Thursday, October 10, 2013



First half of the fourth century as Basilica Apostolorum, the place where, according to tradition, the bodies of Sts. Peter and Paul had been transferred to in 258, at the time of the persecution of Valerian (253/260)

The bodies of Sts. Peter and Paul would have been returned to their tombs only with the construction of their basilicas, except for the two heads preserved in St. John Lateran

It is not attributed to Constantine (306/337) by the Liber Pontificalis (the earliest history book about the popes) as other circiformi basilicas (circus shaped churches) were and the attribution to Maxentius (306/312), who had his residence-villa complex nearby, has been suggested

Various renovations throughout the fifteenth century

Rebuilt 1608/13 using only the nave of the circus shaped early basilica for Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli Borghese (1577/1633) by Flaminio Ponzio (1560/1613) and Jan Van Santen aka Giovanni Vasanzio (1550/1621), who continued the work after the death of Ponzio and complied with its directives

Giovanni Vasanzio designed the FAƇADE and the wooden ceiling

It was a privileged place of prayer for saints like Bridget and her daughter Catherine of Sweden, Charles Borromeo and Philip Neri who inserted it in the Seven Churches Itinerary for pilgrims in the sixteenth century

1611 designed by Jan Van Santen aka Giovanni Vasanzio and executed by Vittorio Ronconi with the help of Annibale Durante, Flemish as Vasanzio, for gilding and coloring

The ceiling was restored by Pope Gregory XVI Cappellari (1831/46) of whom the coat of arms was added


Redone in 1957 in Verona marble

“Marble bust of Salvator Mundi” 1679/80 last masterpiece of the life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680)

It went missing already at the end of the seventeenth century and it was found by accident only in August 2001 in the convent adjacent to the Albani Chapel, where he was hidden and believed to be a work by Francesco Papaleo

It was one of the very few works he did for himself with no commission. Others were “The Truth” now at the Borghese Gallery and the “Bust of Costanza Bonarelli” now at the Bargello Museum in Florence

“Tomb of Altobello de Ense of Montecorvino” who died in 1615 by an unknown artist

This doctor was very active during the plague epidemics and he wanted to be buried here, perhaps for the traditional role of defender of the plague carried by St. Sebastian

1625/27 for Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria

“Tomb of Cardinal G.B. Francesco Maria Gabrielli” about 1700/20 by an unknown artist, from S. Bernardo alle Terme

Inside the chapel there are the following relics:

Spine of the Crown - A finger, a tooth and part of a rib of St. Peter - A tooth of St. Paul - A bone and an arm of St. Andrew - Part of the head and an arm of St. Fabian - The heads of Popes Sts. Callistus and Stephen - A cup of lead with ashes and bones of St. Fabian - An arm of St. Roch - Part of the head of Sts. Nereus, Achilleus, Avenisto, Valentine and Lucina martyrs - The arrow and the column of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian - The stone of “Quo Vadis?” with footprints believed to be of Christ


Dedicated to St. Frances of Rome


“St. Jerome Penitent” 1613 by Archita Ricci (active 1599/1619)

Dedicated to Pope St. Fabian (236/250) carried out 1706/12 for Clement XI Albani (1700/21) by Alessandro Specchi (1668/1729) and Filippo Barigioni (about 1680/1753) from the design of their master Carlo Fontana (1634/1714) or maybe of Carlo Maratta (1625/1713)

Bronze and wrought iron railing made in 1714

Above the altar “Statue of St. Fabian with angel” 1712 and “Putti” by the Sicilian Francesco Papaleo (about 1642/1718)

Below “Reliquary head of St. Fabian” by Filippo Barigioni

On the right “St. Fabian baptizes Philip the Arab” (244/249) about 1712 Pier Leone Ghezzi (1674/1755)

On the left “St. Fabian elected Pope” about 1710 by Giuseppe Passeri (1654/1714)

In the pendentives “Four medallions in stucco” with saints buried in the catacombs: Cecilia, Soter, Lucilla and Balbina

“Early Christian sarcophagus with Christ at the center between Sts. Peter and Paul, on the right Raising of Lazarus and on the left Capture of St. Peter”

Four antique columns of green Thessalian marble frame the tempera on wall “Crucifixion” 1609/14 by Innocenzo Tacconi (active in Rome 1607/25) a pupil of Annibale Carracci. He achieves an amazing neo-fifteenth century composition away from the canons of the nascent Baroque altarpiece

On the sides “Busts of Sts. Peter and Paul” 1608 by Nicolas Cordier (1567/1612)

On the right under the organ “St. Sebastian” 1618 by Pietro Sigismondi from Lucca

“Apparition of the Immaculate Conception to Sts. Jerome and Anthony” 1857 by the “purist” painter Cesare Fracassini (1838/68) from Orvieto, who still shows here the influence of Tommaso Minardi of whom he was a pupil of


“St. Francis receiving the Stigmata” maybe by Girolamo Muziano (1532/92) covering remains of frescoes by Archita Ricci


Dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, defender of Milan from the plague

“St. Charles Borromeo adores the sacred nail” by Archita Ricci

1672 by Ciro Ferri (1634/89) for Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who succeeded Cardinal Scipione Borghese as commendatory abbot of the basilica

It is aligned with the saint's burial in the catacombs

“Recumbent figure of St. Sebastian” 1671/72 masterpiece by Giuseppe Giorgetti, brother of Antonio Giorgetti, maybe designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini or, perhaps more likely, by Ciro Ferri

“This was his only masterpiece of great beauty that is another version of the type of Maderno's St. Cecilia, a statue derived from the Dying Slave by Michelangelo and imbued with an exquisite Hellenistic taste” (Rudolf Wittkower)


“Inscription of the poem by Pope Damasus (366/384) in honor of the martyr Eutichius” engraved by Furius Dyonisius Philocalus, the only damasian inscription survived without fractures

“Much of the luck of Damasus' epigrams is due to the beauty of the letters, designed by Furius Dyonisius Philocalus, calligrapher of the Pope-poet. He created for these large sheets a particular font, derived from the classic square capital, which is distinguished from all other adopted by Christians for the high quality and careful preparation that preceded the writing of texts, arranged with great regularity and symmetry. Philocalus adopted different solutions to ensure that each of the lines would finish at the same point, such as as links, entries of small letters inside or alongside other letters, or the raising of T to save space” (Danilo Mazzoleni)

Above the inscription “White marble tabernacle” of the second half of the fifteenth century by an unknown artist


Frescoes on the ceiling “Lord and saints” and on a wall “Virgin with Sts. Sebastian and Lucina” first half of seventeenth century by Marco Tullio Montagna (1594/1649) from Velletri, student of Federico Zuccari

“Wooden Crucifix” late fifteenth century by an unknown artist. According to tradition it spoke to St. Philip Neri

Mausoleum of Lot's Sarcophagus

So called for the sarcophagus presenting different stages of working and a vivid polychromy


Also known as the mausoleum of Quirino in which the Platoma was erroneously believed to be located. It was the large marble slab with the praise to the Apostles written by Pope Damasus (366/384). We only know it from medieval transcripts

Domus Petri

So called for a graffiti etched into the plaster. There are faded paintings

Mausoleum of the Urani

349, according to an inscription found here, while the name comes from another inscription with the word Uraniorum

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