Blanks – Haiku 2022 #ThursdayDoors

Main doors, Basilica Santa Sabina, Rome – Image credit:  © Konstantinos Papaioannou | Dreamstime

storied cypress wood

raises a holy Order’s roof

blanks keep their secrets


Perched among a trio of churches on Aventine Hill, the smallest of Rome’s seven hills, stands the oldest surviving complete Christian church in Rome, Basilica Santa Sabina (Circa AD 432- 440). And, it is the head/mother church of the Dominican order.

Ensconced in an even older marble doorway, the above entrance doors date back to the fifth century A.D.; thus making these cypress-wood doors the oldest in an official Roman Christian church.

Measuring 3.2 by 5.4 meters high (11 feet by 18 feet) the doors’ two halves are adorned with carved panels held in place by newer wood frames thanks to numerous restorations. Blank wood panels fill in the bottom portion of the doors replacing ten carved panels long since lost. The surviving eighteen panels depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

The most famous panel (see below) depicts the passion of Jesus on the cross. It is considered the first publically displayed icon of the crucifixion of Christ in Rome. Albeit, the alexamenos graffito (circa AD 200)—scribbled markings of a crucifix found on a stone slab on Rome’s Palatine Hill, holds the distinction as the oldest image of the crucifixion.

Trivia: The panel depicting Aaron with his rod and two snakes, (see below) originally included a depiction of Pharoh drowning in the Red Sea according to the Old Testament account. Oddly, sixteen-century restorers for some unknown reason changed the original carving of Pharoah’s face to the face of Napoleon Bonaparte!

Close-up details of doors’ relief panel – The crucifixion of Jesus (below):

Basilica Santa Sabina Main doors’ relief – Image credit: Wikimedia CC 3.0

Closeup detail of the doors’ relief panel where the original head of Pharaoh (in the middle on the chariot) was replaced/recarved with the face of Napoleon Bonaparte below:

Main door relief panel with Aaron’s rod relief – Image credit: cyberdisciple on WordPress

Wider angle of Basilica Santa Sabina below:

Basilica Santa Sabina, Rome – Image credit: © Takranik | Dreamstime

Written for Dan Antion – No Facilities for #ThursdayDoors

Published by Suzette Benjamin

Positive thinker, inspirational, writer, faith

43 thoughts on “Blanks – Haiku 2022 #ThursdayDoors

  1. Aventine Hill – such a beautiful name. What does it mean. It sounds lovelier than Avenue. The last syllable gives it a sweet swing.

    Cypress wood, a favourite log of mine also very popular among woodworkers especially for outdoor furniture projects, so it makes sense that the doors were carved in this light yellow to medium brown water resistant wood.
    Amazing inner dynamic, Cypress is a softwood if unstained, it ages to a nice, silvery gray. 

    Blanks keep their secret….beautifully articulated. Sad that the original ten carved panels went missing.
    I enjoyed your haiku this morning Poet, also the acompanying stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I quite like “Aventine” I think it is a reference to Roman King Aventinus, who was a big grand poobar there back in the times of the Roman Empire.

      Oh, I did not know that about Cypress wood going silver if left unstained…good to know. Thank you!

      So sorry some pieces were lost.
      Yet, through so many centuries of care, I guess, it is a blessing they still have more than half of them left from this Grandamme of wooden doors.. Amazing stories told in the craft work!

      So pleased you enjoyed.
      Happy Thursday blessings. Peace.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A poobar?…😂, oh I thought it was Italian for Avenue.

        Yes Cypress is an incredibly versatile wood imbibing these inner strengths, bringing out its sliver glow overtime.

        Well said, definitely a Grandamme,

        I did, thank you for sharing.

        Have a blessed and peaceful Thursday too.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Cypress is know for its resistance to the weather, but to survive (even in part and with help) for almost 2000 years is remarkable. I love your poem and I appreciate the history. The Pharaoh/Napoleon switch is hard to understand, but I’m sure someone had their reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Dan. Yes, Cypress is hardy for a so-called softwood.
      Indeed, long lasting in the case of these doors for sure. Obviously they are well loved and cared for. Very little survives antiquity’s march without massive human help.
      I am at a loss too on the Napoleon Pharaoh switch.
      Thank you for hosting Thursday Doors, I know you have a hectic blogging schedule. Much appreciated, Dan.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah! I love how you’ve created the richness of story with the detailed carving, while the blank spaces remain elusive. Reminds me of the nature of reality, that which we see gets filled with story, while the unseen, remains a mystery. Awesome write, Suzette!

    Liked by 1 person

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