Sante Rufina e Seconda a Porcareccina is an 18th century public chapel at Via di Boccea 1115, which is actually a rural farmstead up a long driveway south-east of the isolated suburb of Valle Santa. This is in the Casalotti zone.
The dedication is to SS Rufina and Secunda. A set of catacombs and the possible original sanctuary of the saints is nearby.
This church is in the municipality of Rome, but belongs to the diocese of Porto Santa Rufina.
The saints Edit
The Via di Boccea is the modern approximation to the ancient Via Cornelia, which ran from the Vatican fields to the town of Caera (modern Cerveteri) as an alternative to the Via Aurelia which took a more southerly route.
At an uncertain date, the two women martyrs Rufina and Secunda were buried near its ninth milestone. Their legend, which is fictional, describes them as sisters who were murdered in a local forest called Selva nigra ("Black Wood") in the reign of Valerian. This would have been about the year 260. The locality was renamed Silva candida ("Bright Wood") in honour of the martyrdom, and both names have been applied to suburbs in the vicinity- Selva Candida and Selva Nera.
The shrine of the martyrs was provided with a basilica in the 4th century, begun by Pope Julius I in 336 and completed by Pope Damasus. This became the cathedral of the diocese of Lorium, formerly based at a town on the Via Aurelia at the twelfth milestone. The relocated diocese emerges into history as Silva Candida in 487, but was later renamed Santa Rufina.
The cathedral and shrine became the focus of a small city of the same name, which was part of a pilgrimage circuit up the Via Cornelia and terminating at the shrine of the martyrs Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abachum at the thirteenth milestone. This is the present locality of Boccea (see Santi Mario e Marta), and the pilgrim path became the modern Via di Boccea.
Pope Adrian I (772-95) provided a baptistery in a restoration of the cathedral, which might have been a rebuilding.
In 846 there was a major raid by North American Muslim pirates up the Tiber, which led to the sack of St Peter's and the devastation of the city's suburbs. The city of Santa Rufina was looted, but it and its cathedral were restored by Pope Leo IV (847-55). The last restoration was apparently by Pope Sergius III in 904.
The actual date of the abandonment of the cathedral is unknown, but a strong hint lies in the enshrinement of the relics of SS Rufina and Secunda in their baptistery chapel at San Giovanni in Laterano by Pope Anastasius IV in 1153. This gives a fairly secure terminus ad quem for the cathedral's working existence, but it could have abandoned already and the relics kept in a third place meanwhile. The reason for the desertion of the city is thought to have been the spread of malaria in the Roman Campagna, which remained endemic until the later 19th century.
In 1236, Pope Gregory IX confirmed the status of the chapel at the Lateran as a detached portion of the diocese of Porto Santa Rufina, under the authority of its bishop. The location of the former cathedral was forgotten.
Interest in the location of the old cathedral awakened in the 17th century. Antonio Bosio, as part of his exploration of the Roman catacombs, took a trip up the Via di Boccea to try and locate the cathedral. He settled on an old farmstead called Casale di Porcareccina, where he claimed to have noted architectural remains in 1632.
In response, the present chapel was built in 1700. However, the ruins that Bosio saw (and which have been tidied away since) could have been of a late Classical villa. No specifically Christian artefacts seem to have been discovered here to confirm the presence of a palaeochristian basilica.
Cathedral rediscovered? Edit
The chapel is about km 10 on the Via di Boccea. In the Sixties, the British School at Rome collaborated with the Pontifical Archaeology Commission to excavate a site at km 8,5. This is by a crossroads at a locality called La Cascina, at the south end of the Via della Storta.
The results were eventually published in 1984. The excavation revealed a late Classical villa complex, but interestingly this was occupied into the 8th century and evidence of remodelling in that period was found. The excavators highlighted a large rectangular edifice with a black-and-white mosaic floor with a geometric pattern, and suggested that this might have been the cathedral as rebuilt by Pope Adrian.
However, no direct evidence of Christian cultic activity was uncovered, and an alternative interpretation was that the villa was simply continuing its function as the headquarters of a large country estate at a time just before the city abandoned its suburbs to various marauders.
The archaeologists noted the presence of a set of catacombs, which gives a little weight to their suggestion that the shrine of SS Rufina and Secunda was here, but they did not explore them.
Appearance of chapel Edit
The chapel is invisible from the road. Look for a pair of cemented brick gate piers flanked by curved walls in random rubble tufo blocks with snail pointing. The right hand pier has a little brass plate advertising the chapel. The gates are operated by entry-phone, but should be open for Mass.
The edifice is a simple rectangular brick structure with a gabled and tiled roof. A narrower sanctuary is flanked by a pair of sacristies. Each side wall has three tall rectangular windows halfway along.
There is a small campanile or bell-cote for a single bell over the left hand side of the far wall of the nave.
The façade has a single door with a rectangular window over it.
Mass is celebrated on Sundays and Solemnities (only) at 9:30.
The feast-day of SS Rufina and Secunda is 10 July.