I recently visited the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Missouri which has over 83,000 square feet and 41,500,000 pieces of mosaic decoration in it. Visiting this church reminded me of a hidden gem of a church that I visited during my trip to Rome a couple of years ago.

Down a narrow street just behind Santa Maria Maggiore is the church of Santa Prassede. This 9th century basilica is decorated with some of the most beautiful mosaics found in Rome. The Byzantine-style mosaics here date from 822 A.D.

Santa Prassede was founded by Pope Paschal I in the early 9th century to replace the decaying 5th century church and to house the neglected remains of saints that he had removed from the abandoned catacombs. He also included a funerary chapel for his mother Theodora.

The most impressive feature of the church by far is its mosaics which cover the entire apse,
triumphal arch

and the entire interior of the Capella di San Zeno. The small Capella di San Zeno, off the right aisle, was built as a mausoleum for Pope Paschal I's mother Theodora.

The mosaics over the entrance to the Capella di San Zeno

consist of a double row of mosaic busts with the Virgin Mary and Child, St. Prassede and St. Pudenziana in the inner row and Christ and the Apostles in the outer row. At the corners are four saints.

Over the door on the inside of the chapel shows half-length figures of Pope Paschal's mother Theodora (with a square nimbus showing that she was alive when it was made), St. Prassede, St. Pudenziana, and Agnes.
The mosaic is labeled Theodora Episcopa (Theodora the Bishop), a piece of interesting evidence in the argument in favor of female Catholic priests. The Church insists that the Episcopa means just that she was the mother of the Pope, but that could easily have been said more clearly in other ways.  Thedora Episcopa means Theodora the Bishop. Above is the Lamb of God on the mount with four stags drinking from the four Rivers of Paradise.
The gold ceiling shows a bust of Christ supported by four winged angels in white.


The mosaics in the Capella di San Zeno are the most significant example of Byzantine artistic culture still visible in Rome.



  • Santa Prassede is open 07:30-12:00 and 16:00-18:30.
  • The church entrance is located on Via di Santa Prassede, about a block behind Santa Maria Maggiore.
  • The main entrance is down Via di Santa Prassede and to the right on Via San Martino ai Monti (but it's not always open).
  • The entrance to the church is free, but have €1 coins handy to light up Capella di San Zeno. Otherwise it's difficult to see the mosaics.
NOTE: I apologize for the less than quality photos in this post. At the time, my camera was not the best and I was still learning how to photograph in dimly lit places. But I felt it necessary to use my own photos rather than "borrow" someone else's.

Thank you for visiting.

A Great Europe Trip Planner 



One of the great churches in Rome is San Giovanni in Laterano.
This is Rome’s first Christian basilica. This is Rome’s cathedral. It is here that the pope officiates in his capacity as bishop of Rome. As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, it contains the papal throne (Cathedra Romana), and ranks above all other churches in the Roman Catholic Church, even above the Basilica San Pietro.

When you visit this church, don't miss the Cloisters. The Cloisters, all that remains of the Benedictine monastery, was built in the 1220s and 1230s. Each of the four sides of the cloister is made up of five sections which are divided into five section of small arches. The arches rest on pairs of small columns of different shapes and designs: some plain, solid marble, some twisted spirals.

Many of the columns are decorated with beautiful 13th century Cosmatesque mosaics.

The word cosmatesque is derived from the Cosmati, one of the leading families of marble craftsmen in Rome who created such geometrical decorations in the 12th and 13th centuries. Cosmati work is different than other mosaic work in that it is a glass mosaics used in combination with marble.


Above the arches runs a mosaic band with inlaid marble...

Walk around the covered passageway. You'll see a beautiful example of 13th century fresco of the Virgin Mary...


Other artifacts seen come from archeological excavations in the area surrounding the Basilica and Cloisters, some dating from the Roman ages.  The Cloisters also contain pieces taken from the basilica itself, placed out here by Francesco Borromini during his renovation of the church in the mid-17th century.  Among the artifacts are a fragment of a small twisted Cosmatesque column perhaps from the Altar of Mary Magdalene, testifying to the age-long history of San Giovanni in Laterano.

