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Today’s station church is Santa Balbina, located up the Aventine Hill, overlooking the ancient Baths of Caracalla. The church is named for the second century virgin martyr, Balbina. Originally built in 336, this is one of the original twenty-five titular churches of Rome.
There’s a cool legend of Saint Balbina that ties her to another Station Church we’ve recently visited.
She was the daughter of Quirinus, a tribunal in the Roman Army. He was in charge of watching over a few soon-to-be executed prisoners.
He mentioned to one prisoner that he’d become a Christian if he could prove to him the existence of an after life.
That prisoner said that the pope could do a much better job of explaining it.
One morning, Quirinus entered the prisoner’s cell and found Pope Alexander in there with him. The pope was also being held prisoner across town at the time, chained up, and very well guarded. Angels had brought him here overnight.
Quirinus decided to listen and give these crazy Christians a chance.
The prisoner explained that the pope, with the help of God, had raised his son from the dead.
Quirinus’ daughter, Balbina was sick, and asked if the pope could heal her.
The pope instructed him to take his daughter to find the chains that held Saint Peter.
Peter’s martyrdom occurred just 50 or so short years earlier and Quirinus knew exactly where Peter had been held.
He took his daughter to find the chains, and when they found them, she reverently kissed them and was soon healed.
Pope Alexander and the other prisoner were pardoned and released.
Quirinus, along with his wife and daughter were then baptized by the Pope.
Pope Alexander built a church to celebrate the miracle of the chains and called it Saint Peter in Chains.
Relics from Saint Balbina, her father, Saint Quirinus and Saint Felicissimus are located here. Also inside the church is an altar brought over from the old Saint Peter’s basilica.