Pass the bath salts: Martyrdom, Santo Stefano style. (Photos by C-M.)
Of all the churches I genuflected at while in Rome, my absolute favorite was the Basilica di Santo Stefano al Monte Cielo (more commonly known as Santo Stefano Rotondo). It is a graceful circular structure (parts of which date back to 500 AD) with a lovely skylight at center. But it’s best asset is the art. Lining the walls of the church are some impressive 16th century murals of martyrdom that serve as a visual compendium of truly imaginative deaths. You’ll see people being boiled, burnt, flayed and chopped — some of them upside down. Yet, because they depict the fleeting moments of spiritual ecstasy that accompany a good martyrdom, everyone kinda looks like they’re having a really great time. The overall effect: disturbing and hilarious. Kinda like the Catholic Church.
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Oh goodness, this one seems to involve gravity boots.