December 26th is the Feast of St Stephen, traditionally venerated as the protomartyr or first martyr of Christianity. A small church dedicated to the saint, Santo Stefano degli Abissini (St Stephen of the Abyssinians), stands in the gardens of Vatican City.
Of ancient foundation, the church was mostly rebuilt in the 18th century during the reign of Pope Clement XI (r. 1700-21). The beautifully carved marble doorcase, which dates back to the 12th century, was preserved in the rebuilding.
Santo Stefano degli Abissini is the national church of Ethiopia. The liturgy is celebrated according to the ancient Alexandrian rite.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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