Tuesday, January 15, 2019


About 760 as an oratory for Paul I (757/767) in the area of the TEMPLE OF VENUS AND ROME built by Hadrian (117/138) between 121 and 135 AD
The oratory was built to guard the so called Apostolic Silices, i.e. the prints left in the stone on the nearby Via Sacra by the Apostle Peter when he fell on his knees in prayer during the episode of Simon Magus according to the apocryphal Acts of Peter
The prayers of St. Peter and St. Paul would have caused the haughty Simon Magus, who was flying thanks to a wizardry, to crash on the ground
About 850 St. Leo IV (847/855) built a church that incorporated the oratory
About 999 the church was enriched and expanded for Gregory V (996/999), who gave it the name of S. Maria Nuova having transferred here the worship from S. Maria Antiqua in the Forum
1161 restoration of the BELL TOWER (restored again in 1971) and of the mosaic in the apse. The church was also consecrated again at the behest of Alexander III Bandinelli (1159/81)
In 1352 it was entrusted to the Benedictines of the Congregation of Monte Oliveto founded in 1313 by St. Bernard Tolomei. They still officiate it today

FAÇADE and INTERIOR renovation
1615 Carlo Lambardi (1545/1619) for Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati
On this occasion the church was dedicated to St. Frances of Rome (1384/1440) who spoke here the oblation of 1425 and was buried here after her death
The façade is considered the first derivation in Rome of the style of Andrea Palladio (1508/80)
“Inside it was presented again the unified space of the Roman churches of the Counter-Reformation and the new front of the church prevailed in Roman architecture of the early seventeenth century for the classicists accents of the giant order and for eco of Palladio, perhaps already intuited by Militia and later highlighted by several scholars (Fasolo, Wittkower, Blunt), who have understood the importance for the beginnings of the early Baroque architecture in Rome, from S. Bibiana (1624) by G.L. Bernini to S. Gregorio al Celio (1633) by G.B. Soria” (Enrico Parlato - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Treccani)

From left: “Unidentified female saint”, “St. Frances of Rome and the Angel”, “Virgin Mary and Child”, “St. Cecilia” and “St. Agnes”
Other restorations in the nineteenth century for Pius IX Mastai-Ferretti (1846/78)

1816/29 Giuseppe Valadier (1762/1839) rebuilt
Now it is the home of the ARCHAEOLOGICAL SUPERINTENDENCE OF ROME and of the ANTIQUARIUM FORENSE (Archaeological Museum of the Forum), small museum with important artifacts found in the Forum still under interminable restructuring and therefore sadly closed to the public
Every 9 March, on the day of the feast of St. Frances of Rome, there is the blessing of cars
The real name of the saint was Francesca Bussa de' Leoni (1384/1440) and she was born into a noble family in Rome near Piazza Navona. She came to live in Trastevere when she was twelve, after her marriage to a nobleman from the Ponziani family who had become rich working as butchers

1612 Carlo Lambardi (1545/1619). Restored in 1867 and in 1951
Wood paneled with wooden relief in frames:
“Madonna and Child”, “Sts. Agnes and Cecilia”, “St. Benedict” and “St. Frances of Rome”
On the sides: “Insignia of the Olivetano Order and of Cardinal Sfrondati” commissioner of the radical restructuring of the church

Completely redone in 1952, with old cosmatesque fragments
In the CHORUS BALCONY frescoes with “Stories of St. Frances of Rome and the Blessed Tolomei” 1693

Vault with “Four Doctors of the Church” very damaged and badly restored frescoes of the school of Melozzo degli Ambrosi aka Melozzo da Forlì (1438/94)
Above the altar “Crucifixion” second quarter of the eighteenth century maybe by Emanuele Alfani (active 1736/74)
On the left of “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” and on the right “Blessed Bernardo Tolomei in ecstasy” by an unknown artist of the last quarter of 1600s

On the right “Funerary monument of Cardinal Marino Volcanoes” about 1395 erroneously attributed to Paolo Taccone aka Paul Romano (about 1415/77)
It is one of the rare examples of late Gothic sculpture in Rome
On the left “Funerary monument Antonio del Rio on horse” d. 1450 (captain of Castel Sant'Angelo and commander in chief of the army of the pope) about 1470/77 by Mino del Reame (active about 1463/77) who completely avoided here any religious reference

Restored in 1937 by Lorenzo Cesanelli (1899/1965)
Above the altar “St. Benedict between Sts. Frances of Rome and Henry” 1937 by Augusto Orlandi (1879/?)

