Saint of the Day – 29 August – Saint Sabina of Rome (Died c 126) Martyr
St Sabina of Rome (Died c 126) Martyr, Widow. Patronage – the Diocese of Avezzano, Italy.
Saint Sabina was the widow of Senator Valentinus and daughter of Herod Metallarius. After her female slave Saint Serapia (who had converted her) was denounced and beheaded, Sabina rescued her slave’s remains and had them interred in the family mausoleum where she also expected to be buried.
Denounced as well, Sabina was accused of being a Christian by Elpidio the Prefect and was thereupon martyred in the city of Vindena in the state of Umbria, Italy.
In 430 her relics were brought to the Aventine Hill, to a specially built basilica— Santa Sabina — on the site of her house, originally situated near a temple of Juno . This house may also have formed an early Christian titular church. The church was initially dedicated to both Sabina and Serapia, though the dedication was later limited to Sabina. This is the oldest extant Basilica in Rome.
St Sabina’s is believed to have drawn inspiration for its design from Old St. Peter’s Basilica, which was built roughly 100 years earlier. This increases the historical value of St Sabina’s, as to visit this storied old church is the closest we can come to experiencing the first iteration of St Peter’s, which was replaced by the St Peter’s we know today in the 16th century.
The Basilica was erected not far from the site of a temple of Juno, much of which was recycled for its construction. In fact, the nave of the basilica features 24 marble columns with perfectly matched Corinthian capitals and bases from the temple of Juno.
Another important aspect of this ancienBasilica is the artwork carved into the large cypress wood doors. While 10 of the original 28 carvings have been lost, among the remaining carvings is the oldest known depiction of the crucifixion. While the cross is not present, a figure appearing to be Christ stands with his arms outstretched, showing the wounds of the Passion. At either side of Jesus are two other figures standing similarly, believed to be the thieves whom Christ was crucified alongside.
The grounds of the Basilica of St Sabina is also home to a Convent where many famous Catholics have lived, including – St Dominic, Pope Pius V, Blessed Ceslaus, St Hyacinth and St Thomas Aquinas. In the 13th century, while St Dominic was in residence, Pope Honorius III launched the Order of Preachers, who are today known as Dominicans . Later in the same century, St Thomas Aquinas restructured the school and began a specialised education program known as the studium provinciale. In these lessons, Aquinas taught moral and natural philosophies.
St Sabina’s is still surprising us with its treasures. As recently as 2010, an early fresco was unveiled that appears to be a depiction of the Virgin Mary, along with some of the apostles.