I went to two different churches, Santa Pudenziana and Santa Maria Maggiore, to check out the mosaics in both. Santa Pudenziana was built in the 4th century and it has a mosaic in the apse. The mosaic was made around 390 and is one of the oldest mosaics in Rome. It features Christ in the center with five apostles and one female on both sides. Legend says that one of the females is supposed to be Saint Pudenziana, the saint that this church was built for. This mosaic was created in a Byzantine style because it uses different symbols. There is a cross above Christ representing the victory of Christ. On the left side of the cross there is an angel and a lion, and on the right there is an ox and an eagle. These four symbols represent the Four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Santa Maria Maggiore was built in the 5th century and is the biggest Roman Catholic Church dedicated to Mary in Rome. One legend says that this church was built because Pope Liberius and a patrician both had a dream that Mary wanted a church built and that she would mark where it will be built. In the middle of the summer, a place on Esquiline Hill was marked with snow and that is where the church was built. On the inside, all along the sides of the nave are stories from the Old Testament and they are shown through mosaics.
First, I visited Santa Pudenziana. I was a little intimidated at first because I went from being surrounded by the people and chaos of Rome, to the area around this church which was completely silent with almost no one around. But I did not feel so intimidated after I actually entered Santa Pudenziana. Being away from all the people and chaos was really nice because I was able to focus all of my attention on the apse mosaic. There was only me and two other people in the church. I was able to take in all the beauty from this mosaic because I did not have to worry about being in the way of other tourists trying to get a good look, being too short to see over a big group, or being distracted by younger tourists that don’t care about art yet. The setting was flawless for viewing this mosaic because, along with only a few other people being there, the lighting was perfect. I could clearly see the sparkle of the gold in the cross and in Christ’s robe, and the red really seemed to pop out of the background. The colors in this mosaic are very vibrant and I enjoyed looking at this piece.
I was a little shocked when I first entered Santa Maria Maggiore because it is enormous compared to Santa Pudenziana and there was a lot more people there. But, there weren’t too many people there to make it too difficult to look at the nave mosaics. Unfortunately though, it was cloudy and raining, making it dark inside the church because a lot of the light comes in from the windows. This is one of the good things about Rome, though. When it starts to rain, there are plenty of churches to escape to for avoiding the bad weather. The light was low but I could still see the gold shine and the colors pop in some of the mosaics. What is nice about these mosaics is that there are 26 on either side of the nave to look at and each one has a different story. One could spend an hour or two in this church just looking at the mosaics. Even with the low light I could see the beauty of each one. I would like to go back and on a sunny day to see how amazing they look with light shining on them.
I think mosaics are fascinating because of the work an artist has to go through putting all of the pieces of glass or stone used together. I enjoyed going to Santa Pudenziana to see the apse mosaics and to Santa Maria Maggiore to see the mosaics the sides of the nave. They had excellent mosaics and I would suggest others to visit both churches.
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