Santa Pudenziana was founded at the end of the 4th century, which makes it one of the oldest churches in Rome. It was rebuilt several times, most notably in the 1580s, when its famous apse mosaic, the oldest of its kind in Rome, was badly damaged.
The church is dedicated to St Pudentiana, the sister of St Praxedes, whose church Santa Prassede, lies quite close by. The sisters' father, the senator Pudens, whose house (according to tradition) stood on this site, is said to have given hospitality to St Peter when the apostle first arrived in Rome.
The entrance to the church is surmounted by a beautiful frieze (date unknown). The five tondi depict StPudens, St Pudentiana, St Praxedes and St Pastor, as the encircling inscriptions make clear. The inscription along the top edge reads: AD REQVIEM VITAE CUPIS O TV QVOQVE VENIRE ET IANITOR IDEM GAVDIA PROMITTENS ET CRIMINA QVAEQVAE REMITTENS (To those desiring the rest [after death] of life O you also come and the same gatekeeper [will] produce joys and remit any sort of offence).
The dome in the apse with frescoes by Cristoforo Roncalli (1552-1626), better known as il Pomarancio, is thought to be the first elliptical dome to be built in Rome. The fresco in the cupola depicts Christ Adored by the Host of Heaven. The drum has four elliptical windows and in between them are depictions of ten saints. The frescoes on the pendentives depict angels and are also the work of il Pomarancio.
A fine funerary chapel to the Caetani family is off the left aisle. The Cappella Caetani was commissioned by Cardinal Enrico Caetani in 1588 and designed by the architect Francesco Capriani (1535-94), also known as Francesco da Volterra. After Volterra's death the chapel was completed by Carlo Maderno.
The altarpiece is a bas-relief depicting the Adoration of the Magi, the work of the Roman sculptor Pietro Paolo Olivieri (1551-99). The two matching funerary monuments commemorate Cardinal Enrico Caetani and Duke Filippo Caetani.
The bell tower of Santa Pudenziana dates back to the early 13th century.
Frieze above entrance
Christ Adored by the Host of Heaven by il Pomarancio
The Adoration of the Magi (det.) by Pietro Paolo Olivieri