Santa Sabina all'Aventino is a basilica in Rome, the center of the Dominican order. Its Cardinal Priest is Jozef Cardinal Tomko. Santa Sabina lies high on the Aventine Hill, riverside, close to the headquarters of the Knights of Malta.
Santa Sabina is an early basilica (5th century), with a classical rectangular plan and columns. The decorations have been restored to their original modesty, mostly white. Together with the light pouring in from the windows, this makes the Santa Sabina an airy and roomy place. Other basilicas, such as Santa Maria Maggiore, are often heavily and gaudily decorated. Because of its simplicity, the Santa Sabina represents the crossover from a roofed Roman forum to the churches of Christendom.
Santa Sabina was built by Priest Petrus
, a Dalmatian
priest, between 422
on the site of the house of the Roman matron Sabina
, who was later declared a canonized
Christian saint. It was originally near to a temple of Juno
In 1219, the church was given by Pope Honorius III to Saint Dominic, for his new order, the Order of Preachers, now commonly known as the Dominicans. Since then, it has been their headquarters.
The wooden door of the basilica is generally agreed to be the original door from the 5th century, although it was apparently not constructed for this doorway. Eighteen of its wooden panels survive - all but one depicting scenes from the Bible
, albeit with some departures from canonical versions of the scenes. Most famous among these is one of the earliest certain depictions of Christ's crucifixion
, although other panels have also been the subjects of extensive analysis because of their unusual imagery.
Above the doorway, the interior preserves an original dedication in Latin hexameter.
The original 5th century apse mosaic was replaced by a very similar fresco by Taddeo Zuccari in 1559. The composition probably remained unchanged: Christ flanked by male and female saints, seated on a hill while lambs drinking from a stream at its feet. The iconography of the mosaic was very similar to another 5th century mosaic, destroyed in the 17th century, in Sant'Andrea in Catabarbara.
The interior cells for the Dominican friars are little changed since the earliest days of the Order of Preachers. The cell of St. Dominic is still identified, though it has since been enlarged and converted to a chapel. Also, the original dining room still remains, in which St. Thomas Aquinas would dine when he came to Rome.
The campanile (bell tower) dates from the 10th century.
- Richard Delbrueck. "Notes on the Wooden Doors of Santa Sabina", The Art Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 2. (Jun., 1952), pp. 139-145.
- Ernst H. Kantorowicz, "The 'King's Advent': And The Enigmatic Panels in the Doors of Santa Sabina", The Art Bulletin, Vol. 26, No. 4. (Dec., 1944), pp. 207-231.
- Alexander Coburn Soper. "The Italo-Gallic School of Early Christian Art", The Art Bulletin, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Jun., 1938), pp. 145-192.
- Richard Delbrueck. "The Acclamation Scene on the Doors of Santa Sabina" (in Notes), The Art Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Sep., 1949), pp. 215-217.