Oratorio di Vicolo del Cedro is a deconsecrated 18th century private convent oratory on the Vicolo del Cedro in the rione Trastevere, near the junction with Via del Mattonato.
The dedication seems to be unknown.
This little chapel does not feature in the usual historical sources for Roman churches. Armellini, for example, did not notice it. On stylistic grounds it is dated to the 18th century, but the design is very simple and it could be late 17th.
The Nolli map of 1748 shows a building of the same size on the same site, but does not label it.
Up until 1873, the block bounded by Vicolo del Cedro, Via della Paglia and Vicolo della Frusta (except for the westernmost angle) was mostly occupied by the Discalced Carmelite nunnery of Sant'Egidio in Trastevere. The convent was built in 1610, and the sisters had a large garden to the west which was necessary because they were enclosed and were not allowed out. The little chapel was in the north-west corner of the garden, as far from the convent buildings as it was possible to get without leaving the enclosure. There was no public access.
Looking at the devotional practices of enclosed nuns until the mid 20th century, it can be surmised that this chapel was dedicated to Our Lady, and contained a image of her venerated by the nuns. If so, they would have had devotional processions to this chapel from the main church on Marian feasts.
Alternatively, it could have been used by one of the nuns having a retreat or a period of solitude as a hermit. A third possible use is as a funerary chapel.
The chapel would have fallen into disuse when the convent was expropriated by the Italian government in 1873.
The gardens are now mostly occupied by an enormous, cheap and scabrous building which looks as if it dates from the 1950's. Up until recently the chapel overlooked a scruffy and weedy corner of the property and itself was in a bad state of repair, but in the last few years (2010 or so) has been noticed, and money is being spent on its restoration.
This is a small and short rectangular building with a pitched and tiled roof, the fabric being in brick which was rendered in an ochre yellow. Most of the paint had peeled off before the recent restoration. The edifice is actually a lean-to, because the rear and right hand side walls are part of the old garden wall of the convent. This continues in disjunctive stretches along the Vicolo del Cedro, although much of it has been knocked through and lowered.
The chapel stands on a plinth, and so looks as if it has a crypt. There is an alcove in this plinth below the entrance door, which is now accessed via a modern set of steel stairs. The doorway has a raised cornice, and above this is a horizontal elliptical (oeil de boeuf) window. The façade is topped by a triangular pediment, the finial of which has a wire cross (useful in proving that this was a chapel).
The left hand side wall has a single rectangular window.
- "De Alvariis" galley on Flickr (the title Santa Abbandonata is a joke)