Sunday, September 22, 2019


Via di S. Prisca 11
According to tradition, it was the house of Aquila and Priscilla, parents of Prisca who was beheaded in the period of Emperor Claudius (41/54). Aquila and Priscilla would have housed here St. Peter and St. Paul
Oratory of the third century which became a church in the fifth century, when there is the first mention of the TITULUS PRISCAE
Restored in 772 by Adrian I (772/795) and at the time of Paschal II (1099/1118)
Shortened in 1456 by Callistus III Borgia (1455/58)

In the years 1599/1600 Carlo Lambardi (1545/1619) for Clement VIII Aldobrandini (1592/1605) reduced the size of the preexisting building, restored nave, chancel and confession, rebuilt the façade and enlarged the square

“The brick curtain and the planned simplification of forms with the portal flanked by Ionic columns supporting a simple triangular pediment, reflect the character 'as an oratory' (Antinori) of the church, which is also to be found in the pictorial decoration of the building, carried out by the Florentine Anastasio Fontebuoni” (Enrico Parlato - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Treccani)

In 1728 Clement XIII Rezzonico (1758 /69) restored the interior

In 1935 restoration at the behest of the Augustinians monks to whom the church had been assigned

A fragment of the Forma Urbis, the marble map of the beginning of the third century AD, shows the presence of the BATHS OF LICINIUS SURA located west of St. Prisca
Licinius Sura was a friend of Emperor Trajan (98/117)

WALLS OF THE CENTRAL NAVE frescoes “Saints and angels with instruments of the Passion of Christ” and WALLS OF THE APSE “Stories of the martyrdom of St. Prisca” of the beginning of 1600s by Anastasio Fontebuoni (1571/1626)

“Composite capital” of the Antonine period mistakenly believed the baptismal font used by St. Peter to baptize St. Prisca, placed here in 1948 with clasp and bronze group “Baptism of Jesus” by Antonio Biggi (1904 /66)

Altarpiece “Baptism of St. Prisca” about 1600 by Domenico Crespi aka Passignano (1559/1638)
Above the door of the tower “Annunciation” of the fifteenth century

“Immaculate Conception and Angels” maybe by Giovanni Odazzi (1663/1731)

Mitreo di S. Prisca

Mithraeum of St. Prisca

Building dating back to about 95 AD to the north of the church, converted into a house in about 110 with a great apsidal nymph to the south
Maybe it was the HOUSE OF LICINIUS SURA friend of Trajan (98/117)

At the end of the second century a building with two aisles was added in the south (maybe the titulus) and the mithraeum that would be violently destroyed in about 400, probably by Christians intolerant to the cult of Mithras 
Discovered in 1934 and excavated in the years 1953/66 by Dutch archaeologists

1) House of the first century AD with a four-sided portico

2) Apsidal nymphaeum of the time of Trajan (98/117)

3) Building with two naves of the second century AD, where was the original titulus
4) Rooms adapted at the end of the second century AD to the cult of Mithras with frescoes showing the “Seven degrees of initiation” and “Image of Mithra with Saturn lying” in stucco, where the stucco was applied over some amphorae


Piazza Arulio Celio Sabino 50 - Tuscolano
1964/67 masterpiece by Giuseppe Nicolosi (1901/81)
St. Polycarp lived between the first and second century AD in Turkey. He was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist and was bishop of Smyrna in the period of Emperor Trajan (98/117)
This church is one of the most successful among the religious buildings built in Rome in the Sixties
The hexagonal plan determines a giant Star of David also explicitly quoted by the interior beams of the ceiling

“The internal bricks arranged in parallel and crossing rows intend to refer to the situation of human reality, in which lives and destiny of men and women intersect with one another, and in which each person, as each brick, is useful and necessary to support each other” (Official website of S. Policarpo Church -

Internal height of about 40 m (131 feet)

The architect has cleverly managed to quote, with the color and the treatment of the materials used, the nearby and remarkable ancient Roman ruins of the adjacent Park of the Aqueducts

At the end of the sixties this was the first church ever to be directly involved in the political turmoil of that period. It was even occupied by slum dwellers who lived nearby

“Extraordinary synthesis between figurative tension and geometric rigor. The research for a form figurative and timeless at the same time finds here its expressive peak. The building features an architectural design based on the shape of the hexagon, which ends up invading all areas, from the plan of the floor, to the volume of the building, to its structural pattern” (Giorgio Muratore)

