Perhaps better known by it’s nickname, Santa Maria della Navicella, today’s station church is Santa Maria in Domnica. In the ninth century, a church was built here over the site of a third century house. The home, owned by a noblewoman named Cyriaca, was a meeting place for early Christians and a refuge for the poor. A friend of Cyriaca’s, Saint Lawrence, spent time here distributing alms to the poor. After his martyrdom, it was she who arranged for the saint’s burial in her family cemetery, located across town where the basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura now stands. Shortly after his death, she too was killed for her faith and buried near his tomb.
Inside the church on the central apse, we find one of the earliest examples of a mosaic featuring Mary in the center, rather than the traditional Christ. He is here too, of course, sitting on his Mother’s knee. Kneeling at Mary’s feet is Pope Paschal I, the one responsible for commissioning the work. We know, just by looking at the mosaic, that he was alive when the work was completed, for he is depicted with a square halo.
The church gets it’s nickname from a fountain just outside, a small sculpture of a boat. It’s a sixteenth century copy of an ancient fountain, probably given by sailor to a temple after a safe journey at sea.
Tomorrow we visit San Clemente.