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Luckily, the efforts of later "restorers" from the 1500s to 1800s have not (with the exception of the visually obstructive Ciborium / Baldacchino) destroyed the basic beauty of the classic Basilica shape built by Pope St Paschal I (? - 814 - 824) in the early 800s, on the site of a crumbling predecessor church.


The brilliant glass tesserae mosaics of the triumphal arch and apse were part of Paschal's 800s rebuild.  Other churches given the rebuild / mosaic treatment by this great builder pope were Santa Maria in Domnica on the Celean Hill, and Santa Cecilia in Trastevere


The Basilica on the Esquiline Hill is only a few minutes walk from our stand out favourite Major Basilica -  Santa Maria Maggiore, with the church named after Pudenziana, Prassede's sister, at the bottom of the hill.  Most visitors enter through the undistinguished north-east side door, but if it is a nice day it's worth walking round and coming up through the peaceful garden which frames the main facade (left).  Conversely, if you leave this way there is a pleasant Italian worker patronized lunch spot just down the road - La Forcetta d’Oro, via S Martino ai Monti, 40 (/via Domenichino).


Because the Basilica is easy to reach it is on everybody's "Early Christian Mosaics tour", so it can get a bit crowded in the late morning and even more after the long lunch closure ends in the late afternoon.  The photos immediately below were taken around 10am, with just a cleaner to share the sunlight filled space with Paradox and his Nikons.  Later in the day (bottom of the page) make sure to get some happy visitor to feed the voracious lights with euro-gold, to see the glass tesserae mosaics of the triumphal arch and apse - dating back to Paschal's 817 rebuild. 


In 1198 Pope Innocent III handed control of the Basilica to monks of the Vallombrosan Order.





The later ciborium is an unhelpful intrusion into the beautiful mosaic-scape.



The apse basin, with the River Jordan flowing past at the feet of the cast.



Pope San Paschal I (with church model), and Santa Prassede being presented to a rather rotund God by San Paolo.





Pope St Paschal I (? - 814 - 824), who rebuilt the about to collapse Basilica of Santa Prassede in 817.  The square halo is said to represent a saint still living at the time his image is captured, but surely when he was alive he was not recognized as a saint - puzzling, maybe the box was a later add-on!  Just as interesting is the bird - a nimbussed phoenix - symbol of the rising and setting sun, of the birth and rebirth of beings and of other things.



San Pietro presents Santa Pudenziana to God, accompanied by a deacon - possibly San Zeno.











On the right of the apse arch in the background can be seen the evangelistic symbols of  Saint John's Eagle and Saint Luke's Cow. 

On the other side will be Matthew's Angel and Mark's Lion.



Mosaic faces over the entry to the Capella San Zeno (built in the 800s) 



Capella San Zeno - Top: Agnese, Pudenziana and Prassede - Bottom: Theodora (mother of Paschal), Pudenziana, Virgin Mary and Prassede.



Madonna Liberatrice with Saints Prassede and Pudenziana (mosaics c1275) in the Capella San Zeno (built in the 800s) 




The navescape is more dramatic at afternoon tea time (and with the lights on), though that's also when the tours tip people in!




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