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San Benedetto in Piscinula
S. Benedetto a Piscinula
S. Benedicti de Piscinula
S. Benedetto de Piscina
S. Benedetto de Pisciolis
S. Benedetto de Pisciola
Ch. Paroc. di S. Benedetto in Piscinola (Nolli Name)
Width 12m (39.37ft), length 24m (78.74ft), nave width 8m (26.25ft), side aisle width 2m (6.56ft)
Important Dates Edit
· 1069: bell constructed
· Early 12th century: Construction of church and campanile, south nave wall and west wall frescoed, cosmatesque pavement placed
· Late 13th century: reconfiguration of the narthex and creation of the oratory
· 16th century: apse frescoed
· 1678: façade refurbished (this encased the medieval narthex)
· 1686: coat of stucco added to façade, large door built in lobby by Priest D. Veraldi Angelo Calabrese
· 1718: addition of a third altar by Priest D. Anselm, new paintings by Paul Morelli
· 1728: enlargement of adjoining parish church house by Priest D. Antonio Piervenanzi
· 1843-1845: complete restoration of structure – new façade by Camporesi, restoration of original panel and other paintings, two new panels painted (oil paintings for side altars), new altar added by Cardinal Tosti
· 1929: restoration of structure by Lancellotti family
· 2002+: restoration of façade and interior by Heralds of the Gospel
Carlo Massimo (1766-1827)
Heralds of the Gospel (2001-present)
S. Benedetto in Piscinula is a parish church located in the rione of Trastevere. It is positioned in a piazza in Piscinula, almost directly opposite the Ponte Cestio (Cestius Bridge). In medieval periods this area was not only very populated, but poor also. In the general vicinity were other churches as well – S. Maria in Trastevere and S. Crisogono. Such intimacy between parishes indicates a dense population in the area. As a scale, S. Benedetto in Piscinula numbered 501 people (119 families) in 1824.
The medieval church consisted of: a nave with two side aisles, two altars, cosmatesque floors, and six columns on either side of the nave – a simple basilica-type plan. The campanile is believed by some to be as old as the first bell (1069). Off of the new narthex (changed in 1300) is an oratory that houses “Benedict’s cella”, where Benedict lived at the site. On the west wall is a twelfth-century fresco of the Last Judgment. Periods of work on the church, starting in the late thirteenth-century, were intense. One example is the late seventeenth-century to early eighteenth-century, in which much of the church was altered. This was due to the number of Priests in charge at S. Benedetto in Piscinula during the period – at least five during the fifty year span. During these years, Paul Morelli added to the decoration of the church. Additional changes included the addition of a new door, altar, and coat of stucco to the exterior. Next was the complete restoration in 1843, which at one point shut down the church. This set of changes came from the orders of Cardinal Tosti himself. The architect Camporesi added a new façade, once again changing the outside appearance of the church. On the inside, restorations were under way as well, showing the importance of S. Benedetto in Piscinula. The church re-opened in 1855. Significant changes to the interior structure of the church thus ceased, and only the two late periods of renovations have altered the site.
The only medieval church dedicated to St. Benedict to have survived to the present day, S. Benedetto in Piscinula was constructed in the early twelfth-century. The site itself, however, has a tradition that connects it to Benedict long before the twelfth-century. It is said to be the place where St. Benedict lived when in Rome as a young man and, more importantly, where he prayed. The twelfth-century church experienced frequent restorations between 1678 and the early nineteenth century. In 1819, the nineteenth-century patron Carlo Massimo started a school in the building for poor children. The school was closed in 1910, leaving the church abandoned until 1929, when the Lancellotti family restored it. At this time, S. Benedetto in Piscinula had lost most of its medieval flair and substance. It wound up in the hands of the Istituto di Nostra Siguora del Carmelo at the end of restorations. By the early twenty-first-century, the Carmelite nuns running the church (part of the Istituto) had fallen in number, and eventually left. The Heralds of the Gospel then took control of the building, working on the façade and restoring the interior to its medieval look. Thus, S. Benedetto in Piscinula has had a change in function throughout its history, but is now a church once again, some nine centuries later.
Paul Morelli, paintings, 1718
Pietro Camporesi, new façade, 1844
Armellini, Mariano. Le chiese di Roma dal secolo IV al XIX. 1891.
Bertelli, G. and Guglia-Guidobaldi, Al, Chiese di Roma illustrate 134.
Huelsen, Christian. Le Chiese di Roma nel medio evo. Florence, 1927. p211
Le Chiese di Roma. Bologna: Cappelli Editore, 1962-63.
Massimo Camillo. Memorie storiche della Chiesa di S. Benedetto in Piscinula nel Rione Trastevere. Rome: Tipografia Salviucci, 1864.
McCurrach, Catherine, “The Veneration of St. Benedict in Medieval Rome: Parish Architecture, Monumental Imagery, and Local Devotion.” PhD diss, University of Michigan, 2005.