Saturday, October 12, 2013


Begun at the behest of Pelagius I (556/561) to celebrate the Byzantine victory over the Goths in the Greek-Gothic war (535/553) and to house the relics of St. Philip and S. James the Less, Apostles of Jesus, still housed in the Basilica
Its original name was Basilica of Sts. James and Philip
It was completed in 570 under John III (561/574)
Martin V Colonna (1417/31) restored it
Sixtus IV della Rovere (1471/84) renewed it and had the porch added maybe by Baccio Pontelli (about 1450/92)
The porch was modified and closed in 1675 by Carlo Rainaldi (1611/91) who also did some work in the interior of the church
Francesco Fontana (1668/1708) transformed it in the years 1702/1708 for Clement XI Albani (1700/21) with his father Carlo Fontana (1634/1714) who worked there until his death in 1714, six years after his son's death
It was most likely built using mainly building materials from the nearby Temple of Serapis and the Baths of Constantine
Sts. Philip and James the Less are being celebrated on the same day (May 3) as their relics were placed together in the Basilica
St. PHILIP was a native of the city of Bethsaida, the same of the apostles Peter and Andrew. A disciple of John the Baptist, he was among the first to follow Jesus and, according to tradition, he evangelised the Scythians and the Parthians
St. JAMES THE LESS was the cousin of Jesus and had an important role in the council of Jerusalem (about 50), becoming head of the church in the city after the death of James the Greater. He wrote the first of the Letters of the Catholic New Testament. According to Josephus he was stoned to death between 62 and 66. However the reliability of the story is dubious
In 1439 it was appointed by Cardinal Basilios Bessarion to the Conventual Friars Minor and they still officiate it to this day
Here on February 18th, 1564 the funeral of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475/1564) was held. Eighteen days after the funeral, his nephew Leonardo stole the body, put it into a wagon covered with cloth and took it to Florence, where it is still buried in the church of Santa Croce
1827 Giuseppe Valadier (1762/1839) for the Torlonia family
On the pedestals of the statues on the external balustrade the letters F. L. D. L. C. S. O. T. C. E. C. V. B. are carved, standing for Frater Laurentius De Laureolo Consultor Sancti Officii Theologus Cardinalis Episcopus Custos Vaticanae Bibliothecae
It is a tribute to the patron of the statues sculpted at the end of the seventeenth century, Cardinal Lorenzo Brancati di Lauria eminent theologian and Vatican librarian who is buried in the Basilica. So he was discreetly mentioned without diminishing, and then irritate, the pope
On the right splendid and iconic relief "Imperial Eagle" from the time of Trajan (98/117)
"Funerary stela of Giovanni Volpato" 1807 di Antonio Canova (1757/1822)
"Canova developed intensively in these years the theme of memory and celebratory funeral, highlighting, such as Foscolo, both the affective meaning, when it is privately adorned by the tears of family and friends, and its the value of civil institution, when it hands down legacy of noble examples. With specific reference to the ancient Attic stelae, the bas-relief shows a figure of a weeping woman, bent at the herm of the deceased" (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)
"Tombstone with a portrait of Giovanni Colonna" maybe by Luigi Capponi (active end of 1400s/beginning of 1500s)
"Triumph of the Franciscan Order" 1707 G.B. Gaulli aka Baciccio (1639/1709)
 "Gaulli is protagonist of the natural evolution of Bernini's Baroque towards the Rococo style (as Shor was for the decorative arts and Caffà for sculpture), and those new trends in the great illusionistic tradition that will be followed more abroad than in Rome and disclosed in all Europe by artists such as Luca Giordano, Corrado Giaquinto, Sebastiano Ricci (think of the Ascension in the sacristy of the SS. Apostles and other Roman works) and G.B. Tiepolo (...) It is the response in terms of theology and of high artistic prestige, to the ornate Baroque decorations of the previous century by Lanfranco, Pietro da Cortona, Andrea Pozzo and Baciccio himself in the churches of the Theatines, the Congregation of the Oratory and the Jesuits (S. Andrea della Valle, Chiesa Nuova, Church of the Gesu, St. Ignatius), inaugurating the first Roman religious decorative cycle of the eighteenth century, in a supreme synthesis of the figurative culture of the time" (Francesco Petrucci)
"Evangelists" and "Apostles" 1869/75 di Luigi Fontana (1827/1908)
"Religion" by Pierre Legros (1666/1719)
"Prayer" by Pierre-Étienne Monnot (1657/1733)
"Charity" by Giuseppe Napolino
"Faith" by Pietro Papaleo
