Rome, S Teodoro

Era 6AD
Location Via di S. Teodoro, 00186 Roma RM, Italy

S Teodoro is a small round church near the Forum on the western edge of the Palatine Hill. It is set down from the road, well down. It also seems to be shut for most of the time - I got in during a service.

The church in its present form is the fault of Pope Nicholas V (1447-1555), who meddled with a much earlier sixth-century building. He also tampered with the apse mosaic of that church. What’s there now is sort of sixth century. Christ, seated on an orb, is flanked by Peter and Paul who introduce two unnamed saints, presumably Theodore and perhaps Cleonicus, a martyr saint associated with Theodore. The Hand of God, clutching a laurel wreath, appears between the red and blue clouds at the top of the scene. This mosaic has been massively and rather unpleasingly restored, mainly by Nicholas V to the extent that we have no idea whether the original Christ was bearded or beardless and the left-hand saint as we look (so probably Theodore as the right hand of Christ, our left, is the more special side) is very fey in appearance.

But the basic iconography of the scene is similar to several mosaics other sixth-century mosaics: S Vitale in Ravenna; the Eufrasian basilica in Poreč; SS Cosmas and Damien in Rome. It’s what we might think of as the ‘bog-standard’ iconography (not a technical term): Christ; two introducers (usually either Peter and Paul or angels); the local saint or the saint to whom the church is dedicated (hence the inspired guess of St Theodore). Some elements - the presence of a divine hand and of red and blue clouds – are even more reminiscent of motifs from SS Cosmas and Damien, which is just to the other side of the Forum, and from S Lorenzo fuori le mura, and are themes continuously used in Roman mosaics throughout the Middle Ages. Although the patron of the S Teodoro mosaic is unknown, and is not now shown in the mosaic (he could have been – who knows? Thank you Nicholas V), the church itself was one of the seven original deaconries in Rome and so it is possible that the patron was a pope.


The church is on Via S Teodoro but google maps won't let me show you exactly where!

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