Saturday, August 25, 2018


Built in the IV century, according to tradition, for the Roman matron Olimpina over the house of S. Bibiana martyred during the persecution of Julian the Apostate (361/363)
The Liber Pontificalis, however, date the construction to 468 for Pope Simplicius (468/483)
The father of Bibiana, Flavian was also killed, as were her mother Dafrosa and her sister Demetria
The plaque to the right of the entrance portal states that in the seventh century the remains of 11,266 martyrs were transported here, not counting women and children, including Simplicius, Faustina and Viatrix from the Catacomb of Generosa
Transformed in the years 1624/26 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680)

“The reference perhaps intentional to the façade of the Scala Santa by Domenico Fontana gives to Bernini's architectural debut the character of an homage to the cautious and solid Roman Mannerism” (Paolo Portoghesi)

“Throughout this church the perspective structure of Bernini shows an extremely intelligent and controlled knowledge of Manneristic architecture” (Brandi)

Cornerstone of Baroque architecture: first architectural project and first large statue of a sacred subject by Bernini, as well as the first important paintings cycle by Pietro da Cortona
Restorations 1739/48 by Filippo Raguzzini (1680/1771)
Between 1863 and 1874 the church was unfortunately isolated for the construction of Termini Railway Station
Restorations 1961/64
In May 1982, part of the plaster of the ceiling fell due to vibration caused by trains and the church was closed for three years
Restorations of consolidation 1983/87
Internal restoration 1997/99
It is very sad to see such a masterpiece of crucial importance for the history of art of the world neglected and abandoned to itself between traffic and dirt

“In the interior, contrasting the nave, animated by the large polychrome surfaces of the frescoes, the shrine of the altar of pure lines, entirely 'carved' in white marble, is able to find a personal linguistic expression that anticipates the arrival points of Bernini's research” (Paolo Portoghesi)

“Angel Musicians”
“Body of S. Bibiana abandoned in the Forum Tauri”, where the Emperor Julian had professed his apostasy, “Burial of S. Bibiana”, “Erection of the church by the matron Olimpina” and CHAPEL TO THE LEFT OF THE APSE “St. Demetria” Bibiana's sister, all works by Agostino Ciampelli (1565/1630)

“In this work, to be considered his masterpiece, Ciampelli shows not to be insensitive to the classicist lesson of Domenichino, in particular in the frescoes at Grottaferrata, and to be inspired by the way of turning the sacred stories in human and real-life forms of the Bolognese painter. He must have felt that style particularly close to his Florentine reformed education” (Simonetta Prosperi Valenti Rodinò - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Treccani)

“Good frescoes painted with mastery, which stand out in their particular way with their sober routine from the ingenious attempts of a young hot-headed innovator as Pietro da Cortona” (Hermann Voss)

“Trial with condemnation and death of Demetria while professing her faith”, “Matron Rufina trying to induce Bibiana to renounce her faith”, “Flagellation of S. Bibiana tied to a column” and CHAPEL TO THE RIGHT OF THE APSE “St. Dafrosa”, Bibiana's mother, all the works by Pietro Berrettini aka Pietro da Cortona (1597/1669)

“Already in this first work of his he pointed to new luministic compositional and textural values, announcing a stylistic change when compared to the staid classicism of Domenichino” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)

“The figures have grown in volume and their immensely strong tactile values​make them appear real and tangible. So real life seems to replace the studied classicism of Domenichino with a manly style, bold and alive, close to the spirit of the Farnese ceiling by Annibale Carracci and with qualities similar to the sculpture of Bernini in those years” (Rudolf Wittkower)

The cycle was evidently done in collaboration and agreement even if between Ciampelli and Berrettini there was not much friendliness

Designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini with valuable “Alabaster tub” dating back to the age of Constantine (306/337) which contains the remains of the three saints
“Statue of S. Bibiana” 1624/26 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

“The psychological extension of the figure carved in the world inhabited by human beings, which we first saw in David, is here adapted to a new context specifically Catholic. The contrast of feeling and meaning between these two figures is as large as the similarity of the means used and is symptomatic of Bernini's virtuosity that between the determined Jewish warrior and this martyr believer there are only a year or two of difference. (...) For religious figures, particularly for those of the early Christianity, the artists of the seventeenth century created an unmistakable feminine type, yielding even though inspired by a resolution due to spiritual communion. It is to the art of Guido Reni that this Bibiana should be compared” (Howard Hibbard)

In the vault “God Father” by the unknown Milanese artist Giovanni Domenico Marziani
“Piece of the column of martyrdom” to which Bibiana would have been tied to be battered to death
It is worn by the scraping of the pilgrims who would so obtain powder to drink dissolved in water from the well of the nearby garden: according to tradition, it had a mysterious healing power


Earlier than the tenth century and maybe built on an ancient temple dedicated to Neptune
Restored in 1072 for Alexander II (1061/73)
Rebuilt 1730 by Giovanni Antonio Perfetti (?/1754)
Dedicated to the saint from Sabaste, modern Sivas in Turkey. In the fourth century AD it was part of Armenia

