Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere seen by Allegra Zen

In Santa Maria in Trastevere Rome balsam and ointment are made. There are places like this where you can put down your weapons and see others without having to consider them rivals. Places where pain calms down.

In my memory, Santa Maria in Trastevere always has the air of a clear Sunday morning. There we would go, my dear friend Joseba and I, to enjoy the celebrations. The beauty of the church and a breakfast sitting on a terrace in the square were the background to the words of Don Vincenzo Paglia. I can’t help it that Sunday morning still tastes like orange juice.

Santa Maria in Trastevere


Fons Olei. A very special fountain in Santa Maria in Trastevere

I travel back in time and with my imagination I enter the meritorious tavern. There the Roman soldiers met who after an eternal military service had managed to grow old. There, here, in these places, in 38 BC a strange spring arose. An oily source surely the result of a hidden volcanic activity. And so that strange event, that slimy, dark, foul-smelling material, became a benign, beneficial sign. It appeared as a gift of favor from the gods or the announcement of the near advent of the Messiah for the many Jews who resided in this area.

Fons Fons Olei in Santa Maria in Trastevere

Who’d say? For one day, in Rome, there was an oil spring. The surprise, the amazement of all, together with that healing meaning that everything related to the ‘oily’ has, made this salvific event permeate the memory of the neighborhood. Perhaps for all this in the third century, in this place, was the ‘domus ecclesiae’ where Pope Calixto gathered the Christian community of this area. Later, in the s. IV, when the great basilicas began thanks to freedom of worship, Pope Julius I built here what would be the first church dedicated to Mary.

A signal

The strange fountain ceased. A phenomenon that seemed like a sign and that lasted a few hours lost in the memory of the s. I BC Only at the end of the s. In the 19th century, building the containment dikes of the Tiber, the workers again spoke of a strong smell of gas in that part of the Trasteverina shore. Now, all this seems unimaginable and only a few ‘words’ remind us of its origin.

Everything arises from a spring from which something that seems as dirty as oil flows. Slimy, sticky, blackish, smelly. And yet, a matter of anointing, bearer of a power that the earth itself passed through without being able to contain itself.

Lights of the s. XII

When entering the eyes they cannot stop looking towards the apse, dazzled. Hundreds of colors and flashes tell us about how they brought heaven to earth. It was there between the 12th and 13th centuries. And they did not mind spending more than a century to be able to represent something that deserves to come close to the adjective eternal.

apse of Santa Maria in Trastevere

Since the distant 8th century, colors such as those of the Madonna della Clemenza have been the reflections of the sun on this oil painting. Looking at them I can imagine the colors that the good smell of a balm would have. And so, the beauty of the compositions, like a merciful pause in the work, awaits us in this corner of Trastevere . And I breathe in with delight, the smell of their colors.

Madonna della Clemenza in Santa Maria in Trastevere Altemps chapel

Light, mercy, balm. All of them refer to a woman presented everywhere as the authentic source of health. The spring from which this river of oil arises, without which there is no light or strength, which softens and rebuilds. It is not a coincidence that in this area there are so many small and diverse hospitals among the oldest in the city.

Santa Maria in Trastevere, thank you

Central nave of Santa Maria in Trastevere

On Sunday mornings the church is filled with great clouds of incense. It burns profusely, with waste, amid the joyous and singing sound of bells and bells. Generosity is not ashamed, nor is beauty stingy. At Santa María in Trastevere I constantly receive an invitation to be magnanimous, to pour out, to pour, not to belittle myself by staying with my own securities, or in the containers themselves. Mana, abounds, getting drunk.

“Eyes wide open, the senses” in Santa María in Trastevere

There are times when Rome becomes exaggerated. He does not start counting merits or evaluating judging. What’s more, the Universal Judge here becomes a son who wants and makes his mother always young. It could be his wife. So much is the affection – and he can with her love, wanting as much as he can – that he makes her be the way he wants. From her he is born, but before and after he gives him everything he wants. No destruction, no possession, no tricks. At the top of the zenith is this game. It springs from the depths of the earth and anoints us from the sky of this apse.

santa maria in trastevere central nave

The crown is his but he receives it. He receives it but without supplication to whoever grants it.
He grants it without the disdain of one who gives without compassion. She indicates this by knowing him deeply while feeling his embrace.

It is an image that rains on the arid land of relationships that I see. It comforts me. Pacifies the senses leaving me enraptured. I think the same thing happened to San Jerónimo in the Ávila chapel . So he stood, moving motionless, stunned.

I have been almost 20 years in which that hug, like a balm that runs down its strong columns, makes me shudder with the good perfume of the beauty of which we are capable. And that I rarely see it!

Plaza Santa Maria in Trastevere


…it’s marvelous. It
is also the ancient truth of Europe. It has
something of Byzantium, like Venice, and some
stopped time and sacred shadows.
Something from Spain. The bells are ringing.
It has memories in me since childhood.
Sunlight now illuminates the Christ
of the Pantocrator, and it is seen to be even more
Byzantium. It is Europe. It is Rome.
Ancient light that still says it. Poetry,
and history, yes, but also
poetry without history, in the
primal song in which man
continues to seek to be, and it is
the same art, its root,
very properly, and for this reason it
is in the beginning, from
the beginning and through it too

somehow out of time.

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