Below "Madonna of Cardinal Bessarion" about 1480 formerly attributed to Jacopo Ripanda but more likely by Antonio Aquili aka Antoniazzo Romano (1452/1508)
Statues "Divine Wisdom" on the left and "Faith" on the right by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi famous "restorer" of ancient marbles
"Virgin Mary and angels" Corrado Giaquinto (1703/66)
"Tomb of Clementina Sobieski" 1737 by Filippo Della Valle (1698/1768)
Clementina Sobieski was the nephew of the King of Poland Jan III Sobieski and wife of James Stuart heir to the throne of England in exile in Rome. It contains only the heart. The rest of the body is in the Basilica of St. Peter 
1703 Ludovico Rusconi Sassi (1678/1736) pupil of Carlo Fontana
On the floor mosaic "Coat of arms of Innocent XI Odescalchi (1676/89)" 1716 in memory of the liberation of Vienna in 1683
On the altar "St. Anthony of Padua" 1723 by Benedetto Luti (1666/1724)
Frescoes on the ceiling "Glory of St. Anthony" and pendentives by Giuseppe Nasini (1657/1736)
Under the altar in a wonderful ancient "Red porphyry sarcophagus" there are the relics of St. Eugenia, of her mother St. Claudia and of twelve other martyrs brought here from the Aproniano cemetery on Via Latina
Dedicated to Our Lady, and to the Saints Michael, John the Baptist and Eugenia
It is one of the most important places for the history of fifteenth century painting in Rome
Frescoes 1464/68 by Antonio Aquili aka Antoniazzo Romano (about 1435-40/1508) and artists of his workshop, maybe with the collaboration of Melozzo Ambrosi aka Melozzo from Forlì (1438/94) for the distinguished humanist Cardinal Basilios Bessarion titular of the church from 1439 to 1449
Lower part
"Madonna and Child" between "S. Eugenia" and "S. Claudia". The two saints replaced, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the original frescoes with stories of St. John the Baptist, destroyed by the rise of the floor of the chapel
Upper part
On the right "Dream of St. Aubert of Avranches in Mont Saint Michel on the Gulf of Saint Malo in Brittany" where there is another important shrine dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel
Perhaps the image alludes to the attempt by Cardinal Bessarion to involve the king of France, Louis XI in a crusade against the Ottomans. Bishop St. Aubert in the painting would have the appearance of Louis XI, while behind him would be represented in red clothes, Francesco Maria Della Rovere, the future Pope Sixtus IV (1471/84), and, in purple clothes, his nephew Giuliano della Rovere, future Pope Julius II (1503/13)
"If the decoration of the apse with angels is painted by his workshop working on master's cartons still in the wake of Benozzo Gozzoli's style, in the 'Procession of Bishops' one can see the hand of Aquili during his period inspired by Piero della Francesca, the same period which produced the triptych of Subiaco in 1467. The solemn image of the bishop (...) leading the procession evokes the best figures painted by the Roman master in those years (...) for the physiognomy itself in the Piero della Francesca's style, joined by a research for realism typical of the Flemish master, while memories of his first training influenced by Benozzo Gozzoli are noticeable in the sumptuous cope in blue and gold damask covering his imposing figure" (Anna Cavallaro)
The frescoes were covered by a coat of lime as early as 1545, for the serious damage caused by continuous flooding of the Tiber and the sack of Rome in 1527
They were partly obliterated in 1650 by the monumental altar of St. Anthony, which Carlo Rainaldi built against the apse of the chapel and finally completely hidden with the construction of the present Odescalchi chapel
Still known through some descriptions of the seventeenth century, the remnant frescos were discovered only in 1959 by the architect Clemente Busiri Vici (1887/1965) during some maintenance work on Palazzo Colonna behind the wall of the Basilica
"He contributed to the diffusion in Italy of the study of the Greek language and especially of the Platonic philosophy, and in defense of Plato (...) he wrote (...) against Thomistic Aristotelianism. (...) He translated into Latin the Metaphysics by Aristotle. He left letters, prayers, theological essays, rich in doctrine, supported by great balance of thought. He strove with great fervor, with writings and words, with extensive and skillful diplomacy, for a crusade to win back Constantinople, fallen into the hands of the Turks in 1453. In 1463 the alliance of Venice with Pope Pius II, obtained by Bessarion, seemed to make the crusade possible, but the death of the pope (1464) brought Bessarion to move away from the Curia and to continue alone diplomatic relations in Europe. His rich library of Greek manuscripts, donated to Venice (1468), was the first and most important collection of the Biblioteca Marciana" (Enciclopedia Treccani)
