San Saba in Rome

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San Saba is an ancient basilica church in Rome, Italy. It lies on the so-called Piccolo Aventino, which is an area close to the ancient Aurelian Walls next to the Aventine and Caelian Hill.

The current Cardinal Deacon of the Titulus S. Sabae is Jorge Medina Estévez. The titulus was established in 1959.


According to legend, St. Silvia, mother of Pope Gregory I, had an estate at the site. After her death, so legend reads, her estate was transformed into an affiliate monastery of St. Andreas, the monastery which Gregory I founded at the site of today's San Gregorio al Celio. This legend can be traced back to have originated from the 12th century, when in context of Renovatio Romae and Church Reform, the monastery of San Saba was meant to be provided with a long and local tradition.

The historic origin of the religious site goes back to the year 645. In this year, Palestine fugitive monks from the order of Mar Saba (Palestine) who had fled their home country after the Islamic invasion, came to Rome to attend the Lateran council. After the council, these Sabaite monks settled down in an old domus, or noble estate, on the "Piccolo Aventino", which at this time was deserted due to the big decrease in Rome's population numbers. Here, they founded an eremitic cell. The Sabaites introduced the cult of St. Sabas to Rome. In ancient sources, their monastery however goes by the name cellas novas, "cellanovas" or "cellaenovae", which is in reference to the "cellae" of their mother closter, Mar Saba.

The Sabaite monastery prospered soon and for long. In the 8th and 9th century, San Saba was one of the most prestigious of Rome and among the leading "Greek" monasteries. Its received rich papal donations. Since 680, its abbots held important diplomatic roles in the relationships between Rome and Byzantium, and represented the Roman Church and Pope at several church councils in Constantinople.

In 768, Antipope Constantine II was held prisoner in this monastery, before being killed by the Lombards.

The Benedictine of Monte Cassino received the church after its rebuild in the 10th century. After many years of decay, it was completely renovated in the 13th century, after the church was granted to the Cluniac monks. The church was granted to the Cistercians in the 15th century before going to the Society of Jesus.


The church, preceded by a small porch from the 13th century, has a nave with two aisles. These end with three apses. The interior is characterized by numerous interventions from different ages. The columns are from ancient buildings, and the floor is an example of Cosmatesque marble art from the beginning of the 13th century. The main artpieces are the notable frescoes in a room on the left side of the church, the so-called fourth nave: they portrays the miracles of St. Nicholas.

The crypt, built on the house of St. Silvia, holds the relics of St. Sabas. The sacristy houses also a fragment of fresco from the very first church (8th year).


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