Cappella di San Zenone (Chapel of Saint Zeno) – Rome, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Cappella di San Zenone (Chapel of Saint Zeno)

Its interior is adorned with some of the best examples of early Christian mosaics.  

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The Cappella di San Zenone (Chapel of Saint Zeno) is a lateral chapel part of the Basilica of Santa Prassede, in Rome. The chapel stands out due to its collection of early Christian mosaics, a wonderful example of Byzantine art in Rome. The structure is considered a unique example of Carolingian Renaissance style in Rome and its beauty earned it the moniker the “Garden of Paradise.” 

The chapel dates back to the ninth-century and was constructed on the orders of Pope Paschal I. He wanted to use it as a sepulchral chamber for his beloved mother, Theodora.

Inside the chapel are several shining examples of centuries-old mosaic craftsmanship. Tiny, perfectly cut tiles form amazing images that cover the interior of the sanctuary. The cross-vaulted ceiling is decorated with an image of Christ Pantocrator and four angelic figures. The mosaic stands out for its precious golden tiles that create the backdrop, and the light blue and red coloring that helps accentuate the details. 

Along the chapel walls, additional mosaics depict female figures identified as Theodora, Agnes, Prassede and Pudenziana, Prassede’s sister. The chapel also contains a reliquary holding what is said to be the column upon which Jesus was flogged during his final days. It’s believed to have been brought to the chapel from Jerusalem in 1223 under Pope Honorius III.

Know Before You Go

The chapel is part of the Basilica of Santa Prassede, which itself is worth visiting. Access to the church and chapel is free, but 1 Euro is necessary to switch on the chapel lights to better admire the mosaics. The light machine is beside the chapel door. Flash photography is not allowed (standard photography is ok.)  

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