San Francesco d'Assisi a Ripa Grande is a heavily restored 13th century convent church, now parochial and titular, at Piazza San Francisco d'Assisi 88 in the south of Trastevere. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
The dedication is to St Francis of Assisi.
A chapel and hospice for pilgrims and travellers dedicated to St Blaise (in Italian: San Biagio de Curtibus) was built here by the Benedictine monastery of San Cosimato in Trastevere nearby. The site was near the Tiber quay used by ships bringing pilgrims, the so-called Ripa Romea -as distinct from the Ripa Greca on the other side of the river (the present Bocca della Verità), which was for commercial traffic in the Middle Ages.
The date of foundation is unknown, but was possibly in the 12th century when pilgrim traffic to Rome was picking up. Some modern sources date it to the late 10th century, just after the monastery was founded, but this seems unlikely.
Because of this old dedication, the present church is sometimes referred to in the sources as Santi Biagio e Francesco.
Serious scholars need to beware of another San Biagio de Curtibus or Curtis in the city in the Middle Ages, which was near the Trevi Fountain.
St Francis visited Rome several times between 1209 (the first visit after his conversion) and his death in 1226, and at least latterly he stayed in the hospice here while in the city. It is unclear from the sources whether this was the case already in 1209, but by 1223 (and the approval of the Franciscan rule) it is obvious that he and his followers had made the hospice into a base for their Roman activities and visits.
The story, which may be correct, is that a very early disciple called Giacoma Frangipane de' Settesoli (known by the saint as Frate Jacopa) had used her influence to persuade the Benedictines at San Cosimato to allow their hospice to be rather taken over by the new religious movement.
Foundation of friaryEdit
By the early 13th century, however, the Benedictines in Rome were in very serious decay. Historical publications tend to be polite about what happened at San Biagio, as if there was a friendly handover of the complex to the Franciscans after the death of their founder in 1226. The truth is that Pope Gregory IX peremptorily transferred the property in 1229, as the monks at San Cosimato had became degenerate. Frate Jacopa apparently used her influence again.
The friars began to rebuild the church in 1231, three years after St Francis' had been canonized, with at least some of the work being paid for by a Trastevere nobleman called Pandolfo II Anguillara. His Palazzetto dell'Anguillara with its tower survives opposite San Crisogono. In about 1290, Pietro Cavallini painted an important fresco cycle showing scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the life of St Francis, in which Anguillara as the donor was depicted dressed as a tertiary . This cycle was destroyed in the 16th century.
The original convent was erected to the right (west) of the church. Back then the church was a simple basilica with a nave of three bays, flanked by side aisles with arcades. There was a transept, and a small apse. There was a schola cantorum in front of the altar; the choir and side chapels came later.
In 1236, an attempt to reform the rotten abbey of San Cosimato by introducing Camaldolese monks finally failed. In that year, the complex was granted to the Poor Clare nuns as one of their first nunneries, and from then on the two convents formed a working pair with the friars at San Franceso acting as chaplains.
In 1249, the Franciscans obtained the monastery of Santa Maria in Aracoeli from the Benedictines. This immediately became their headquarters in Rome, instead of the convent here.
In 1579, the convent passed to an Italian Franciscan reform movement known as the Reformed Observants. This immediately set about rebuilding the old convent, and the cloister to the right of the church dates from this project.
The present appearance of the church is Baroque, the result of work done in the 17th and 18th centuries. The process started with the patronage of noble families, who sponsored funerary side chapels added to the existing mediaeval edifice. These additions began at the end of the 15th century, when the present Chapel of the Immaculate Conception was built for the Cetra family. Then, in 1536, Baldassare Peruzzi added a chapel for the Albertoni family which became the shrine of Blessed Ludovica Albertoni who had died in 1533. The Chapel of the Annunciation was added in 1560, and the present Chapel of St Michael in 1566.
In 1603, the convent was substantially extended by the addition of an infirmary block to the right of the church. In the same year it was decided to refit the sanctuary, which till then had a small and inadequate choir or schola cantorum (apparently just a collection of seats) in front of the high altar. The design of Onorio Longhi involved the building of a large choir behind the high altar, but this would have necessitated the destruction of the Cell of St Francis and also the community was seriously divided over the cost. The matter was settled when the saint allegedly appeared to Cardinal Francesco Peretti di Montalto and protested against the proposed loss of his cell. The project was scaled down, a smaller choir with proper stalls built and a new high altar provided. The work was completed in 1608.
In 1675 the friars decided to restore their 13th century church, and employed Mattia de Rossi as architect. It seems that much of the fabric of the mediaeval church was kept, although it is now invisible. The façade was completely rebuilt, but it is suspected that the original arcade columns remain enclosed in the piers then built. Also, the central nave walls above the arcades seem to be mediaeval and might even have the Cavallini frescoes remaining hidden by the coating of plaster. The work was finished in 1689.
The patronage of the families with funerary chapels off the left hand side of the church was so welcome that the friars then allowed more chapels to be built off the right hand side. This entailed the loss of part of the original mediaeval convent cloister. The completely re-cast church was re-consecrated in 1701.
Convent in 18th centuryEdit
At its height, this was a large convent with four cloisters or courtyards. The original cloister is to the west or right of the church, and has arcades on all four sides. However, the eastern range was demolished to make way for chapels off the right hand aisle of the church.
