Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

Rome, Italy

The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem or Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome. According to tradition, the basilica was consecrated circa 325 to house the relics of the Passion of Jesus Christ. The relics were brought to Rome from the Holy Land by Empress St. Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I. At that time, the Basilica's floor was covered with soil from Jerusalem, thus acquiring the title in Hierusalem.

After falling into neglect, the Pope Lucius II (1144-1145) restored the Basilica. It assumed a Romanesque appearance, with a nave, two aisles, belfry, and porch.

The Basilica was also modified in the 16th century, but it assumed its current Baroque appearance under Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58), who had been its titular prior to his elevation to the Papacy. New streets were also opened to connect the Basilica to two other Roman major basilicas, namely, San Giovanni in Laterano and Santa Maria Maggiore. The façade of the Basilica, which was designed by Pietro Passalacqua and Domenico Gregorini, shares the typical late Roman Baroque style of these other basilicas.

The relics were once in the ancient St. Helena's Chapel, which is partly subterranean. Here the founder of the Basilica had some soil from Calvary dispersed. In the vault is a mosaic designed by Melozzo da Forlì before 1485 depicting Jesus Blessing, Histories of the Cross, and various saints. The altar has a huge statue of St. Helena, which was obtained from an ancient statue of the pagan goddess Juno discovered at Ostia.

The apse of the Basilica includes frescoes telling the Legends of the True Cross, attributed to Melozzo, Antoniazzo Romano, and Marco Palmezzano. The Museum of the Basilica houses a mosaic icon from the 14th century which, according to the legend, Pope Gregory I had made after a vision of Christ. Notable also is the tomb of Cardinal Francisco de los Ángeles Quiñones sculpted by Jacopo Sansovino in 1536.

Peter Paul Rubens, who had arrived in Rome by way of Mantua in 1601, was commissioned by Archduke Albert of Austria to paint an altarpiece with three panels for the Chapel of St. Helena. Two of these paintings, St. Helena with the True Cross and The Mocking of Christ, are now in Grasse, France. The third, The Elevation of the Cross, was lost. Before his marriage, the Archduke had been made a cardinal in the Basilica.

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Founded: c. 325 AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Tasman Westbury (2 years ago)
A magnificent church housing the relics of the True Cross on which the God-Man shed His Precious Blood for the salvation of the world. The relics are found downstairs in the crypt. The sanctuary upstairs is beautifully decorated and the acoustics are fabulous.
Ashraf shehata (2 years ago)
I liked the church but could not reach the croo part to see.
claudia lacy (2 years ago)
There is a life size statue of Christ as he would look after the scourging and the Crusification. So painful and moving that I wept and wept .
i pm (2 years ago)
Beautiful, often overlooked church. Don't judge a book by its cover. This particular church is much nicer inside than you might think from outside.
kw windham (2 years ago)
A beautiful experience for all Christians, no matter what denomination. The shroud is awe inspiring, the cross that has been made around the pice of the holy cross is beautiful and as you make your way through the hallways you find your self in a truly beautiful chapel, that is Constantine’s mother’s original chapel and the cathedral was built around it. A truly wonderful experience.
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Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.