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

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