The mausoleum is cylindrical, like the Pantheon, with exposed brick walls and intricate mosaic ceilings around the outer ring, or ambulatory. A double row of columns separates the ambulatory from the heart of the mausoleum where the altar sits, and the streaming light from the high windows above contributes to the spooky atmosphere. Perhaps the dark, gloominess of the ambulatory in direct contrast with the light, airy space beneath the dome is what makes this space so mysterious.
A rather shabby copy of Constantia’s imposing porphyry sarcophagus sits where the original (now housed in the Vatican Museums, pictured here) once stood. Much more painful is what has become of the domed ceiling. The original mosaics that once filled the dome were sadly destroyed in 1620, to be replaced with mediocre Baroque frescoes.
This mausoleum-turned-church was one of the few contenders when I was first considering where to get married, a very long 18 months ago. I loved the idea of getting married in a circular space, with the guests seated all around us. The way the light streams in from the upper windows is breathtaking, not to mention the rich detail of the mosaics I love so much. What eventually deterred me were the morbid connotations of getting married in what was once a mausoleum, and the fact that I was determined to wed in the historic center. The church we eventually chose was perfect for our wedding, and before long I will write a post on that loveliest of all churches.
Photo sources: 1, 2, 3