“The whole play of volumes that some authors have described as animated by a 'telescopic dynamism' is indeed very innovative and it is a work of great maturity, especially in a period in which architectural experiments followed each other without apparently leading to unequivocal results. The complex system of layers of the roof highlights, from a first glance, a design quality of high profile, both structurally and in terms of form. (...) In short, we face a church where are happily married advanced architectural solutions and liturgical requirements, formal aspects and social commitment, demonstrating that a sacred building to be 'alive' must be a creature of its time participating in what is the social life of the community, so as to penetrate into it with the power of the Christian message” (Massimo Alemanno)


Piazza della Balduina 5
1957/61 Alberto Ressa (1902/?)
St. Pius X Sarto (1903/14) was canonized in 1954 and he was the last pope to be declared a saint until John Paul II and John XXIII in 2014 
“Terracotta panels of the Stations of the Cross” 1963 by Raul Vistoli (1915/90)

Painting “St. Pio of Pietrelcina” 2003 by Ulisse Sartini (1943) popular painter of very realistic, almost photographic portraits

“Bronze Crucifix” by Publio Morbiducci (1889/1963), the sculptor of the statue of the Bersagliere (the running soldier) opposite Porta Pia 
Huge organ made in 1969 by the Tamburini firm

In 1964 in this church was shot the final scene of the sci-fi movie The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price from the novel by Richard Matheson I Am Legend which also inspired the eponymous movie starring Will Smith in 2007
The Last Man on Earth is considered a cornerstone of the horror genre in Italy

Saturday, September 14, 2019


Largo S. Pio V

1952 Tullio Rossi (1903/97)

“St. Pius V is a church considered horrible by the architectural culture of the majority of its parishioners because too mercilessly essential. (...) The architect (...), according to them, has the duty to be a veritable whimsical creator. But what to ask of him, none of the critics desiring whimsicalness knows exactly: decorations in Renaissance style? Plastic movement of space? I think that Tullio Rossi could only design serious architecture, simply and plainly serious, trying, nevertheless, to achieve very high results. (...) The seriousness of his architectural creations reaches, for general and detailed consistency, a high poetic level. Had he tried, contrary to his attitude, to be whimsical, the result would have been well vulgar” (Giancarlo Galassi - Website Archiwatch -

St. Pius V Ghislieri (1566/72) promoted a Holy League against the Muslims which achieved victory in the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571
He was canonized in 1712

“St. Pius V, a Dominican theologian and inquisitor, when he was elected pope, applied with intransigence the decrees of the Council of Trent and founded in 1571 the Congregation of the Index. He devoted all his energies to the implementation of three ideals: the reform of the Church, the implementation of the decrees of the Council in all countries, the crusade. (...) Equally uncompromising in foreign policy, based primarily on the defense of Catholicism from heresy, and aiming at expanding the jurisdictional rights of the Church, he provoked dangerous tensions in the states of Philip II: in an attempt to promote the accession to the English throne of the Catholic Mary Stuart, he excommunicated Elizabeth, with serious consequences for English Catholics” (Enciclopedia Treccani)

Coat of arms of Pius XII Pacelli (1939/58) and mosaic on the portal “St. Pius V, Virgin Mary with Child, Christian soldier and the Battle of Lepanto in the background” by Franz Josef Strachota (1911)

“Stations of the Cross” by Angelo Biancini (1911/88)
Ceramic statue with “Christ showing the Sacred Heart” also by Angelo Biancini

Above the portal statue of “Angel” in plaster by Duilio Cambellotti (1876/1960)
On either side of the portal statues “St. Francis of Assisi” by Alessandro Monteleone (1897/67) and “St. Anthony of Padua” by Michele Guerrisi (1893/1963)

At the center of “Crucifix” in bronze by Francesco Nagni (1897/1977) and on the sides “Angels holding candles” also in bronze by Goffredo Verginelli (1911/72)
In the side altars there are sixteen other “Angels holding candles” also by Goffredo Verginelli

Baptistery with the bronze statue of “St. John the Baptist” by Goffredo Verginelli

Bronze statue of “St. Catherine of Siena” by Antonio Berti (1904/90)
It is flanked by two large terracotta tiles coated in gold “St. Dominic between Sts. Peter and Paul and the Palio of Siena” by Aniellantonio Mascolo (1903/79) from Ischia

Fresco “Baptism of Christ” by Igino Cupelloni (1918/2008)
Here was originally located the baptistery now moved ahead in the left aisle


Piazza S. Pietro in Montorio 2

Originally built maybe in the eleventh century
Mentioned by the sources in the twelfth century
It was built on the site where St. Peter was believed to have been killed, halfway between the Meta Romuli (Via della Conciliazione) and the Meta Remi (Pyramid of Cestius)

