Santa Costanza

Facade Santa Costanza     Entrance     Exit

Santa  Costanza Facade Rome

Santa Costanza         The other side       Facade

After a tour by a local guide, we head back up. We exit the church and take a path to turn left and find ourselves at the Santa Costanza. This mausoleum was built for Constantina, a daughter of Roman emperor Constantine, in the early 4th century. The building turned into a church in 1254 and was named after the by then canonised Constantina. She was called Santa Costanza. The map, cross section and the remains of the Santa Costanza.

Santa Costanza facade Rome
photo: Lalupa

Entrance of the Santa Costanza

Santa  Costanza part of facade Rome
photo: Enric Martinez i Vallmitjana

The Santa Costanza the facade and the back

The exterior of the Santa Costanza is remarkably simple, made of red brick. When we enter via the narthex, you will see the same type of brick, but paired with valuable paired granite columns, twenty-four in total, which support the central hall and dome.

Most mausoleums, heathen or Christian, are round or octagonal: like a centred plane. In our first schedule we’ll have a look at the early-Christian church, the Santo Stefano Rotondo from 470. This too has a centred plane. Not a shape that really stuck through, mind. The classical design of a basilisk, which we will see at the Forum Romanum, is much more practical. A basilisk can accommodate a large mass of people, while leaving ample room for religious customs such as the Mass and the worshipping of relics. For a modest church or mausoleum, however, a centred plane is very suitable. Bluffton University has four pages with great pictures of the Santa Costanza.

Santa Costanza facade Rome
photo: José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro

Interior large     Mosaics    Piranesi ‘Santa Costanza’ Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

photo: Steven Zucker

The dome of the Santa Costanza

Santa Costanza dome interior Rome
photo: Holly Hayes

Sarcophagus of Constantina replica   Original Vatican   Picking grapes   Grapes
Zoom in

Sarcophagus of Constantina (replica)  in Santa Costanza Rome
photos: José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro and Silko zoom: Jean Louis mazieres

Santa Costanza mosaics

interior Santa Costanza mosaics Rome
photos: Lawrence OP

Flowers, fruits and birds can be seen in between the foliage of the grapes and branches. It also depicts Constantina, the daughter of Constantine, and her husband for whom this mausoleum was built. The original tomb of Constantina, in the square apse opposite the entrance, has unfortunately been moved to the museum of the Vatican. The tomb that is now up for view is a replica.

These fourth-century mosaics differ greatly from the ones we have just seen in the semi-dome of the 7th century Sant’Agnese. A white surface shows entangled grape vines

Santa Costanza mosaic detail Rome
photo: jean louis mazieres

Harvesting grapes

Santa Costanza mosaic: Harvesting grapes
photo: Lawrence OP

Wine Press

Santa Costanza mosaic wine press Rome
photo: Lawrence OP

Santa Costanza    Detail columns and capitals

Santa Costanza interior vaults mosaic Rome
photos: Gian Luigi Perrella and detail Lawrence OP

Paul and Peter receive the scrolls from Christ

Santa Costanza mosaic Paul and Peter receive the scrolls from Christ Rome
photo: Lawrence OP

Peter receives the keys from Christ

Santa Costanza mosaic: Peter receives the keys from Christ Rome
photo: Lawrence OP

Between the foliage you can see grapes being harvested and a wine press. Many in the Renaissance and the period there after took the church for a temple of Bacchus. Not surprising, given the many depictions of grapes and a press. Dutch and Flemish painters founded a cultural association in Rome around 1620: the Bentvueghels. The association included such painters as van Poelenburgh, Breenbergh (born in Deventer), Jan Asselijn and van Swanevelt.

Anonymous  'Portraits of elven Bentvueghels' Boijmans van Beuningen museum

Anonymous  ‘Portraits of elven Bentvueghels’ c. 1623
Boijmans van Beuningen

Text picture: Cornelius Scut alias Brootsaken, Joan Muller alias Grunvink (Jan Molenaer), Willelmo Mollo alias Steekreiter (Wilhelmus Moll), Alexander uyt et land van Cleve alias Quicstert (Alexander van Welinckhoven). Bartolomeo van d

“The Bentvueghels members each initiate a new member. To do so, they gathered in the Santa Costanza. The new member was then initiated as a Bent member while sharing some glasses of red wine. The recesses to the left and right of the central recess, which holds Constantine’s tomb, still show the graffiti of the Bentvueghel members.” Source: Wikipedia.

Niche right from the sarcofaag with graffiti     Graffiti
Graffiti left niche

“The group was well known for its drunken, Bacchic initiation rituals (paid for by the initiate). These celebrations, sometimes lasting up to 24 hours, concluded with group marching to the church of Santa Costanza, known popularly at the time as the Temple of Bacchus.” Wikipedia

Santa Costanza Niche with graffiti  
photo: Teggelaar
Pieter van der Laer  'Bentvueghels in a Rome tavern'

Pieter van der Laer  ‘Bentvueghels in a Rome tavern’ first half seventeenth century Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen  Berlin

We leave the Santa Costanza

Santa Costanza interior door
photo: Teggelaar

The gate to the Via di S. Agnese

Sant Agnese fuori le Mura gate to Via S. Agnese
photo: Teggelaar

We leave the Santa Costanza and the Sant’Agnese fuori la Mura and return to the bus and take line 82 or 90 and get out at the Porta Pia.

Continuation Rome day 1: Porta Pia