|English name:||St Chrysogonus|
|Latin name:||Sancti Chrysogoni|
|Type:||Titular church, ancient titulus|
|Titular church||Paul Shan Kuo-hsi|
|Address:||44 Piazza Sonnino|
San Crisogono is a church dedicated to the martyr St Chrysogonus. Its postal address in Piazza Sonnino 44, in Trastevere, on the corner of the Viale del Re and Via della Lungaretta, one of the ancient main streets of Trastevere.Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons. 
Origins, and old churchEdit
The church was one of the tituli, originally known as the Titulus Chrysogoni. The first documentary reference of signatories of the Roman synod is in 499, and it has remained a parish church to the present day.
The first church here was probably built in the early 4th century, under Pope Sylvester I (314–335). This original, lower church was not discovered until 1907, during a renovation in the present church which sits on top of it. Its fabric is largely composed of brick, mortar, and tufelli (square stones set in mortar). Signature pieces of this church include its frescos, some of which have been well preserved.
This old church was renovated several times after its original construction, as can be deduced from its fabric. It received attention in the second half of the fourth century, the end of the fifth century, and lastly about 731 by Pope Gregory III. The last renovation was documented, and the pope is described as providing a new roof and frescoes for the nave walls and apse.
He also founded a monastery next door, to the south, which was to have a long history under various religious orders. Its original dedication was Sancti Stephani, Laurentii et Chrysogoni, and in order to preserve its integrity the pope specified that the abbot was not under the authority of the titular priest of the church.
Middle ages, and new churchEdit
In 1123, Cardinal John of Crema abandoned the old church, removed the roof, packed the interior with earth and built a new one on top of it. It is speculated that flooding from the Tiber River, or a celebration of his recent defeat of the antipope Gregory VIII, led the cardinal to build this new church.
In 1129, a Romanesque bell tower was added to the edifice, keeping it in the architectural fashion displayed by other contemporary twelfth century Roman churches.
At the time, the monastery was occupied by Benedictines who had taken over sometime in the 10th century. But at the end of the century monastic life had collapsed, and it is recorded in 1200 that the church was being administered by a college of secular priests. The Benedictine monks in Rome had become disgracefully corrupt at this time, living the life of secular nobility, and as a result they lost the greater number of the churches that they administered.
The secular priests probably did little better, as by 1480 they had been supplanted by the Canons of the Lateran. In 1489, the complex was granted to the Calced Carmelites of the Congregation of Mantua at the suggestion of Cardinal Girolamo Basso della Rovere.
Under the care of the friars, in the next two centuries the parish had a flourishing devotional life, and one sign of this was the large oratory of Santa Maria del Carmine in Trastevere which was built opposite the entrance in 1627. This has now been demolished.
The new basilica had one major Baroque restoration in 1620 by Giovanni Battista Soria, funded by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Features of this Baroque restoration include an ornate ceiling, and an alteration of the cosmatesque pavement. The ceiling is lavishly covered in gold. It is speculated that the Borghese was in competition with his cardinal-uncle, Aldobrandini, who not long before had spent a large sum of money to construct a similar ceiling in a nearby church, Santa Maria of Trastevere.
In common with all other monasteries and convents, the Carmelites were expelled by the new Italian government in 1873. The church was given into the care of the Discalced Trinitarians, and you may see their emblem of a red and blue cross here and there.
The building of the Viale di Trastevere in 1880 destroyed the basilica's picturesque piazza, as well as its companion oratory. However, the parish has expanded to cover the whole of eastern Trastevere as smaller parishes have been suppressed and consolidated. The basilica remains very much a working church, but at the beginning of the 21st century was in need of further extensive restoration.
The last cardinal was Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, who died in August 2012.
The bell tower dates from the 12th century rebuilding, and is a typical Romanesque campanile in brick.
The façade of the church is from the 1620 restoration. There is a monumental external narthex, with four Doric red marble pillars (with squashed capitals) at the entrance and two kiosks with an arch each flanked by rectangular pilasters in shallow relief. Above these is a frieze bearing an inscription commemorating Scipio Borghese for restoring the church, with the year 1626. There is a segmental pediment above the central portal, and slightly behind this a low wall crowns the façade of the narthex, bearing urns and the eagles of the Borghese family. The actual nave façade behind the narthex is best viewed from the other side of the road. It has four swagged Ionic pilasters supporting an entablature and pediment, and in the pediment is a relief of two cornucopias with a cross in red and blue between them. This is the symbol of the Trinitarian order. In between the inner pair of pilasters is a rectangular window crowned by a blank tympanum and then a segmental pediment, with swags and a putto's head between the two.
