The Basilica of Saint Praxedes (Italian: Basilica di Santa Prassede all’Esquillino) commonly known in Italian as Santa Prassede, is an ancient titular church and minor basilica in Rome, located near the papal basilica of Saint Mary Major.
Built by Paschal I in 822, it was often restored with modifications on its original aspect. The façade, which opens up to the open-air atrium, has columns of the antique narthex and three arched windows on top. The basilical inside was originally divided up into three naves with sixteen granite columns that directly supported the trabeation.
Four of the latter were then incorporated into reinforcing pilasters, on which three big transversal arcades were setup. Splendid are the walls’ frescoes with stories of the Passio, figures of Apostles on pilasters, angels and festoons, works by various authors of early C.XVII. In the middle of the floor a porphyry disk covers a well where, according to legends, Santa Prassede collected the remanings and blood of martyrs. San Zeno’s chapel is the most important Byzantine monument in Rome and collects some of the most important Byzantine mosaics.
The church provided the inspiration for Robert Browning’s poem “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church.”
Santa Prassede also houses an alleged segment of the pillar upon which Jesus was flogged and tortured before his crucifixion in Jerusalem. The relic is alleged to have been retrieved in the early 4th century by Saint Helena (mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I) who at the age of eighty undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she founded churches for Christian worship and collected relics associated with the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary.
Among these legendary relics retrieved by Helena, which included pieces of the True Cross (now venerated at St. Peter’s Basilica with fragments in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, also in Rome) and wood from the Jesus’ crib enshrined at S. Maria Maggiore. The authenticity of these relics, including the Santa Prassede pillar, is disputed by historians and Christians alike, due to lack of forensic evidence and the proliferation of falsified relics during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.