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Incarnazione del Verbo Divino

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Incarnazione del Verbo Divino was a 17th century convent church, now demolished, on the present Via 20 Settembre, on the south side of the street just east of Quattro Fontane near San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. This is in the modern rione Castro Pretorio.

The dedication was to Jesus Christ, under the aspect of his Incarnation.


The church belonged to a convent of Carmelite nuns of the Primitive Observance (in other words, the branch of the Carmelite order that did not accept the Discalced reforms promulgated by St Teresa of Jesus). This was founded by the Barberini family in 1670 with the approval of Urban VIII, and hence the nuns were called Barberine. In English they would be called "Calced" or "with shoes" (the others wore sandals, hence "Discalced" or "shoeless").

Before the nuns, there was a small convent or hospice belonging to an eremitic congregation called the Servi di Maria di Monte Vergine here. This was dedicated to the Annunciation, and had been founded in 1615 by Virginio Orsini.

In the 18th century the nuns also had charge of the neighbouring church of San Caio in Via Porta Pia.

The convent was suppressed in 1871, and the complex was later demolished to make way for the Ministry of Defence at the same time as its neighbour Santa Teresa alle Quattro Fontane where the Discalced Carmelites lived. These two neighbouring churches have been confused somewhat in the sources.


The church was at the east end of the central section of the Defence Ministry, the part that protrudes. The row of stone bollards in front gives the line of the façade.


Layout Edit

The Barberini did not stint their generosity, and this was a seriously large convent.

To the east of the church was a cloister having arcades and buildings on all four sides, with the church in its north-west corner. This cloister had a fountain in the middle. Another smaller cloister, also arcaded on all sides, was to the south-west of the main cloister and there was a connecting passage between the two. A third, yet smaller courtyard or cloister, not arcaded, was to the north of the second cloister and south-west of the church.

The south range of the main cloister had a parterre garden on its other side, which led out into the large main garden via a set of semi-circular steps.

The church was designed by Paolo Pichetti, but the façade was from a design by Bernini. The plan was that of a Greek cross. From the entrance, there was firstly a loggia, then a rectangular nave, then a transverse rectangular apse with a triumphal arch. The other two arms of the cross were formed by two large side chapels.

Façade Edit

The façade had two storeys, and was of a rather unspectacular design. The first had three rectangular portals leading into the loggia, and these were closed by metal railing gates. On the outer corners were two Doric pilasters supporting an entablature bearing a dedicatory inscription on its frieze; where one might have expected an inner pair of pilasters, was instead a pair of columns which formed part of an entrance propylaeum. The entablature came forward for this, and above it the propylaeum had a small triangular pediment intruding into the second storey. Above the main portal was a tympanum with a fresco or relief, and above the side portals were small rectangular tablets.

The second storey was crowned by a triangular pediment over an entablature with a blank frieze, in turn supported by a pair of Corinthian pilasters at the corners and a pair of semi-columns over the propylaeum. The central section of this storey, bounded by the semi-columns, was brought forward slightly to match the propylaeum and this feature was also carried up into the blank tympanum of the pediment. There was a large central rectangular window, with a segmental pediment raised over a relief of putti and supported by strapwork corbels. In between pilasters and corbels were two round -headed niches in Baroque frames, and these had little triangular pediments raised above stucco scrollwork. The pediment had three flaming torch finials.

Interior Edit

Inside, there were three altars. The main altar had an altarpiece showing the Annunciation by Giacinto Brandi, a reminder of the original dedication, and the other two were dedicated to St Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi and Our Lady of Carmel.

External linksEdit

(The online information on this church is poor.)

Nolli map (look for 192)

Historical article

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