Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Happy Feast Day of SS. Philip and James the Lesser

But for the inconvenient event we call the Counter-Reformation, I'm sure I'd make myself a nice living whilst in Rome procuring indulgences and making pilgrimages on behalf of others. Today we celebate the feast of the Apostles SS. Phlip and James [Note that the linked image confounds James the Greater normally associated with the cockle-shell with James the Lesser].
The two are celebrated liturgically together because their remains are in the Church of the 12 Apostles (SS Apostoli) here in Rome. Apart from the gigantic altar-piece dedicated to them (perhaps the largest in Rome), it's also possible to visit the confessio or crypt under the high altar. This is a most peculiar place to visit because despite its appearence of antiquity with implausibly well-preserved early Christian frescoes it actually dates from the 1830s! The artist/architect who contructed it even went so far as to include several reproductions of early Christian burial monuments. As such, it's a monument to the apostles themselves and also a curious record of the revival of interest in Christian archeology which occurred in the 19th century. (Note that many of the famous Roman catacombs were rediscovered at about that time.)
(Whilst talking about SS Apostoli, I'm obliged to recall the Stuart connection.)

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