We immediately turn right when we exit the Santi Quattro Coronati and face an intersection, which, if we keep walking straight, will take us to the cathedral of Rome: the San Giovanni in Laterano. Unfortunately we can’t visit all Rome has to offer. So instead of going straight, we take a right in the Via de Santo Stefano Rotondo. On our left hand side, away from the road, there’s an early-Christian 4th century church.
The Santo Stefano Rotondo is one of the earliest examples of a centrally-planned church, in this case a high, large central room with two ring-shaped aisles around it. The round church has a cross-shaped map.
In the 12th century, Innocentius II added three large ribbed vaults. This likely pertained to the poor condition of the wooden roof.
“The church was built on pre-existing Roman buildings, part of the Roman barracks of the Castra Peregrina, or Peregrinorum, ie accommodation of provincial troops, and over a Mithraeum dating back to 180 AD that was discovered in the 1973 to 1975 jobs. But above all it must be a round temple was reused, so archaic or otherwise dedicated to a Great Mother, as was, for example Isis. In fact they were also found remains of this temple: a head of Isis right next to the statue of Cautopates in Luni marble, 22 cm. Often the cult of Mithras was joined to the cult of Isis, perhaps because both had a mystery cult. According to the reconstructive hypothesis of some scholars on Macellum Magnum di Neroe, it was similar to the present church of S. Stefano Rotondo al Celio, ie with circular surrounded by columns around the perimeter surmounted by a dome.” Source: Imperium Romanum
“The Castra Peregrina was ultimately abandoned and handed over to the Church in the fifth century. A church dedicated to Saint Stephen was then built over the barracks. Excavations in the twentieth century have revealed that there is a a Mithraeu beneath the Santo Stefano, a shrine dedicated to the light god Mithras (often mistaken as the source for Christmas). This is hardly surprising, as the secretive cult of Mithras was very popular among soldiers.” Source Corvinus
According to some scholars, the Castra Peregrina also had the form of a central building with columns and a dome. Excavations under the Santa Stefano include a relief of Mithras, a head of Mithras and a statue of Mithras petra genetrix (Mithras born from a rock).
In the 16th century, the painter Pomarancio or Niccolò Circignani made a number of frescos about tortures on the walls. When looking at these, you feel rather compelled to divert your gaze from these horrors.
Read more? Click here by Imperium Romanum: S. Stefano Rotondo
End of Rome day 3
Continuation Rome day 4: Santa Maria degli Angeli and Moses fountain