A 13th century Cosmatesque panel...

NOTE: There is a €2.00 charge to enter the Cloisters, but it's worth it.

MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: There are FREE public restrooms in the Cloisters!



Buon giorno i miei amici!

Let's learn more Italian words that may come in handy during your trip:

If you need to buy a train ticket:

Io vorrei un biglietto per Roma.                   I would like a ticket to Rome.
(EE-oh vor-RAY oon bee-YET-toe pear Roma)

Solo andata                                                 One way
(SO-lo an-DA-ta)

Andata e ritorno                                           Roundtrip
(An-DA-ta aye ree-TOR-no)

Binario                                                          Platform

Carrozza                                                      Train car

Posto                                                            Train seat

Il treno è in ritardo.                                       The train is late.
(ill TRAY-no eh in REE-tar-do)

Let's continue with numbers:

Undici                                       11

Dodici                                       12

Tredici                                      13

Quattordici                                14

Quindici                                     15

Grazie and ci vediamo!



Continuing on the same theme from the last post, the other must-see Paris museum for those mad for Monet is the Musée de l'Orangerie.

As its name suggests, the Musée de l'Orangerie is housed in a former orangery, built in 1852 to house the orange trees of the Tuileries Gardens. Used by the Third Republic as a depository for materials or a place of accommodation for soldiers, in 1921 it became, like the Jeu de Paume, its neighbor on the other side of the Jardin des Tuileries, an annex of the museum of Luxembourg, the predecessor of the National Museum of Modern Art. In 1918, Claude Monet chose to donate his great Nymphéas panels to France. He worked on these 6-foot-tall and over 50-foot-long panels for nearly eight years. The museum opened to the public on May 17, 1927, six months after Monet's death.

How fortunate for me that the week before I visited Paris in May, 2006, this museum finally reopened after a long 6-year, $36 million renovation. The most important change was the demolition of the entire second floor so that the Nymphéas could be seen in the natural light that Monet envisioned in the two specially-designed oval rooms.

Le Bassin aux Nymphéas, Soleil Couchant

Le Bassin aux Nymphéas, Reflets Vert

Le Bassin aux Nymphéas sans Saules, Matin
Le Bassin aux Nymphéas avec Saules, Le Matin Clair
The paintings are just incredible to see. These photos show just four of the eight panels Monet painted. The two separate oval-shaped rooms hold four panels each. Take a few moments, sit down on the benches in the middle of each room and just admire the incredible beauty of these paintings!

But attention art lovers!

There is so much more to see than just Monet's Nymphéas panels.

During the recent renovation the lower level was also opened up to emit more natural light. It is here that the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection is now on display; prior to the renovation, these paintings occupied the now-demolished second level.

Along the masterpiece works to see:

Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe by Paul Cézanne
Yvonne et Christine LeRolle Jouant le Piano by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Bouquet de Tulipes by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Argenteuil by Claude Monet
La Femme avec un Tamborine by Picasso
Femme au Ruban de Velours by Modigliani

Before this trip to Paris, I was really only familiar with the French Impressionists and Vincent van Gogh, having seen their works during my many trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. The trip to Paris opened my eyes and knowledge to so many other painters and their works that I was unaware of until then.

A visit to a museum can introduce you to artists that you were unfamiliar with, and you then begin to admire their work when you see their paintings in other museums. At the Musée de l'Orangerie, I "discovered" Amadeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and André Derain. I believe this was the beginning of my expanded appreciation of the myriad genres of art.  I now enjoy the Dutch Masters and Flemish Primitives as much as I do the French Impressionists.

  • Musée de l'Orangerie is closed on Tuesdays, May 1 and December 25.
  • Open Tuesday through Sunday from 09:00 - 18:00.
  • You should use your Paris Museum Pass at this museum.
  • The current entrance fee is €7.50.
  • Free entrance 1st Sunday of each month.
  • Photography is allowed (no flash).