Rebuilt in the years 1481/1500 maybe by Baccio Pontelli (about 1450/92) for the Spanish King Ferdinand II of Aragon

The two ramps in front of the FAÇADE were added in 1605

Restored after the damage of the French bombardment of 1849 (in 1995 it has been embedded in a wall outside a cannonball fired by the French) and restored again in 1957 and 1963

“Monument of Giuliano da Volterra” 1510 by artists of the school of Andrea Bregno (1418/1503)

Above the altar “Flagellation of Jesus” with on the sides “St. Francis of Assisi” and “St. Peter” 1518 by Sebastiano Luciani aka Sebastiano Del Piombo (1485/1547), maybe from a design by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475/1564)
In the apsidal basin “Ascension” and outside the arc “Prophets” also by Sebastiano Del Piombo

“Several works by Sebastiano Del Piombo were made on the basis of drawings by Michelangelo, or under his influence. Gorgeous single figures, groups often well-drawn (as in the Flagellation in S. Pietro in Montorio, and colors tones a bit dark even if with a sensitivity always typically Venetian, combined with beautiful atmospheric scenery, but never the creations of a free and radiant genius. Occasionally, however, there is a certain tragic force, a lean greatness, reflecting the intimate bond of the Venetian painter with the spirit of Rome” (Hermann Voss)

Above the altar “Madonna of the Letter” by Niccolò Circignani aka Pomarancio (about 1520/98)
In the apse frescoes “Coronation of the Virgin” maybe by Baldassare Peruzzi (1481/1536)

“Presentation in the Temple”, “Immaculate Conception” and “Annunciation” by Michelangelo Cerruti (1663/1748)
On the external arch “Sibyls” maybe by Baldassare Peruzzi

Ceiling frescoed by Giorgio Vasari (1511/74). On the left there is a self-portrait of Vasari in a black dress

1552 by Giorgio Vasari, by whom is also the altarpiece with “St. Paul and Ananias”

“It's one of the few scenes deeply felt by Vasari. The figure of Paul, struck by blindness and rescued by Ananias, has something touching and extraordinarily great in his complete annihilation. (...) The background consists of a row of columns in a semi-circle that goes in depth, a valid ingenious pattern, cleverly exploited. It is instead comic the bunch of people with no specific function wandering in the background in front of the row of columns, with the sole purpose of enriching the scene” (Hermann Voss)

On the sides “Funerary monuments of Antonio and Fabiano Del Monte”, statues “Justice”, “Religion” and cherubs on the balustrade by the Florentine Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511/92)

The steps in front of the altar are conventionally regarded as the burial place of Beatrice Cenci
She was actually buried somewhere in this church but without inscription, as was common for anybody who had been executed

In the LEFT NAVE are buried very important Irish men of political and military significance of the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century:
Hugh, Baron of Dungannon (d. 1609), eldest son of Hugh O'Neill, The O'Neill, second earl of Tyrone
A single grave shared by Rory O'Donnell (1575/1608), first Earl of Tyrconnell, and his brother Cathbharr (1583/1609), both younger brothers of Red Hugh O'Donnell
They fled from Ireland in 1607 and died in Rome as well as the more famous Hugh O'Neill (about 1550/1616) leader in the Nine Years War (1594/1603) or Tyrone Rebellion fought between the Gaelic Irish forces against the English government of Elizabeth I in Ireland

“Crucifixion of St. Peter” copy by Vincenzo Camuccini (1771/1844) from the original by Guido Reni

Designed by Daniele da Volterra (1509/66)
Above the altar “Baptism of Jesus” 1568 and frescoes maybe by Giulio Mazzoni (about 1525/after 1589)
“Statues of Sts. Peter and Paul” and balustrade by Leonardo Sormani (before 1530/after 1589)

“Deposition” 1617 and “Christ Carrying the Cross” by Dirk Van Baburen (about 1595/1624)
Three paintings “Stories of Christ” by David de Haen (1585/1622)
Stuccos by Stefano Maderno (1560/1636)

Above the altar “St. Anne sitting in a throne with the Virgin Mary and Child” and other frescoes by an unknown pupil of Antonio Aquili aka Antoniazzo Romano (about 1435-40/1508)

1640/47, first example of MARAVIGLIOSO COMPOSTO (marvelous compound) first experiment with hidden light shining on sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680) for the Marquis Marcello Raymondi
Above the altar bas-relief “Ecstasy of St. Francis” a masterpiece by Francesco Baratta (about 1590/about 1663)
On the sides “Funerary Monuments of Girolamo Raymondi and Francesco Raymondi“ by Andrea Bolgi (1606/56)