On the sides “Blessed Tolomei exorcises a maniac” and “Blessed Tolomei consoles a monk” first half of the eighteenth century by an artist of the Roman school close to the style of Etienne Parrocel (1696/1774)

Decorations 1727/28 by Francesco Ferrari (active in Rome 1721/44)
Above the altar “Virgin Mary with St. Frances of Rome in adoration of the Child” maybe by Michele Rocca (about 1675/1751) from Parma

On the right of “St. Andrew in adoration of martyrdom” and on the left “Flagellation of St. Andrew” nineteenth-century copies maybe by Giovanni Silvagni (1790/1853) from the original by Guido Reni and Domenichino in the Oratory of S. Andrea al Celio

On the right, behind a grate on the wall, there are the Apostolic Silices, the two fragments of basalt stone on which St. Peter would have knelt
On the left “Funeral monument of Gregory XI Beaufort (1370/78)” erected for resolution of the Roman Senate in memory of his return to Rome from Avignon in 1377 with reliefs and statues “Faith” and “Prudence” 1584 by Pietro Paolo Olivieri (1551/99 )
Painting “Madonna in Glory with St. Michael the Archangel” by an unknown artist of the end of seventeenth century

1644/49 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680) after the discovery of the body of St. Frances of Rome beneath the main altar on April 2, 1638
Under the aedicula with four columns of rare pink jasper there is the “Statuary group with St. Frances of Rome and the Angel” 1866 by Giosuè Meli (1816/93)
It replaced a similar group by Giovanni Maria Fracchi from a project by Bernini that was lost after the French occupation in 1798

“Madonna and Child” board maybe of the third decade of the thirteenth century in a tabernacle of the fifteenth century, restored in 1949
On the sides “Martyrdom of S. Nemesio” and “Martyrdom of the companions of S. Nemesio” 1684 maybe by Domenico Maria Canuti (1626/84) or Giovanni Angelo Canini (1609/66) with reference to Nemesio and his five companions whose relics were brought here in the year 996 and placed under the altar in 1580 by Gregory XIII Boncompagni (1572/85)

Important mosaic with “Madonna and Child with Sts. James, John, Peter and Andrew” about 1160 or end of the twelfth century with similarities to the mosaics in S. Maria in Trastevere and St. Clement
Two statues of “Angels with cornucopia” of the Bernini school

Frescoes “Moses” and “David” 1870 by Cesare Maccari (1840/1919)

Tomb of St. Frances of Rome designed in 1868 by Andrea Busiri Vici (1818/1911)
Marble medallion “St. Frances of Rome and the Angel” 1648 by Ercole Ferrata (1610/86)

On the right “Blessed Tolomei comforting the lepers” maybe by the Roman Stefano Pozzi (1699/1768)
In the lower part niche with remains of a fresco “Crucifixion” of the tenth or eleventh century
Under the choir “Tabernacle” of the end of fifteenth century maybe by Mino del Reame (active about 1463/77)
On the left “Resurrection” copy from original by Jacopo Zucchi

Marble decorations of the seventeenth century
Interesting “False dome” in trompe l'oeil (optical illusion)
Above the altar “Bernardo Tolomei comfort a dying man” of the late eighteenth century by Giuseppe Pirovani (about 1755/about 1835)

Above the altar “St. Emygdius bishop” 1797 by Pietro Tedeschi (1750/1805) from Pesaro

Above the altar “Mass of St. Gregory the Great” first half of 1600s by Angelo Caroselli (1585/1652)

On the altar “Nativity” copy of the original by Carlo Maratta (1625/1713) in the church of S. Giuseppe dei Falegnami
On the walls “Blessed Tolomei in ecstasy” and “Blessed Tolomei and the devil” second half of the eighteenth century maybe by Andrea Casali (1705/84), a pupil of Sebastiano Conca and Francesco Trevisani

“Monument to Clement XII Corsini (1730/40)” 1735

“Glycophilusa Madonna” (Madonna of the sweetness) precious icon of the first half of the fifth century from S. Maria Antiqua
“Madonna Enthroned with Sts. Benedict and Frances of Rome” about 1472 by Girolamo da Cremona (XV century)
“Madonna Enthroned with Saints” 1524 by the Umbrian painter Sinibaldo Ibi (active 1496/1548)
“Paul III Farnese (1534/49) and Cardinal Reginald Pole” maybe by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga (1501/47) and his pupils Jacopino del Conte (aboiut 1515/98) and Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta (1521/80)
“To Sermoneta might be referred the Double Portrait in St. Frances of Rome hitherto attributed to Perin del Vaga. The right hand of the Pope, depicted in the act of making a movement, coincides exactly with that of the Judge on the throne of the Martyrdom of St. Catherine in S. Maria Maggiore, also the left, as well as the other person's hand, are in the style of Sermoneta, but above all the face of the secondary figure has that fixity, that stiffness of expression, caused mainly by his bulging eyes, which often distorts the portraits of this artist” (Hermann Voss)
“Miracle of St. Benedict” 1744 by Pierre Subleyras (1699/1749) formerly in the Chapel of St. Benedict
“Although his art was aiming to ideal beauty, antithetical to objective realism, Pierre was not only alien to the conventionality of expression, but he was often inspired by a frank observation of nature and he was able to represent it with wonderful lighting effects and an analysis sometimes painstaking of details, with which he used to bind together the main masses of his compositions, as in the altarpiece of St. Frances of Rome” (Giancarlo Sestieri)
“Trinity and Blessed Tolomei” about 1689 by Giacinto Brandi (1621/91) formerly in the Chapel of St. Benedict
“Tobias and the Angel” by Giovanni Domenico Cerrini (1609/81)

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