Feast Day: 29 August

The Basilica of St Sabina - Rome

The Basilica of St Sabina – Rome

The Basilica of St Sabina is one of the most beautiful churches in Rome. It stands on the Aventine Hill, the southernmost of the Seven Hills of Rome, besides a walled garden planted with orange trees, which has a fine view over Rome. The hill, the garden and the basilica are oases of quiet in a busy capital city. St Sabina’s was completed in 432; to enter it is to return to the Early Church. In 1222, it was given by Pope Honorius III to the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) and remains today the headquarters of the Order; the Master of the Dominicans lives in the attached priory. The pope celebrates Mass in the basilica every Ash Wednesday.

St Sabina’s had replaced a large house originally owned by a Christian woman called Sabina, whose home was used for worship and gatherings of the local church. When the basilica was built, it preserved the name of the titula (title holder) prefixed by ‘Saint.’ In the sixth century, it was thought desirable to have a Life of St Sabina but what was written is quite unreliable; there is no evidence that it is based on fact. Nevertheless, this Life tells us that Sabina was a widow converted to Christianity by Serapion, her Syrian servant–girl. Serapion was martyred on 29 July during the reign of Emperor Hadrian; Sabina shared in her martyr’s crown a month later.

It is, perhaps, a little disappointing for us in Brightlingsea that we can know nothing certain about our patron saint except that she hosted an early Christian community but what more do we need to know than that? St Sabina was a nurturer, a protector and a benefactor for the People of God. And ours is the only church dedicated to her in our island nation, connecting us to the heart of Rome.