“The tendency to execute works as a group with an artist primus inter pares (first among equal) typical of the period 1585/1621 was reversed under Urban VIII Barberini (1623/44). Chapels as the Raymondi and Cornaro absolutely show the imprint of Bernini; employees were assistants rather than autonomous artists” (Rudolf Wittkower)

“The role of the viewer is mediated by the busts on the side walls of the tombs overlooking the scene from small balconies, speakers' balconies reserved in churches for important personalities, and that, in the case of the chapels by Bernini, are often mistaken by art historians as theater boxes, architectural elements which at the time did not yet exist” (Francesco Galluzzi)

Above the altar “Stigmata of St. Francis” and other paintings by Giovanni De Vecchi (about 1537/1615)

It is housed in a wing of the convent 
Lunettes “Stories of St. Francis” maybe by Niccolò Circignani aka Pomarancio (about 1520/98)

Tempietto di Bramante

Small Temple by Bramante

Masterpiece probably built in the years 1502/07 by Donato Bramante (1444/1514)
In 1605 the roof was modified
In 1628 Gian Lorenzo Bernini changed the crypt

“The architectural elements are systematically drawn from the vocabulary of ancient architecture, according to choices not guided by subjective aesthetic preferences of the artist, but by a strict organizational and symbolic logic: the classical round peripteral temple is quoted in the body of the building, in absolute eurhythmy and syntactic coherence of the various elements of the building that is a symbol of universal harmony. But the metaphysical ideas and the historical dignity of the classical language are loaded here with further religious and political meanings: built to commemorate the Crucifixion of the Apostle founder of the Church of Rome, it celebrates, at the same time, the universal authority of the city of Rome already established by the ancients, and affirms the universality of the architecture of the Renaissance” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)
“Bramante is one of the most powerful and original personality of the Renaissance. He was part in Milan of the Lombard tradition imbued of late-Gothic and Tuscan elements, but he overcame it soon for his keen sense of monumentality achieved through the unified rhythm and articulation of architectural masses, modeled with a refined sensibility for coloristic and atmospheric values. This tendency of his for wide and serene breathing space, of which one can find significant advances in the Mantua buildings by Leon Battista Alberti, deepens, in Rome, as the artist is confronted with the classical buildings intensely studied by him and culminates in the Temple of S. Pietro in Montorio, and especially in the new church of St. Peter in the Vatican. Deep has been the influence exercised by Bramante on the architecture of his time; to him is especially connected the art of Sansovino, Sanmicheli and Palladio” (Enciclopedia Treccani)


Via dei Pellegrini - Città del Vaticano

Mentioned for the first time by sources at the end of the eighth century
Restored in 1590
Archaeological excavations have uncovered paintings dating back to the ninth century
Alexander VII Chigi (1655/67) officially gave it in 1657 to the Swiss Guards who later abandoned it, so that it was transformed into a chicken coop

It was later restored for the Swiss Guards and now it is the CHAPEL OF THE CORPS OF POLICE OF THE STATE OF VATICAN CITY (Corpo della Gendarmeria)

“This small sacred place unknown to most people is full of history and evokes extraordinary impressions. First and foremost impressions of pilgrimages. Peregrinus, a Roman priest who made Gaul a Christian land in the late third century, is the titular saint of the chapel and one can easily understand why. For those who came from the North in their penitential journey ad limina Petri (to the threshold of Peter), the first encounter with Rome used to take place here. (...) The walls are full of frescoes with the name and emblem of the captains of the Swiss Guard, the armed corps in defense of the person of Pope Julius II instituted in 1506. One of them hit me in a special way, dating back to 1527. The mentioned person is the captain Gaspar Rost. And here suddenly the terrible May 1527, the Sack of Rome is evoked. 14,000 lansquenets, in good part Lutherans, led by Georg Frundesberg, gave the assault to the Apostolic Palace. To defend it there are 147 Swiss. It was a fierce confrontation, spear against spear, sword and dagger against sword and dagger. At the end of the atrocious butchery all the Swiss Guards of the Pope had died. Among others, Captain Gaspar Rost who was slain with his soldiers to allow Pope Clement VII to retire with his court in the untakeable Castel Sant'Angelo” (Antonio Paolucci - L'Osservatore Romano, May 30, 2010)

