Friday, December 1, 2017

Churches on the Aventine

Several large estates on the Aventine belonged to prominent Roman Christian families and were turned over to the Roman Catholic Church by the widows who inherited them.  By the end of the Middle Ages the population had diminished and Aventine was occupied by farms, vineyards and hay-fields.  The only remaining buildings on the Aventine were six great fortress-monasteries built on the site of these grand old estates. 

The six churches on the Aventine are Santa Sabina on the top of the hill, Sant'Alessio all'Aventino to the west, Santa Maria del Priorato further along to the west, Santa Prisca down the hill and San Saba and Santa Balbina to the south-east.  These titular churches changed hands many times and the monasteries were used for many different purposes. 

When the romantic legends told about the women who donated them to the Church fell out of popularity, their names and significance were obscured over time.  The fact that fabricated stories about them were made up after death to prove their holiness should not erase the fact that they sacrificed their lives and their properties for the sake of the faith. 

The six basilicas on the Aventine helped to establish the Church in Rome long before Saint Peter's was built.  For centuries the fortified monasteries on the Aventine protected the Christian citizens of Rome from barbarian incursions from the River Tiber.  The following posts tell the forgotten stories of the brave women who bequeathed these lands to the Church.