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via Nomentana, NE of the City of Rome



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Like the girl martyr St Foy from Agen, the girl martyr Sant'Agnese from Rome fell foul of Diocletian and his mates around 304.  Her body was laid to rest in the Christian catacombs which had spread like a huge rabbit warren under this Imperial land in the 200s and 300s.  Increasing numbers of pilgrims converged on the site, which led quickly to the building of a huge funerary hall (no longer there) with an attached circular mausoleum (still there) for Constantine's daughters Constanza (aka Constantina and Constantia) and Helen, and the foundation of the church (now Basilica) of Sant'Agnese which was dug into the side of the hill so that its floor level flowed seamlessly into the catacombs. 


The photo above shows the unnoteworthy entrance to the multi church site.  It is located "fuori le mura" on the via Nomentana.  Several travel sites give advice on how to be clever and catch the bus which stops at the door, but team Paradox, here to spend time getting tio kn ow the site ratther than the bus system, caught a Taxi from Lago Argentina.  Rome taxis are not particularly expensive, and it is important here to get going in good time as it's a big site and  everything closes for a long lunch hour. 





The site of the basilica sized funerary hall which lies down the hill to the left of the main entrance.





Adjoining one corner of the funerary hall was and is a large circular mausoleum, which contained the sarcophagi of Constantine's daughter Constanza and her sister Helen.   The building has magnificent double columns with elaborate capitals, and lots of Roman ceiling mosaics - all in good nick (more photos on the way).





postcard photo - grape harvesting




Constanza's porphyry sarcophagus was moved to the Vatican museums in 1791 and replaced by this copy.  Helen's sarcophagus disappeared earlier.





Access to the Basilica of Sant'Agnese is via this spacious 45 step marble stairway which is to the right of the main street entrance.  Until the early 1600s, when the church "facade" was dug out, the stairway was the only way of getting in. 







The second church in this spot was built by Pope St Honorius (Pope 625 - 638) .  Later a major restoration was undertaken in 1479 by Pope Julius II (della Rovere) (below looking malevolent) and it also had to be restored after the 1527 sacking and then in the mid 1800s.




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postcard photo - catacomb Chapel of Sabina



Just opposite the main stairwell entrance to the church is the entry to the catacombs.  No large parties of catacomb jostlers here, though it's best to avoid the weekends to get your personalized catacomb tour with one of those wonderful multilingual young ladies that Italy does so well!



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