The Station today is at St. Balbina’s, virgin and martyr (130), the daughter of the tribune and martyr, St. Quirinus. The church is ancient, and was probably built in the 4th century above the house of the consul Lucius Fabius Cilone. The first reference to it is found in a 6th century document, where it is referred to as Sanctae Balbinae. It was consecrated by Pope St. Gregory the Great.
Santa Sabina was built by Priest Petrus of Illyria, a Dalmatian priest, between 422 and 432 on the site of the house of the Roman matron Sabina, who was later declared a canonized Christian saint. It was originally near to a temple of Juno.
Pope Honorius III, a member of the Savelli family, approved in 1216 the Order of Preachers, now commonly known as the Dominicans. At that time the church and associated buildings formed part of the holdings of the Savelli family. In 1219, Pope Honorius III gave his family church to Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers. Since then, it has been their headquarters. The church and convent of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome have been home to the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) since the church was given to the Order in perpetuity on June 5, 1222.
According to her Passio, which was composed probably in the sixth century, Sabina was a widow who was converted to the Christian faith by her servant, Serapia, a girl from Syria. Serapia was martyred under Hadrian (117-138) on July 29, and her mistress received her crown a month later. A competing tradition, however, claims that Sabina belonged to a group of Umbrian martyrs who died in the Vesparian persecution (69-70) and whose remains were brought to Rome in the fifth century or later, for fear of barbarian invasions.
A priest named Peter of Illyria built the Basilica of Santa Sabina between 422 and 432 over the site of a Roman house. Gregory the Great (590-604) made this domus Dei, “the gem of the Aventine,” the scene of the Lenten Station for Ash Wednesday after he sought refuge here on the hilltop during a great plague. The basilica had to be considerably rebuilt in 834 under the reign of Eugenius II (824-827). After a skillful restoration from 1914 to 1919 by Antonio Muñoz (1884-1960), the basilica largely returned to its fifth-century appearance.
Under the altar are the remains of Saints Sabina, Eventius, Theodulus, and Pope Saint Alexander. Note also the following: the fifth-century great wooden door (at sixteen centuries old, such a wooden object is extremely rare), carved with scenes from the Old and New Testaments; the silenite windows; the twenty-four fluted Corinthian columns taken from a nearby temple; the flat wooden ceiling, reminiscent of that from the fifth-century; the “devil stone” on top of the low pillar at the bottom of the nave; the schola cantorum; and the cloister. Over the ancient cypress doors is a fifth-century Ravenna-style mosaic showing allegories of the “Church from the Circumcision” and the “Church from the Nations.” Between the figures is a text recording the building of the church by Peter the Illyrian.
In 1218, the church was entrusted to the Dominicans by Pope Honorius III, who had approved the foundation of the Order. St. Dominic lived in the adjacent monastery for a short period before his death in 1221. Other former residents include St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope Saint Pius V. Dominicans still serve the church, though since 1370 Santa Maria Sopra Minerva has been their principal church in Rome. To this day, however, Santa Sabina is the headquarters of the Master General of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans).
Let our entreaties move Thee, Lord, to heal the sickness of our souls, so that we may receive Thy forgiveness and evermore rejoice in Thy blessing: through Our Lord…