Level of the first basilica of the sixth century with remains of opus sectile about 1.40 m (4.6 feet) below the present level of the church 
Level of the Bessarion Chapel about 0.80 m (2.6 feet) below the present level of the church
1858 Luca Carimini (1830/90) with "Eight spiral columns" of the fourth century found under the apse
Paintings "St. Francis", "St. Anthony" and "Stories of St. Francis 1875 by Domenico Bruschi (1840/1910)
"One of his best works: (...) the style of Domenico Bruschi, still mindful of the stylizations of purists and related to fifteenth century models, here is redeemed by the precision of his drawings and the refined taste of his chromatic chords. The paintings in the sacristy are of inferior quality" (Anna Maria Damigella - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Treccani)
CONFESSION 1873/79 Luca Carimini
On the right "Tomb of Raffaele Della Rovere" maybe by Andrea Bregno (1418/1503) for the son of Raffaele Giuliano Della Rovere later Pope Julius II
On the left Roman strigillated sarcophagus with the "Tomb of Alessandro Riario" who died in 1524
At the two ends of the stairs statues: on the left "S. Eugenia" by Giuseppe Peroni (about 1626/63) and on the right "S. Claudia" by Domenico Guidi
The vault was formerly decorated with a fresco by Melozzo Ambrosi aka Melozzo da Forlì (1438/94), fragments of which are in the Vatican Picture Gallery (angels musicians) and in the Palazzo del Quirinale (Jesus)
"Fall of the Rebel Angels" incredible illusionistic effect by Giovanni Odazzi (1663/1731), G.B. Gaulli aka Baciccio's favorite pupil. He painted it after the death of his teacher
Below "Tomb of Count Giraud d'Ansedum" brother in law of Julius II maybe by Mino del Reame (active about 1463/77)
Above "Tomb of Cardinal Raffaele Riario" who died in 1521. He was patron of Michelangelo and built the Palace of the Chancellery
"Martyrdom of Sts. Philip and James" 1704 by Domenico Maria Muratori (1661/1742), the largest altarpiece in Rome (20 x 10 m - 15.3 x 7.6 feet)
"Tomb of Cardinal Pietro Riario" who died in 1474 by Andrea Bregno (1418/1503), Mino da Fiesole (1429/84) and Giovanni Duknovich aka Giovanni Dalmata (about 1440/1510) who did the bas-relief "Madonna and Child with Saints"
"Monument of Clement XIV" Ganganelli (1769/74) with statues of "Meekness" and "Modesty" 1783/87 first Roman work of Antonio Canova, who got the job thanks to the engraver Giovanni Volpato, for whom, 20 years later, he made the funeral stele in the porch
"He takes up the pattern laid down by Bernini, but there are decisive differences: continue animation of the seventeenth century monument is replaced by a precise scan of the elements (Francesco Milizia stresses "the great divisions and a few" that recall the setting of the contemporary Orazi Oath by David), the rich ornamentation, the multi-colored marble, the tumultuous drapery are banned. Humility and temperance lament in silence and profound sorrow the death of the pope; a noble simplicity and a quiet greatness enfold the mausoleum" (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)
"St. Francis supported by angels" 1726 by Giuseppe Chiari (1654/1727), Carlo Maratta's favorite Roman pupil
On the right "Monument of Maria Salviati Lucrezia Rospigliosi" 1749 by Bernardino Ludovisi (about 1713/49)
In the little dome "Allegorical Figures" 1865 by Luigi Fontana (1827/1908)
"Pulpit" 1736 by Sebastiano Cipriani (about 1660/1740)
"Monument of Prince Filippo Colonna" 1822 by Francesco Pozzi (1779/1844)
"St. Joseph of Cupertino" 1777 by Giuseppe Cades (1750/99)
He is the saint who protects the examinees. He was famous because he used to levitate when he was immersed in the ecstasy of prayer, as seen in this splendid painting 
Late-nineteenth-century frescoes in the vault by Luigi Fontana (1827/1908)
"Pietà" by Francesco Manno (1752/1831)
"Two statues of angels" on the left and on the right by Andrea Bergondi (active in Rome XVIII century)
In the vault "Ascension" 1701 Sebastiano Ricci (1659/1734)
"The legacy of the Baroque style and the lesson of Baciccio, the Genoese master, was far from being over, if Sebastiano Ricci in the same sacristy of the Holy Apostles had developed in 1701, as Barroero says, a form of neocorreggism and bold flavors with a blend of the best Gaulli" (Francesco Petrucci)
"Constantine received by Sylvester I", "Proclamation of St. Bonaventure as Seraphic Doctor of the Church" and "Allegorical figures" 1882 by Domenico Bruschi (1840/1910)
Cabinets 1669/97 carried out on a design by Francesco Fontana

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