The wrought iron railings occupying the portals of the narthex repay examination. The ones occupying the archways in the side kiosks show the Trinitarian cross flanked by draped chains, which is a reminder that this religious congregation was founded in order to ransom captives enslaved by Muslim pirates from North Africa.
The interior of the present church is the result of the rebuilding in the 1620's. The plan comprises of a single nave, an apse, and a narthex separated from two aisles by twenty-two ionic columns (eleven on each side). The apse arch is supported by a pair of magnificent monolithic porphyry columns from the Eastern Desert in Egypt. The floor is Cosmatesque, one of the best in Rome. In the 17th century restoration some of the porphyry discs near the sanctuary were replaced by the Borghese family emblem of a dragon in polychrome stonework, a vanity which has led to sour comment then and since.
The high altar was dedicated in 1127, and encloses the contemporary reliquary of St Chrysogonus.
The painting in the middle of the Baroque coffered ceiling, which is gorgeously carved and gilded, is by Gian Francesco Barbieri (nicknamed "Il Guercino"), and depicts the Glory of Saint Chrysogonus. It may be a copy, in which case the original was taken to London, but it might also be vice versa. The alleged removal took place at the start of the French occupation of Rome in 1808.
The south aisle contains a Madonna and Child painted by Giovanni Battista Conti in 1944 as a thanksgiving for the destruction of the Second World War passing Rome by. It is the object of devotion by people of the parish. The other chapels here have 17th century altarpieces worth a glance, including the Three Archangels (Michael, Gabriel and Raphael) by Giovanni da San Giovanni. The chapel at the end of this aisle was allegedly remodelled by Bernini, and the marble busts on the monuments to members of the Poli family are of his school.
Off the north aisle is the shrine of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, which occupies an external chapel. She was a Sienese domestic servant married to a butler working for the Chigi family, had seven children and had to put up with much brutality from her husband during her life as an ordinary Trastevere working-class houswife. Nevertheless, she gained the reputation of great holiness and churchmen of high rank used to ask her advice. She was buried here in the habit of a tertiary of the Trinitarians after her death in 1837, and was beatified in 1920. You can see some of her belongings in the adjacent monastery, where they are kept as relics and have been described memorably as a collection of "old lady's things". Even ordinary old ladies can be saints. In the same aisle there is a beautiful mediaeval Cosmatesque wall tabernacle.
Souvenirs are sold in the sacristy.
Remains from the first church, possible from the reign of Constantine, and earlier Roman houses can be seen in the lower parts, reached by a staircase in the sacristy. The ruins are confusing, but you can easily find the apse of the old church and you can see the remains of the martyr's shrine in middle of the apse wall. The church had an uncommon form; rather than the normal basilical plan with a central nave and two aisles on the sides, it has a single nave.
On either side of the apse are rooms known as pastophoria, service rooms of a type uncommon in the West but normal in Eastern churches. The one on the right-hand side is though to have been used as a diaconium, with functions resembling those of the sacristy in later churches. The other would then probably have been a protesis, where holy relics were kept.
A number of basins were found here during the excavations, including one cut into the south wall. As the plan is so untypical of early Roman churches, some believe that the structure originally had a different function, and the presence of the basins could mean that it was a fullonica, a laundry and dye-house. The area was a commercial district at the time, so this is quite likely. Others think that the basin in the south wall was made for baptism by immersion. As there were other basins too, it seems more likely that it was originally intended for a different use, but it may very well have been used as a baptismal font after the building had been consecrated as a church.
The paintings are from the 8th to the 11th century, and include Pope Sylvester Capturing the Dragon, St Pantaleone Healing the Blind Man, St Benedict Healing the Leper and The Rescue of St Placid.
Several sarcophagi have been preserved here, some beautifully decorated.
Below the first church are remains of late Republican houses.
The feast day of St Chrysogonus, 24 November, is also the dedication day of the church. Pilgrims and other faithful who attend Mass on this day receive a plenary indulgence.
Hill, Michael. "The Patronage of a Disenfranchised Nephew: Cardinal Scipione Borghese and the Restoration of San Crisogono in Rome, 1618-1628." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 60/4 (2001): 432-49. Kinney, D. "Rome in the Twelfth Century: Urbs fracta and renovatio." Gesta. 45/2 (2006): 199-220.
Krautheimer, R. “San Crisogono.”Corpus basilicarum christianarum Romae. 1 (1937): 144-64
Priester, Ann. "Bell Towers and Building Workshops in Medieval Rome." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 52/2 (1993): 199-220.