Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thursday after Ash Wednesday: San Giorgio

View of the apse before the Mass begun
I remember the day very clearly, it was raining heavily as we left the Domus Santa Maria on the Thursday after Ash Wenesday.  It was a challenge to catch the right bus, maneuver the correct streets and arrive at the Church on time for the 7:00 a.m. Mass.  Our destination was the Station Church of San Giorgio in Velabro.

This church was built around the 6th century,near the march where according to legend Romulus and Remus were found.  It was dedicated in 682 by Pope Leo II to the Saints George and Sebastian, the patrons of the cavalry.  In 741 Pope Zachary brought the relic of the head of St. George here, which had recently been discovered at the Latern.  Although St. George was little known in the West, he was very much venerated in the East.  Therefore, this church marks one of the first places of devotion to this saint in the Latin Church.   The sacred relic of his skull is kept in a cosmatesque style enclosure underneath the main altar.

That day, the Rector of the English College offered Mass and he reminded us that Blessed Cardinal John Henry Neumann had been titular of this Church at one time. There are plagues in the crypt commemorating him and other Cardinals who held the same title.

In the 12th century, the vault of the apse was decorated with frescoes of Christ, the Virgin, St. Peter, St. Sebastian and St. George (on a white horse). A magnificent reminder to us of their loyalty to Christ, and steadfast witness to the faith.  Let us pray for this grace during the lenten season.
See you tomorrow.

Outside the Church of San Giorgio

Relic of the Skull of St. George

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