Santa Costanza in Rome

Santa Costanza is a fourth century mausoleum structure that is thought to have been originally built to house the remains of the Emperor Constantine's relations, including one Costanza -- hence the name -- though it is worth noting there is some debate about whether this is, in fact, the original funerary structure or if recent excavations haven't shown there was in fact another which is no longer extant. 

Regardless of whether it was or wasn't the original funerary structure, Santa Costanza remains an important example of Roman and paleochristian architecture. In fact, of the various early Christian structures that might be found in Rome, Santa Costanza is one of the most structurally in tact, including the fact is still has many of its original fourth century mosaics. Unfortunately, while the dome mosaic no longer survives, the apsidal and ambulatory mosaics do:

Mosaic of Christ with Ss. Peter and Paul. Sheep are seen at Christ's feet, representing Christ as the Good Shepherd. In imperial fashion, Christ hands a scroll to St. Peter bearing the Latin words "Dominus pacem dat" (The Lord gives peace).

Christ enthroned, wearing imperial robes of purple and gold, giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter. 

The ambulatory mosaics are more 'palatial' and secular nature showing a bridge between classical and Christian culture of Rome.

Santa Costanza is a circular structure -- a Roman rotunda -- with a central dome, arches and small apsidal niches. Originally its walls would likely have been clad with coloured marble revetments akin to what you'd see in the Pantheon, Hagia Sophia or San Marco in Venice. This sort of decoration was, of course, a typical design element of imperial Roman structures. 

The central dome. Originally it was covered in mosaic showing many scenes from the Old Testament. 

The altar here is, of course, itself a later development and originally it is thought one or two of the sarcophagi originally stood here. 

A replica now in place in S. Costanza; the original is in the Vatican Museums

The current altar dates to the baroque period though it has been modified in more recent times. A view of its more baroque, less medieval form can be seen here (and one will also note the modern frescoes that had been added to the walls -- since removed):

It was only in the year 1256 that Pope Alexander IV would consecrate the building as a church, shifting it toward its current use. 

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