Would you walk a mile from Rome’s Circus of Maxentius for a Bernini? How about 5 km? Okay, maybe on a nice day as it includes a stroll along the Apian Way. It is between the second and third mile of the ancient road. Realistically, I would take Bus 218 to see a long -lost marble masterpiece by this famous Baroque sculptor. His last sculpture, a statue of Christ with his hand raised in blessing titled “Salvator Mundi,” was discovered in a small niche in the convent of Saint Sebastian. It was verified as a Bernini by art historians in 2001.
Today the statue is in the Basilica of San Sabastiano fuori le mura (outside the walls) beside the Relics Chapel that contains, among other curiosities, an arrow that struck St. Sebastian during his martyrdom, a stone with the imprint of Christ’s foot, and teeth from Saints Peter and Paul.
The basilica, itself, is worth the hike, or the bus ride. It dates back to the 4th Century, and was rebuilt in the 9th Century and again in the 1600s. Two hundred years later, the façade was added. The basilica is better known for its catacombs that you can enter from the basilica’s complex.
One thing about this last Bernini that I particularly like is that it is not often found by tourists, even those who come to the basilica grounds to visit the catacombs. It would be a rare experience to contemplate a Bernini without having to pre-book a visit to the Borghese Gallery or brave the crowds in St. Peter’s and Piazza Navona.
I would like to hear about other little-known Bernini sightings!