According to tradition, St. Blaise was martyred in 316 AD, although this date contrasts with the Edict of Constantine (306/337) which had proclaimed freedom of worship in 313. Perhaps he was the victim of local persecutions carried out at the behest of Licinius (306/324), who was co-emperor first and rival of Constantine later
Before being beheaded he was tortured with iron combs used for carding wool
He is the protector of diseases of the throat for one of his miracles: he saved a child who was choking on a fish bone
Armenian national church from the sixteenth century when Armenian priests, every 3 February, feast day of the saint, used to distribute here small loaves of blessed bread

Renovated in 1832 by Filippo Navone (active first half of the nineteenth century) who raised the floor and built a semicircular apse as well as the arch on the two Ionic columns
CEILING rebuilt in 1933
Reliquary with throat fragment of St. Blaise
“St. Gregory baptizes Tiridates III, the first Christian king of Armenia” by an anonymous of the nineteenth-century moved here in 1832 from the church of S. Mary of Egypt built in the Temple of Portunus
Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity and declare it as state religion in 301

“Miracle of St. Blaise who saves the child choking on a fish bone” by an eighteenth-century anonymous artist
On the right “St. Blaise child” and on the left “St. Blaise supported by an angel” by an anonymous artist of the nineteenth-century


Built in the years 1598/1602 for Caterina Nobili Sforza S. Fiora, nephew of Julius III Del Monte (1550/55), using one of the four corner towers of the ancient enclosure of the Baths of Diocletian (284/305) built from 298 to 306 AD
The tower was maybe a Sphaeristerium, a gym for some ball game, or a room for reading and studying
Restorations for the consolidation of the dome were carried out in 1857: the lantern of the sixteenth century that burdened too much the ancient dome was taken off
It is dedicated to the Burgundian St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090/1153) the founder of the Cistercian Order
It is also known as the Church without Windows

DOME (diameter 22 m - 72.2 feet)
Along the perimeter “Eight statues of saints” in stucco over 3 m (10 feet) tall, about 1599/1602 masterpiece of Camillo Mariani (1567/1611)

“He was born in Vicenza and in the study of Rubini he had the inestimable advantage of going through the discipline of the school of Alessandro Vittoria. Shortly after his arrival in Rome he made these noble figures of monumental saints, his masterpieces. The Venetian touch is visible to all but it was strengthened with a new emphasis and a fine psychological insight, so that these works raise well above the average contemporary production and are linked to the intensity of the transitional style in painting in which we find crystallized the true spirit of the great reformers” (Rudolf Wittkower)

“Camillo Mariani was instrumental in the formation of another great sculptor, Francesco Mochi, who, some scholars speculate, might have been a young assistant of the master in S. Bernardo. Mindful of the painting of the Venetian masters such as Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto, Mariani here realizes 'the achievement of monumentality combined with naturalness, the bright distinction of matter combined with a noble stylization' (Nava Cellini). It is a style that would leave a deep imprint in the Roman scene and it would be a source of inspiration and reflection for many seventeenth-century sculptors, including Bernini himself” (Sergio Lombardi)

“Vision of St. Bernard” about 1705 by Giovanni Odazzi (1663/1731), a pupil of Baciccio
In 1718 Odazzi was commissioned to add a lunette in the upper part of the painting, which was originally rectangular. The addition is well connected and the painted angels help to give a buoyancy to the composition

“Odazzi, faithful follower of Baciccio, shows here that he was influenced by the master in the figures of angels and in the bright colors he used, as well as in the setting of the theatrical scene” (Sergio Lombardi)

The painting is flanked by two beautiful columns in verd antique (ancient green) marble from the Baths of Diocletian
“Tomb of S. Giovanni della Barrière” 1626 with painting maybe by Andrea Sacchi (1599/1661)
At the sides canvas “Death of Joseph” second half of seventeenth century by anonymous and “Madonna of Loreto” beginning of seventeenth century by Carlo Saraceni (1579/1620)
Carlo Finelli from Carrara was part of a family of sculptors including the great Giuliano Finelli precious collaborator of Bernini in the extraordinary group of Apollo and Daphne in the Galleria Borghese

In 1730 Giovanni Odazzi was commissioned to add, just like in the opposite painting, a lunette in the upper part
This painting, like the one in front, is flanked by two beautiful columns in verd antique (ancient green) marble from the Baths of Diocletian

To the right of the Presbytery
Family chapel of the Nobili, built in 1647 for Vincenzo Nobili, grandson of Caterina Nobili Sforza
“Statue of St. Francis in Ecstasy” about 1647 by Giacomo Antonio Fancelli (1619/71), who also sculpted the statue of the Nile in the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona
On the left “Tomb of the painter Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1789/1896)” 1869 by the German Karl Hoffmann (1815/86), his friend and collaborator
On the walls “Busts of Nobili family members: Vincenzo junior, Pierfrancesco, Sforza, Roberto and Vincenzo” who had initiated the construction of the chapel, 1647/49 by Giacomo Antonio Fancelli who also made the rich stucco decoration of the ceiling that frames the painting “St. Francis in Glory with Angels” and “Angels with Instruments of the Passion” in the square panels 1897 by Mario Adami
The altars on the left and on the right exhibit considerable seventeenth century frontals in scagliola, a type of fine chalk that mimics inlaid marble