OF THE BASILICA
|This mosaic dates from 527-530 AD. The dominating figure in the center is
that of Christ the Judge, who stands above the dramatically colored clouds, clothed in a
clasped toga and a stole signifying a learned man. To approach Christ, it is necessary to
cross the Jordan River, symbol of Baptism and life giving grace.
The Apostle Peter presents
Cosmas and the Apostle Paul presents Damian so that they may receive the crown of their
martyrdom. At far left, Pope Felix IV presents the model of the Basilica, and to the far
right stands, the soldier St. Theodore, vested as a Byzantine official in a cloak which
has a square purple cloth sewn on it, the insignia of a magistrate of the Court of
In the lower band,
coming from the left and from the right, is a procession of sheep (symbol of the new
humanity) moving from Bethlehem and Jerusalem towards the Divine Lamb from Whom springs up
the rivers of life: the Geon, Fison, Tigris and Euphrates.
The mosaic is
completed at the bottom by a multicolored frieze or greca, under which there are portraits
of saints and blesseds of the Third Order of St. Francis. These medallions, frescoes which
date from 1635, are attributed to Francesco Allegrini. They are arranged above the wooden,
two leveled choir which also dates from 1635.
on thumbnail to enlarge pictures
WHY THE BASILICA WAS
TO STS. COSMAS AND DAMIAN
Click on thumbnail to enlarge picture )
St. Peter presents
St.Cosmas to the Lord
St. Paul presents
St. Damian to the Lord.
Pope Felix IV presents the
Basilica of Sts. Cosmas
and Damian to the Lord
The Soldier St. Theodore
presents to the Lord the crown
he won by his martyrdom.
MOSAIC ON THE FACADE
The mosaic on the triumphal
arch was finished during the reign of Pope Sergio I (687-701) to fill in the hollow basin.
However, many experts hold that it is contemporary with the large mosaic.
The theme is taken from the Book of Revelation, chapters 1,2:4, 4-10, 5,2 and 6. The
heavenly Lamb is at the center of a blue shield, his jewelled throne without a back. At
His feet, is the rolled scroll of the Law with the seven seals still unbroken for only He
can open them. To the side are seven jewelled candelabra (symbols of the seven Churches),
four angels upon a sea of clouds, the symbols of the Evangelists Luke and John (the
symbols for Mark and Matthew were covered up by the two baroque chapels). At the bottom to
the right and left, two white veiled hands offer the crowns of martyrdom. After the
Barbarini rennovations, this is all that can be seen of the depiction of the Elders, which
consisted of two groups of twelve on either side.
There were several reasons why the Pope dedicated the Basilica to the holy
physician-martyrs, Cosmas and Damian.
The Library, or "Bibliotheca Pacis", was the lecture
hall for Claudius Galen, the prince of Roman medicine and physician at the courts of
Marcus Aurelius and later of Commodus (I 80-193). Also, for centuries, the offices of most
physicians of Rome were located in this area.
location was only a short distance from the pagan Temple of the twins Castor and Pollux.
The holy martyrs, Cosmas and Damian, twins and physicians, thus provided an appropriate
substitute for the pagan twins and also served to "convert " the science
of medicine. The Pope opted for this fortunate substitution, which was also desired by the
many immigrants coming from the Middle East where the holy brothers Cosmas and Damian were
venerated by Christians as miracle workers in restoring health.
The double edifice,
the Flavian Hall with its vestibule, was granted to the Pope by the Emperor Theodoric and
his daughter Amalasunta from the Court of the Goths at Ravenna. Both were friends of Pope
Felix IV and had intervened in his election as Bishop of Rome.
Meanwhile, the Pope,
in dedicating this shrine in the center of Rome to the two Eastern saints, may also have
thought to earn the goodwill of the expanding Byzantine Empire which was replacing the
Goths. It was the Age of Justinian (527-565).
In the spirit of
continuing the medical tradition connected with the site, in 1430 the University of
Specialists (today's "Noble College of Pharmacists") established its seat next
door at San Lorenzo in Miranda, where they operated a hospital.