Sunday, September 1, 2019


Via Boncompagni 31

1908/11 Aristide Leonori (1856/1928) for the College of the Irish Augustinians who still officiate it
FAÇADE Northern-European Romanesque
National Church of Ireland

Detached fresco of the end of the thirteenth century “Our Lady of the Graces” formerly S. Maria in Posterula, previous church of the Irish, destroyed in order to build Ponte Umberto I (Humbert I Bridge)

Mosaic “St. Patrick explains the mystery of the Trinity to King Laoghaire” 1936 by Rodolfo Villani (1881/1941)

Mosaic “Last Supper” 1942 by Silvio Galimberti (1869/1956)

In a CHAPEL on the second floor “Madonna and Child or Virgin Mary of S. Maria in Campo” about 1484 by Antonio Aquili aka Antoniazzo Romano (about 1435-40/1508) and artists from his workshop

“The setting of the image, clearly derived from the Florentine tradition, associates this Madonna (...) to models sculpted by Verrocchio, exemplified by the Madonna and Child of the Bargello Museum. Its simple frame is an integral element of the board, and maybe it is the original one. (...) The fact that the execution can be likely dated to 1484 and its quality level lead to put it in a context of strict observance of Antoniazzo Romano's style, which does not exclude the intervention of the painter himself” (Adriana Capriotti)


Via S. Passera 1 - Magliana

Probably built in the fifth century AD on the ruins of a ROMAN MAUSOLEUM of the late second/early third century AD, still visible

The church is mentioned in the sources for the first time in the eighth century

The present church dates back to the thirteenth century

Here were kept the relics of the martyrs Sts. Cyrus and John, brought to Rome in the year 407. They were two doctors from Alexandria in Egypt killed during the persecution of Diocletian (284/305), which took place in the year 303

The Catholic Church does not include any S. Passera in the lists of saints and, according to historical sources, no saint has ever existed under the name Passera

The curious name Passera (sparrow) is mentioned in the sources only since 1317 and it comes maybe from a contraction of S. Prassede (St. Praxedes), the saint to whom the church was originally dedicated, and of whom a relic was preserved here

The name could also come from the phonetic corruption of the title Abbas Cyrus (father Cyrus), from which S. Abbaciro, given to the church

Over the centuries the term underwent a distortion in the popular language, becoming Appacero, Pacero, Pacera and, finally, Passera


Two orders of frescoes of the fourteenth century:

In the upper part “Jesus and Sts. Peter, Paul and John the Evangelist”

In the lower part “Virgin Mary and Child with Sts. Praxedes, Cyrus and John martyr with two images of laymen, probably the patrons”


The underground of the church, buried after 1706, was rediscovered only in 1904

On the north wall there are some faded frescoes “Cycle of Goddess Dike” with the goddess holding a pair of scales, a bird and a boxer

On the south wall “Sheep and red lines”

In the vault “Large six-pointed and eight-pointed star and decorative motifs”

There are some unrecognizable images in the counter façade
At the end of the thirteenth century a “Virgin Mary and Child” was painted here, but it was stolen in 1968


Via S. Francesco a Ripa 20

1123 Callistus II (1119/24) with the name of Sts. Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

According to Christian tradition, the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste were Christian Roman soldiers who refused to recant their religion and were left freezing to death in the year 320, during the persecution of Licinius (306/324)

It was rebuilt in 1486 and restored in 1608

Rebuilt 1744/47 by Giuseppe Sardi (1680/1753) with new dedication on the FAÇADE to St. Paschal Baylon (1540/92) the Spanish saint protector of spinsters. The church is in fact also known as the church of spinsters

St. Paschal Baylon is also the patron saint of pastry chefs, and of women married to men who encountered difficulties in fulfilling their conjugal duties
For this reason perhaps the legend has it that a woman who wanted to awaken the dormant passion in her husband prayed St. Paschal Baylon and she dreamed him recommending a very thick cream, made with sugar, eggs and Marsala wine, which would have restored sexual desire
The thick cream was first named S. Bayon, then Sanbaion and finally Zabaione or Eggnog in English

The church belongs to the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Spanish

“A significant variation of the longitudinal type is that which shapes here the main nave as a hall, rounding the corners. The common aspiration is to create an illusory perspective depth with a studied arrangement of light sources” (Paolo Portoghesi)

VAULT “Glory of St. Peter of Alcantara” and DOME “Glory of St. Paschal” about 1754 by Matteo Pannaria

“Martyrdom of the Forty Martyrs” by Arturo Tosi (1871/1956)

Altarpiece “Holy Family” by Francisco Preciado (1713/89), a pupil of Sebastiano Conca