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Inside the ancient basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo on the Caelian Hill in Rome. 
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Inside the ancient basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo on the Caelian Hill in Rome.

Wikipedia: The earliest church was consecrated by Pope Simplicius between 468 and 483. It was dedicated to the protomartyr Saint Stephen, whose body had been discovered a few decades before in the Holy Land, and brought to Rome. The church was the first in Rome to have a circular plan, inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Originally the church had three concentric ambulatories flanked by 22 Ionic columns, surrounding the central circular space surmounted by a tambour (22 m high and 22 m wide). There were 22 windows in the tambour but most of them were walled up in the 15th century restoration. The outermost corridor was later demolished.

The church was embellished by Pope John I and Pope Felix IV in the 6th century. In 1130 Innocent II had three transversal arches added to support the dome.

In the Middle Ages, Santo Stefano Rotondo was in the charge of the Canons of San Giovanni in Laterano, but as time went on it fell unto disrepair. In the middle of the 15th century, Flavio Biondo praised the marble columns, marble covered walls and cosmatesque works-of-art of the church, but he added that unfortunately "nowadays Santo Stefano Rotondo has no roof". Blondus claimed that the church was built on the remains of an ancient Temple of Faunus. Excavations in 1969 to 1975 revealed that the building was actually never converted from a pagan temple but was always a church, erected under Constantine I in the first half of the 4th century.

In 1454, Pope Nicholas V entrusted the ruined church to the Pauline Fathers, the only Catholic Order founded by Hungarians. This is the reason why Santo Stefano Rotondo later became the unofficial church of the Hungarians in Rome. The church was restored by Bernardo Rossellino, it is presumed under the guidance of Leon Battista Alberti.

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St. Stephen's martyrdom (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)The 7th century mosaic in the chapel of Sts. Primus and Felician, Santo Stefano Rotondo, RomeSanto Stefano Rotondo, Rome
Inside the Santo Stefano Rotondo church on the Caelian Hill in Rome. 
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Inside the Santo Stefano Rotondo church on the Caelian Hill in Rome.
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Episcopal throne of Pope Gregory the Great (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)The Renaissance burial monument of archdeacon János Lászai, 1523 (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)
Inside the Santo Stefano Rotondo church on the Caelian Hill in Rome. 
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Inside the Santo Stefano Rotondo church on the Caelian Hill in Rome.

"To single out details from the great dream of Roman Churches, would be the wildest occupation in the world. But St. Stefano Rotondo, a damp mildewed vault of an old church in the outskirts of Rome, will always struggle uppermost in my mind, by reason of the hideous paintings with which its walls are covered. These represent the martyrdoms of saints and early Christians; and such a panorama of horror and butchery no man could imagine in his sleep, though he were to eat a whole pig, raw, for supper. Grey-bearded men being boiled, fried, grilled, crimped, singed, eaten by wild beasts, worried by dogs, buried alive, torn asunder by horses, chopped up small with hatchets: women having their breasts torn with iron pincers, their tongues cut out, their ears screwed off, their jaws broken, their bodies stretched upon the rack, or skinned upon the stake, or crackled up and melted in the fire: these are among the mildest subjects. So insisted on, and laboured at, besides, that every sufferer gives you the same occasion for wonder as poor old Duncan awoke, in Lady Macbeth, when she marvelled at his having so much blood in him." (Charles Dickens: Pictures from Italy, 1846).
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Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)Scenes of martyrdom - drastic frescoes by Niccolò Pomarancio and Antonio Tempesta (Santo Stefano Rotondo, Rome)
On the stairs leading down from Via Nazionale to the 5th-century Basilica di San Vitale in Rome. 
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On the stairs leading down from Via Nazionale to the 5th-century Basilica di San Vitale in Rome.
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Inside the Basilica di San Vitale church in Rome. 
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Inside the Basilica di San Vitale church in Rome.

Wikipedia: The basilica was built in 400, and consecrated by Pope Innocent I in 401/402. The dedication to St. Vitalis and his family (Saint Valeria, his wife, and Sts. Gervasius and Protasius, their sons) is dated to 412. This church is recorded as Titulus Vestinae in the acts of the 499 synod of Pope Symmachus, and three presbyters are listed.

San Vitale was restored several times, the most important being the rebuilding by Pope Sixtus IV before the Jubilee of 1475, and then in 1598, 1938 and 1960. The church is currently located several metres under the level of the street (via Nazionale), that it faces.

The church has a single nave, with walls frescoed with scenes of martyrdom, among which a Martyrdom of St Ignatius of Antioch, in which a ruined Colosseum is depicted. The apsis, original of the 5th century, is decorated with a fresco by Andrea Commodi, The Ascent to Calvary.

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Basilica di San Vitale, RomeBasilica di San Vitale, Rome: The Ascent to Calvary, a fresco by Andrea CommodiBasilica di San Vitale, RomeBasilica di San Vitale, Rome: Death of Saint ProtasiusBasilica di San Vitale, Rome: Saint Vitale being buried aliveBasilica di San Vitale, Rome
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