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ROME Santo Stefano Rotondo, also known as Santo Stefano al Monte Celio, is an ancient basilica church in Rome. It lies on the Caelian Hill.


The edifice was consecrated by Pope Simplicius between 468 and 483. It was dedicated to protomartyr Saint Stephen, whose body had been discovered a few decades before in the Holy Land, and brought into Rome. The church was the first in Rome to have a circular plan, inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Santo Stefano was probably financed by the wealthy Valerius family, whose estates covered large parts of the Caelian Hill. Their villa stood nearby, on the site of the present-day Hospital of San Giovanni - Addolorata. St Melanie, a member of the family, was a frequent pilgrim to Jerusalem and died there, so the family had connections to the Holy Land.


Reconstruction of the appearance of the church in the 5th century.Originally the church had three concentrical ambulatories flanked by 22 Ionic columns, which surround the central circular space surmounted by a tambour (22 m high and 22 m wide). There were 22 windows in the tambour but most of them were walled up in the 15th century restoration. The outermost corridor was later demolished.

The church was embellished by Pope John I and Pope Felix IV in the 6th century. In 1130 Innocent II had added three transversal arches to support the dome.

In the Middle Ages, Santo Stefano Rotondo was charged to the Canons of San Giovanni in Laterano, but as time went on it fell unto disrepair. In the middle of the 15th century, Flavio Biondo praised the marble columns, marble covered walls and cosmatesque works-of-art of the church, but he added that unfortunately "nowadays Santo Stefano Rotondo hadn't got any roof". Blondus claimed that the church was built on the remains of an ancient Temple of Faunus. Excavations in 1969 to 1975 revealed that the building was actually never converted from a pagan temple but was always a church, erected under Constantine I in the first half of the 4th century.

In 1454, Pope Nicholas V entrusted the ruined church to the Pauline Fathers, the only Catholic Order founded by Hungarians. This was the reason why Santo Stefano Rotondo later became the unofficial church of the Hungarians in Rome. The church was restored by Bernardo Rossellino, probably under the guidance of Leon Battista Alberti.

In 1579, the Hungarian Jesuits followed the Pauline Fathers. The Collegium Hungaricum, established here by István Arator that year, was soon merged with the Collegium Germanicum in 1580, becoming the Collegium Germanicum et Hungaricum, because very few Hungarian student was able to travel to Rome from the Turkish-occupied Kingdom of Hungary.

The Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Stephani in Coelio Monte has been Friedrich Cardinal Wetter since 1985. His predecessor, József Mindszenty was famous as the persecuted Catholic leader of Hungary under the Communist dictature.
WIKIPEDIA

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Additional Photos by Giorgio Clementi (Clementi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3694 W: 437 N: 9370] (52514)
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