San Benedetto de Urbe was a late 19th century convent chapel, now demolished, at Via di San Nicola da Tolentino 22 which is in the rione Trevi.

The dedication was to St Benedict.

History Edit

This very obscure and briefly occupied chapel was built in 1995, to serve the Monasterium Sancti Benedicti de Urbe. This new foundation of Benedictine nuns was not apparently affiliated to any particular Benedictine congregation, but was an initiative of one Matilda Pynsent (a descendant of William Pynsent?) who became the first abbess.

Her place in history is because she took an interest in the 17th century woman philosopher Elena Cornaro Piscopia, who had been buried at the Benedictine abbey of St Justina at Padua and whose tomb she arranged (somehow) to have opened up for her to look into. She allegedly gathered up the remains and put them in a casket which she had re-interred with a new memorial tablet -what was she looking for?

The monastery was under the authority of the Diocese, in the person of the Cardinal Vicar. The abbess and nuns were described as English (monache inglesi), although there is a hint in the sources that only the abbess was. Their main work seems to have been the publication of Benedictine historical sources under the title Spicilegium Benedictinum, which reached five volumes in their brief existence -an impressive achievement.

In 1898 the nuns moved to the unfinished complex of San Patrizio a Villa Ludovisi, which had been begun by the Irish Augustinian friars in 1888. The friars had run out of money. The nuns seem not to have continued with the uncompleted friary church, but seemed to have built their own. Diego Angeli, writing in 1903, had this to say:

"San Benedetto Abate. There is a small church attached to a convent of English Benedictine nuns in the Via Boncompagni. It was built in 1899, the architect being Alberto Manassei. In 1901 the church was taken from the nuns and given to the Augustinians. The ceiling vault and the apse are decorated with frescoes. On the main altar is an altarpiece of The Blessed Virgin, a copy of an original by Carlo Maratta at San Carlo al Corso. To the left is the chapel of St Benedict, with a copy of an icon kept at San Benedetto in Piscinula."

Something horrible happened in 1901, but details are hard to come by. The monastery was suppressed, and the property ended up with the Irish Augustinians again. They went on to finish the church that they started, but seemed to have sold off the nuns' church for the building of a hospital. The friars also seem to have been granted the property on the Via di San Nicola da Tolentino, which would have given them another useful cash windfall.

Blessed Columba Marmion wrote this in a letter in 1901:

Leggo sui giornali inglesi che le Benedettine inglesi, da tempo stabilitesi a Roma, sono all’origine di un terribile scandalo! (I read in the English press that the English Benedictine nuns, for a time established in Rome, are the source of a terrible scandal!). 

Appearance Edit

No historical reminders of the nuns survive to be seen. The location on the Via di San Nicola da Tolentino is now occupied by a neat and good-quality neo-Baroque edifice, obviously built after the suppression of the community.

External links Edit

None yet.