Santo Stefano al Monte Celio

Rome, Italy

The Basilica of St. Stephen in the Round on the Celian Hill (Basilica di Santo Stefano al Monte Celio), commonly named Santo Stefano Rotondo, is Hungary's 'national church' in Rome. It is dedicated to both Saint Stephen, the Christian first martyr, and Stephen I, the sanctified first king of Hungary who imposed Christianity on his subjects.

The earliest church was consecrated by Pope Simplicius between 468 and 483. It was dedicated to the protomartyr Saint Stephen, whose body had been discovered a few decades before in the Holy Land, and brought to Rome. The church was the first in Rome to have a circular plan, inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The church was embellished by Pope John I and Pope Felix IV in the 6th century with mosaics and colored marble. The church was restored in 1139-1143 by Pope Innocent II, who abandoned the outer ambulatory, and three of the four side chapels. He also had three transversal arches added to support the dome, enclosed the columns of the central ambulatory with brick to form the new outer wall, and walled up 14 of the windows in the drum.

In the Middle Ages, Santo Stefano Rotondo was in the charge of the Canons of San Giovanni in Laterano, but as time went on it fell into disrepair. In 1454, Pope Nicholas V entrusted the ruined church to the Pauline Fathers, the only Catholic Order founded by Hungarians.

Interior

The altar was made by the Florentine artist Bernardo Rossellino in the 15th century. The painting in the apse shows Christ between two martyrs. An ancient chair of Pope Gregory the Great from around 580 AD is preserved here.

The Chapel of Ss. Primo e Feliciano has very interesting and rare mosaics from the 7th century. 

The Hungarian chapel is dedicated to King Stephen I of Hungary, Szent István, the canonized first king of the Magyars. The frescoes of the chapel were painted in 1776 but older paintings were recently discovered under them.

Mithraeum

Under the church there is a 2nd-century mithraeum, related to the presence of the barracks of Roman soldiers in the neighbourhood. The cult of Mithras was especially popular among soldiers. A coloured marble bas-relief from the 3rd century is today in the Museo Nazionale Romano.

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Details

Founded: 468-483
Category: Religious sites in Italy

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Domenico Albonetti (3 months ago)
Beautiful and unique Church, although afresques cannot be seen in this period because of restoration.
Darryl Rich (4 months ago)
It worth visiting while undergoing renovation inside.
Marco Lopes (5 months ago)
An unique ancient round church undergoing restoration.
Chad Griffiths (7 months ago)
Beautiful and off the main tourist lists. Definitely worth a visit if you have already seen the big monuments. Went for a wedding and it was beautiful.
Milen Dimitrov (8 months ago)
The only round church we saw in Rome. It was hard to get there from the San Giovanni in Laterano, as there is no proper pedestrian walkway. Nevertheless, the rotunda is gorgeous, the murals are very impressive. The church is vary old - the first structue there being built in the 4th century AD, at time of Emperor Constantine, and is to be found on the Celian hill. It is commemorating the first Christian martyr - Saint Stefan and now the church is given to Hungary. Inside, one can find fine cosmatesque flooring and 34 frescoes of Christian martyrs, with captions explaining the scenes.
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