The basilica of St Paul without the walls, dedicated 324 A.D., rebuilt 388-423, remained in a sadly neglected state, but substantially unaltered, till the disastrous fire of 1823, which reduced the nave to a calcined ruin. Its plan and dimensions (figs. 12, 13) were almost identical with those of St Peter's.
The only parts of the modernized five-aisled basilica of St John Lateran (of which we have a plan in its original state, Agincourt, pl. lxxiii. No. 22) which retain any interest, are the double-vaulted aisle which runs round the apse, a most unusual arrangement, and the baptistery. The latter is an octagonal building standing some little distance from the basilica to the south. Its roof is supported by a double range of columns, one above the other, encircling the baptismal basin sunk below the floor.
Of the three-aisled basilicas the best example is the Liberian or S. Maria Maggiore dedicated 365, and reconstructed 432 A.D. Its internal length to the chord of the apse is 250 ft. by 100 ft. in breadth. The Ionic pillars of grey granite, uniform in style, twenty on each side, form a colonnade of great dignity and beauty, unfortunately broken towards the east by intrusive arches opening into chapels. The clerestory, though modern, is excellent in style and arrangement. Corinthian pilasters divide the windows, beneath which are very remarkable mosaic pictures of subjects from Old Testament history, generally supposed to date from the pontificate of Sixtus III., 432-440. The face of the arch of triumph presents also a series of mosaics illustrative of the infancy of our Lord, of great value in the history of art. The apse is of later date, reconstructed by Paschal I. in 818.Fig. 13. - Section of the Basilica of St Paul, Rome. Fig. 14. - Section of Basilica of S. Agnese at Rome.
Of the remaining Roman basilicas that of S. Sabina on the Aventine is of special interest as its interior, dating from about A.D. 430, has preserved more of the primitive aspect than any other. Its carved wooden doors of early Christian date are of unique value, and in the spandrils of its inner arcades, upborne by splendid antique Corinthian columns, are some good specimens of opus sectile or mosaic of cut marble. The ancient roof is an open one. The basilicas of S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura and S. Agnese deserve particular notice, as exhibiting galleries corresponding to those of the civil basilicas and to the later triforium, carried above the aisles and returned across the entrance end. It is doubtful, however, whether these galleries are part of the original schemes. The architectural history of S. Lorenzo's is curious. When originally constructed in A.D. 432, it consisted of a short nave of six bays, with an internal narthex the whole height of the building. In the 13th century Honorius III. disorientated the church by pulling down the apse and erecting a nave of twelve bays on its site and beyond it, thus converting the original nave into a square-ended choir, the level being much raised, and the magnificent Corinthian columns half buried.
As a consequence of the church being thus shifted completely round, the face of the arch of triumph, turned away from the present entrance, but towards the original one, is invested with the usual mosaics (Agincourt, pl. xxviii. Nos. 29, 30, 31). The basilica of S. Agnese, of which we give a section (fig. 14), is a small but interesting building, much like what S. Lorenzo must have been before it was altered.
Fig. 15. - Plan of Basilica of S. Clemente in Rome.
1. Porch. 2. Atrium. 3. Nave. 4. Aisle for men. 5. Aisle for women. 6. Chorus cantorum. 7. Altar. 8. Gospel-ambo. 9. Epistle-ambo. 10. Confessio. 11. Bishop's throne.
Though inferior in size, and later in date than most of the basilicas already mentioned, that of S. Clemente is not surpassed in interest by any one of them. This is due to its having retained its original ritual arrangements and church-fittings more perfectly than any other. These fittings have been removed from the earlier church, lying below the existing building, which at some unknown date and for some unrecorded reason was abandoned and filled up with earth, while a new building was erected upon it as a foundation. The most probable account is that the earlier church was so completely overwhelmed in the ruin of the city in 1084, when Robert Guiscard burnt all the public buildings from the Lateran to the Capitol, that it was found simpler and more convenient to build a new edifice at a higher level than to repair the old one. The annexed plan (fig. 15) and view (fig. 16) show the peculiarities of the existing building. The church is preceded by an atrium, the only perfect example remaining in Rome, in the centre of which is the cantharus or fountain for ablutions. The atrium is entered by a portico made up of earlier fragments very carelessly put together.
The chorus cantorum, which occupies about one-third of the nave, is enclosed by a low marble screen, about 3 ft. high, a work of the 9th century, preserved from the old church but newly arranged. The white marble slabs are covered with patterns in low relief, and are decorated with ribbons of glass mosaic of the 13th century. These screen-walls stand quite free of the pillars, leaving a passage between. On the ritual north stands the gospel-ambo, of octagonal form, with a double flight of steps westwards and eastwards. To the west of it stands the great Paschal candlestick, with a spiral shaft, decorated with mosaic. Opposite, to the south, is the epistle-ambo, square in plan, with two marble reading-desks facing east and west, for the reading of the epistle and the gradual respectively. The sanctuary is raised two steps above the choir, from which it is divided by another portion of the same marble screen. The altar stands beneath a lofty ciborium, supported by marble columns, with a canopy on smaller shafts above. It retains the rods and rings for the curtains to run on.