S. Balbina all’Aventino

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Lenten Station Churches of Rome

Tuesday: S. Balbina all’Aventino

St. Balbina is a saint of the early Roman church about whom little is known for certain. An early tradition holds that she was the daughter of a Roman tribune named Quirinus who was martyred for the faith. Having lived a holy life as a virgin, she would later be buried with him in the catacombs, with her relics now being venerated in this place.

Located near the Baths of Caracalla, the church which bears her name stands in a peaceful area on the side of the Aventine Hill. In ancient Roman times, this was the location of the home of Lucius Felix Cilonus, a wealthy Roman, who built a large house for himself here in the early fourth century. This likely included a large hall, because the central part of the current church dates back to about that period. Some parts existed even earlier than this, dating back to the second century after Christ. The complex later came into Christian hands, and around the year 370, a substantial renovation heightened the walls and modified the internal layout of the church, essentially giving it the lines it has today. Although the early title of this church is not known for certain, it is thought by many that this was referred to as the titulus Tigridae, possibly making reference to an early sponsor or founder of the church in this area. Tradition has it that it was at this church that Emperor Constantine bade farewell to the Pope on his departure for Constantinople. The following centuries saw some slight modifications to the church: the rebuilding of the apse in the medieval period, the porch added in the late sixteenth century, and some interior decoration in the early eighteenth century. Further renovations took place in 1813 and 1825. A successful restoration in 1928 removed most of the later additions and reconstructed some of the original furnishings to reveal the original simplicity of the church.

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