Located on the banks of the Tiber, the station church of Monday in the fifth week of Lent is the 5th century, Saint Chrysogonus.
Saint Chrysogonus is one of the first tituli, or parish churches of Rome. It was most likely built during the pontificate of Sylvester I who died in 335AD, however it doesn’t officially appear in any records until 499AD. The date of the church has been established after extensive archaeological digs brought to light remains going back to more than a century earlier than the recorded date.
The church is located a short distance from what was the main piers of ancient Rome and so the earliest building would have been at the heart of a bustling community which saw sailors, merchants and visitors to the city coming and going. The remains of the first building dedicated solely to worship can be viewed under the current church. It was a large building with a nave, no side aisles or windows and the apse – a wide space – faced west. The church complex developed Into the medieval period with signs of a large basin next to the building. It is likely this space was used to baptise the many converts to Christianity as they passed through this hub of activity. The first church was set at a lower level and floods from the Tiber posed a threat to its future. In the 12th century, the titular cardinal, Giovanni da Crema set about the work of building a new church.
Work on the new building began in 1129 and involved moving the church to its current location, higher – but closer to the river. The floor, the distinctive Cosmatesque design, was a gift from the cardinal, whilst clever use was made of the 22 granite columns that line the nave. They were all recycled from an original Roman building, the caps being the only new addition to them. During da Creama’s rebuilding, the Romanesque style bell-tower was also added. Other remaining aspects of that building period include the Pietro Cavallini style remnant of Madonna and Child with Sts Chrysogonus and James. It can be seen behind the altar.
The church we see today is a result of the 1623 works that Cardinal Scipione Borghese commissioned his favoured architect, Giovanni Soria, to complete. He added the baldacchino and Borghese crests around the church whilst at the same time Guercino completed the fresco of St Chrysogonus in Glory, which is at the centre of the Baroque ceiling.
Today, the church is cared for by the Trinitarian Fathers who installed the choir stalls when they arrived at St Chrysogonus in the middle part of the 19th century. On the left of the nave a visitor will find the shrine of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, a lay woman who was beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1920. She was a mystic, who was a member of the secular Trinitarians, and during her life, experienced various ecstasies and was known to have heard the voice of God and Jesus. Her remains, dressed in the habit of a tertiary Trinitarian, lie at the side altar which is below a painting by Aronne del Vecchio of Trinitarian saints in glory.