pediments. The windows are replaced by Niches. The statues of the higher level (Pope Saint Caius and Saint Genesius of Rome) are by Giovanni Antonio Paracea, those of the lower level (Saint Susanna and Saint Felicitas of Rome) are by Stefano Maderno.

The Church of Santa Susanna was accounted so successful that, in 1605, Pope Paul V named Maderno architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica, where he completed the Nave and constructed the great façade.

The Church consists of a single Nave, with a circular Apse forming two Side Chapels. The frescoes of the Central Nave, by Baldassare Croce, represent six scenes from The Life of Susanna, found in The Book of Daniel.

The frescoes, on the curved side of the Apse, show Saint Susanna being threatened by Maximian, but defended by The Angel of God and, to the Right, Susanna refusing to worship the idol, Jupiter. Nebbia’s frescoes, of the Dome of the Apse, depict Saint Susanna flanked on either side by Angels with musical instruments. Behind The High Altar, the Painting, depicting The Beheading of Saint Susanna, is by Tommaso Laureti.

A 17th-Century replica Church of Santa Susanna in Lviv, UkraineThe Carmelite Convent was established in Lviv,
by Jakub Sobieski. Many particulars of its design 
(decorative vases, Andreas Schwaner’s statues) were patterned after the Roman Church of Santa Susanna. Its construction, commenced in 1642, was greatly delayed by the events of The Deluge. The Carmelites departed from The Nunnery in 1792. It was later used as a Metrology Office. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church recently re-Consecrated the Church to Christian Worship and Dedicated it to the Presentation of Our Lord.
Photo: June 2007.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Chapel of Our Lady of Graces (a former Painting on the Altar) has, on its walls, two recent frescoes of Saint Benedict and Saint Bernard.

Domenico Fontana constructed the second Side Chapel to the Left, Dedicated to Saint Laurence, commissioned by Camilla Peretti, sister of Pope Sixtus V. The Paintings are by the Milanese artist, Giovanni Battista Pozzo (1563–1591). The Altar Painting, by Cesare Nebbia, depicts the Martyrdom of Saint Laurence. In this Chapel are Venerated Saint Genesius of Rome, Patron of actors, in the act of receiving Baptism, and the Bishop, Pope Saint Eleuterus.

The Presbytery is decorated with two frescoes. To the Left, Baldassare Croce depicts the Martyrdom of Saint Gabinius, while, to the Right, Paris Nogari shows the Martyrdom of Saint Felicitas of Rome and her seven sons.

Rev. Fr. Greg Apparcel, CSP.
Rector of the Church of Santa Susanna.
Illustration: SANTA SUSANNA

The valuable Ceiling of the Nave and of the Presbytery is made in polychromed gilt wood, carved to the design of Carlo Maderno.

Entombed in the Church are five Early-Church Martyrs and Saints: Susanna; her father, Gabinius; Saint Felicitas of Rome; Pope Saint Eleuterus; and Genesius of Rome.

The Commemoration of Saint Susanna has been linked in The Roman Calendar with Saint Tiburtius, 11 August (See Saints Tiburtius and Susanna).

Among the previous Cardinal Priests of Santa Susanna is Pope Nicholas V (1446).

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