|St Stephen of the Abyssinians |
Santo Stefano degli Abissini
|Rite||Alexandrian Rite (Coptic)|
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||National Church in Rome of Ethiopia|
Location on a map of Vatican City
|Groundbreaking||5th century or 8th century|
|Length||35 metres (115 ft)|
|Width||20 metres (66 ft)|
|Width (nave)||10 metres (33 ft)|
St Stephen of the Abyssinians (Italian: Santo Stefano degli Abissini) is an Ethiopian Catholic church located in Vatican City. The church dedicated to Stephen the Protomartyr is the national church of Ethiopia. The liturgy is celebrated according to the Alexandrian rite of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. It is one of the only standing structures in the Vatican to survive the destruction of Old St. Peter's Basilica, and thus it is the oldest surviving church (in terms of architectural history) in Vatican City.
The church was, by tradition, built by Pope Leo I (ca. 400–461), and named Santo Stefano Maggiore.
In 1479, Pope Sixtus IV restored the church and assigned it to the Coptic monks in the city. It was at this time that the name was changed to reflect that it was served by Ethiopians (Abyssinian). It was altered under Pope Gregory XI (1700–1721), and again in 1928.
The façade is in the style of the early 18th century. The 12th century doorway, decorated with the Lamb and the Cross, has been preserved.
The church has a single nave with ancient columns along the sides. The most important work of art is a fresco of the Madonna with Child in the Roman style from the 15th century.
The Feast of St. Stephen is celebrated on 26 December.
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It is the oldest surviving church in the Vatican, for it dates back to Pope Leo the Great (440-461)