The Windows of Santa Sabina


Basilica of Santa Sabina is one of the oldest and particular churches in all of Rome. Built in the Fifth Century AD, it is smaller and less imposing than the other basilicas around the city, like San Pietro or Santa Maria Maggiore. The decorations aren’t hugely ornamental or bombastic, the ceiling is wooden, and it doesn’t even have a façade.

But the windows are the real gem of the church – literally. What looks like glass is actually selenite, moon stone, a mineral made from crystalized gypsum rich with sulfates. It is so delicate it can be scratched with a fingernail. Selenite glows brightly with light, and whereas other churches were made dark for greater introspection, the windows make this basilica shine even on darker days.

Selenite was used in Ancient Greece and Egypt as window coverings long before glass was invented (-or was it discovered-), but today there are almost no other examples of selenite windows to be found around the world, except in this small, unassuming Basilica in Rome.

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