Santa Maria in Trastevere
Dazzling mosaics in Trastevere
Legend states that Trastevere’s main church was the first ever built in Rome. Archeology may not definitively corroborate the claim, but the church remains of supreme importance to locals who come to worship beneath its gilded ceiling and before the mosaic-clad apse. Over the centuries, the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere has been fabulously decorated and what we see today is an accumulation of building and embellishment stretching back to the 12th century. It was then that dozens of granite columns were dragged from the Baths of Caracalla to form the church’s aisled halls. The floor, another 12th century work, features repurposed ancient stone, which has been laid out in a dizzying geometric design. Of the many masterpieces in the church, perhaps the most impressive is a mosaic cycle behind the altar. Laid in gold and glass by the master Pietro Cavallini in the late 12th century, the mosaics depict scenes from the live of the Virgin in a decidedly modern style, which sloughs off the stiffness of the Middle Ages and instead embraces a cutting edge naturalism.
By Katie Parla, AFAR Local Expert
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