Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine: a Historic Gem in Rome
The Aventine Hill, perched atop the city, guards priceless artistic, natural, and architectural treasures. Among the churches nestled in this delightful location, the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine stands out as one of the most beautiful Paleochristian churches one can behold in the Eternal City.
History of the Basilica of Santa Sabina
Constructed in 422 by Peter of Illyria, a priest from Dalmatia, on the site of the ancient Temple of Juno Regina and the legendary house of the Roman matron Sabina, who later became Saint Sabina.
Over the centuries, the Basilica underwent numerous restorations. Domenico Fontana in 1587, Francesco Borromini in 1643, and Antonio Munoz in the first half of the 20th century, which restored it to its original Paleochristian splendor, eliminating the Baroque elements introduced in the two previous restorations.
From 1219, Saint Dominic of Guzmán, the founder of the Dominican Order, lived and worked here.
Legends and Miracles of Saint Dominic
Two famous legends are associated with the figure of the saint. It is said that Dominic brought with him a sprout from an orange tree from Spain, his homeland, and decided to plant it in the cloister of the convent. The orange tree is still considered miraculous today because, centuries later, it seems to have continued to bear fruit through other trees that grew from the original one after its death. Additionally, it is narrated that the “labis diaboli,” a round black stone placed next to the entrance of the Basilica, was hurled here. The victim of this act was Saint Dominic, who was praying on a marble slab, which the devil smashed with this stone, now visible, reassembled in the center of the choir.
Of the original construction, the famous cypress wood portal has survived to this day, in almost perfect condition. It features scenes from the Old and New Testaments, with the Crucifixion representation being of great significance.
Exploring the Underground Chambers
During periodic special visits, it is possible to explore the underground chambers of the Basilica, which house the remains of structures used as warehouses, cisterns, religious buildings, patrician houses, and significant portions of the Servian Walls.
If you are staying in the Aventine or the adjacent Testaccio district, treat yourself to a stroll up to the hill’s summit and admire the astounding architecture of a jewel rich in history, legendary events, and charm.