San Giorgio al Velabro

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Today’s station church is San Giorgio al Velabro, Saint George in Velabro. Velabro, meaning marshy land, is the name given to the area in Rome near Palatine Hill where the Tiber makes a sharp turn. The area would often flood creating a swampy marsh. The Velabro holds an important place in the history of Rome as the ancient legend tells us that it was nearby that Romulus killed his brother Remus before founding the city. It was here too that they drifted ashore before being taken and nursed by the she wolf.

The foundation of this church dates back to the seventh century. There’s even mention of an earlier chapel near this spot in the San Callixtus Catacombs dating back to 482. The church was dedicated to Saint Sebastian up until the eight century. As this area was heavily populated by Greeks, the pope at the time, also a Greek, moved here the relics of Saint George, yet another Greek, and dedicated the church to him.

Saint George had a huge following in the East. He was a Christian knight who had quite the legend attached to his name. Legend has it that he was a dragon slayer. A dragon terrorized his country, Cappadocia, and so a plot was developed to prevent it from getting any closer to his town. They fed the dragon two sheep each day in hopes that it would be satisfied and remain outside the city. When they ran out of sheep they needed a human, the king’s daughter happened to be chosen and no one offered to take her place. George heard this and went to her aid. He was able to subdue the dragon, then walk it into town. George told the people that if they would be baptized, he would slay the dragon. Thousands were, and the dragon was slain. The king offered him many treasures, but he declined them instead asking that they be divided among the poor.

The interior of San Giorgio is quite sparse with little decoration, save for a few heavily restored frescos. Ancient columns from nearby pagan temples line the nave of the church. With the simple design and atmosphere of antiquity, this church is very popular for weddings, and a beautiful place to retreat while in Rome.

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