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Santa Maria Maggiore with Column of Constantine.

January 31, 2011

 

Santa Maria Maggiore with Column from Constantine’s Basicila

Giovanni Battista Piranesi 1740s.

Etching.

This print shows another effort by Sixtus V in the 16th century to renovate Rome.  A column from Constantine’s Basilica was moved to Santa Maria Maggiore to make it clear to pilgrims that this was a major church to visit.  Like the obelisk, the column stood for conquest, but this time it meant victory by the Church.  The column no longer symbolized a domestication of peoples or territory, but rather it demanded reverence.

This particular column is important to Christians.  Constantine the Great was known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to and promote Christianity.  Having this column on S.M. Maggiore’s turf is an example of the Catholic Church’s strength, triumph, and expansion.

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