Patriarchal

Patriarchal Churches

The Patriarchal Churches are the four major basilicas of Catholicism. The term basilica is a title of honor given to certain churches because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance or significance as centers of worship. The term basilica also recalls the derivation of the building type which has its roots in the longitudinal basilica plan of ancient secular structures such as the Basilica Julia, whose ruins can be seen in the Roman Forum today. These four basilicas rank first in the Catholic hierarchy world wide and are known as the major basilicas. These are the only basilicas which may have a papal altar (used only with the permission of the pope) and a holy door, which is opened at the beginning of a Jubilee Year which is held every 25 years.

The four basilicas are:

   •   Arcibasilica di S. Giovanni Laterano (Archbasilica of St. John Lateran)
   •   Basilica di S. Pietro in Vaticano (Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican)
   •   Basilica di S. Paulo fuori le mura (Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls)
   •   Basilica di S. Maria Maggiori (Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Click the images below to explore the intricate detail of these plates.


314

Le Rovine delle antiche Magnificenze di Roma che si veggono nel Campo Vaccino 1765
Etching. mm. 1000 X 690; in three sheets with keyed index of 37 entries
Private Collection

St. John Lateran (S. Giovanni Laterano) is the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, and hence is the only one called archbasilica. Known as the Lateran Basilica, its full name is "Patriarchal Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour, St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist at the Lateran" (Arcibasilica di Santissimo Salvatore e Santi Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista al Laterano). This view was taken from the Palazzo Senatorio overlooking the Roman Forum. It faithfully reveals the rich texture of ancient and contemporary buildings comprising one of the most venerable sites in the city. It is comparable to a similar view by Lievin Cruyl circa 1665 in the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica.


315

Il prospetto della città, che si vede colla Basilica Vatican, Ponte, e castel S. Angelo 1765
Etching. mm. 1000 X 690; in three sheets with keyed index of 25 entries
Private Collection

St. Peter’s Basilica (S. Pietro in Vaticano) is also known as the Vatican Basilica. Here, Vasi uses a slightly elevated view to show us the view looking west from the vicinity of Teatro di Tor di Nona (NN 536, now destroyed), across Ponte S. Angelo to St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican. This aerial view is taken along the banks of the Tiber looking west from the vicinity of Teatro di Tor di Nona (NN 536, now destroyed). He uses the Castel S. Angelo and its bridge as a pictorial framing device for viewing the Borgo, climaxing in the cupola of St Peter’s.


316

La veduta della Basilica di S. Paolo fuori delle Mura ed adiacenze dal Monte Aventino, e dal Fiume Tevere D.D.D. 1771
Etching. mm. 1000 X 690; in three sheets with keyed index of 25 entries
Private Collection

St. Paul Outside the Walls (S. Paulo fuori la mura), also known as the Ostian Basilica, is assigned to the Patriarch of Alexandria. Vasi composed this view from the women's hospital in S. Michele (Ospizio delle donna, NN1133) next to the Porto di Ripa Grande. We look to the southeast past the customs house (dogana, NN 1126), in the right foreground, across the Tiber to the pyramid of Caius Cestius (NN 1068). In the far distance, at the right of the image lies St. Paul outside the Walls. This view is not typically recorded by vedutisti and recalls early vignettes from the Magnificenze.


317

La Veduta della Basilica di S. Maria Magiore dalla parte verso le Quattro Fontane D.D.D. 1771
Etching. mm. 1000 X 690; in three sheets with keyed index of 24 entries
Private Collection

St. Mary Major (S. Maria Maggiori), also called the Liberian Basilica, is assigned to the Patriarch of Antioch. Here, Vasi shows us the view looking southeast along the Strada Felice from a point near the Palazzo Barberini. Our view takes us past the Quattro Fontaine (4 Fountains) and S. Carlino on the right to S. Maria Maggiore framed in the distance. Along the way we see a sample of the diverse street life of Rome he delighted in showing. The distorted widening of the Via Sistina reveals an unidentified procession bound northward from S. Maria Maggiore.

Jim Tice, Erik Steiner, Allan Ceen, and Dennis Beyer
Department of Architecture and InfoGraphics Lab, Department of Geography, University of Oregon
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