To the east of the church is the narrow rectangular infirmary court, without arcades. To the south are two other cloisters, the western one with arcades to west and south and the eastern one with arcades to east and south. To the south of these were the convent's recreational and herb gardens.
The enclosure of the convent took up the entire block all the way to the present Via della Madonna dell'Orto. The area was taken up by extensive vegetable gardens and vineyards.
The friars must have had some horrible arguments over the Rossi high altar, because they replaced it in 1737 and then again in 1741.
In 1866 the floor was re-laid in marble, but this was a swan-song because in 1873 the complex was sequestered by the Italian government. The Franciscans were allowed to carry on serving the church, and a small community of six took up lodgings in a house in Via della Luce nearby. The convent was converted into an artillery barracks initially, but is now used as offices by several government departments.
The convent's vegetable gardens are now the barracks for the city's mounted police (Questura di Roma, Sezione di Cavallo).
The church was made parochial in 1906, and now has a parish covering southern Trastevere. In the mid 20th century the Franciscans recovered use of part of the convent, and and their Provincialate is now here.
In 1931 the sanctuary was provided with a balustrade, and in the late 20th century some sets of iron railings guarding the chapels were removed.
Layout and fabricEdit
The plan of the church is basilical. The nave with its lower side aisles has three bays, then comes the transept which is, in effect, a fourth bay of the same width as the nave and aisles, and then comes the combined sanctuary choir which is on a square plan of the same width as the central nave.
The tiled and pitched roof has a single stepped ridge from one end to the other (the interior dome is false). Over the transept the roof is slightly higher than that of the nave, and the choir roof is higher still. The roofs of the side aisles are divided by buttresses supporting the central nave walls, two on each side.
Girolamo Franco published a woodcut of the church in 1588. In it, the convent is shown with a bellcote to the right of the church with a single bell, facing the piazza. The church had a campanile to the left, apparently a tall-arched pavilion with a single bell and a pyramidal cap.
In 1734, the latter was demolished and the former replaced with a stuccoed brick slab on the right hand edge of the transept, parallel to the church's major axis and having a tall arch with space for two bells below a triangular pediment.
Unusually, the far end of the church has its own façade with an entrance into the choir between four shallow rectangular pilasters supporting an entablature and triangular pediment and a round window over the entrance. This is not usually accessible to the public.
The eight side chapels, six off the nave and two off the ends of the transept, have varied roofings. Most have simple pitches, but the Chapel of St Michael to the left and the Chapel of St Peter of Alcantara to the right have lanterns. You can see these from the far end of the piazza. The former is a pepperpot with large rectangular windows and a slightly ogee lead cupola. The latter has an interesting design reminiscent of Borromini. This has four stylized curlicues forming an incurved cone meeting at a ball finial, on top of a cylinder with four windows separated by blind pilasters supporting a pronounced cornice with four posts.
The façade, as seen from the piazza, is not entirely genuine architecturally. The segmental
pediment actually protrudes above the gabled roofline, and the outer two of the five vertical zones in the first storey belong to convent buildings and not to the church. The architectural details are in travertine limestone, and the walls in between are rendered in dull orange (which is showing its age).
There are three entrances, the aisle ones having simple stone doorcases and the central one being larger with a triangular pediment. There is a pair of tripletted rectangular pilasters flanking the main entrance, another triplet pair flanking the aisle frontages and a pair of singletons on the outer corners of the façade as a whole. The inner pair of triplets are bunched, but the aisle pair has one of the triplet with its own identity. These pilasters do not have their own proper capitals, but support an entablature on which simplified Doric capitals appear in shallow relief. There is a square window over each aisle entrance, and two more in the outer zones.
The second storey, or the upper nave frontage, has a pair of triplet pilasters in the same style as the entrance pair supporting an entablature and segmental pediment. There is a large rectangular window, and swooping curves over the aisle rooflines. Two rather bizarre halves of a broken segmental pediment are attached to the outer edges of the aisle rooflines.
Layout and fabricEdit
The nave has three bays, with arcades. The latter have wide rectangular piers, with Doric imposts and a matching Doric pilaster in shallow relief on the face of each pier. There is an entablature running just above the arches and below the central nave windows, and this is molded with the frieze projecting as well as the cornice (rather unusual).
There are cross-vaulted ceilings over nave and aisles without ribs, and a (false) saucer dome on pendentives over the transept crossing. There are no proper triumphal arches into the transept or sanctuary, only a pair of simply molded archivolts.
The decoration is extremely simple and the dominant colour is cream, not as one might expect in a church of the period. The dome, vaults and arcades are simply painted in the one colour without any stucco or figurative fresco work. This probably does demonstrate a wish on the part of the brethren to display a commitment to poverty, rather than a simple lack of funds.
The marble floor, with its simple geometric design, is mid-19th century.
The nave pulpit is by Carlo Fontana, 1685 but was remodelled in 1747.
On the counterfaçade just inside the entrance are monuments to Tommaso Raggi, 1628 and his wife Ortense Spinola, 1672. These are attributed to Girolamo Lucenti. The other memorials here are to Agnese Moratti, 1867 and Caterina Poggioli, 1861 by Luca Carimini.
The second pier on the left has a monument to Fra Innocenzo da Chiusi, 1643, a famous mystic in his time. This is by Giovanni Battista Mola.
The second pier on the right has a memorial to Fra Bartolomeo Cambi da Salutio, another mystic and noted poet who died in 1617. It has a painted portrait of him, and was commissioned by Pope Benedict XIV.
Also on the piers are monuments to Maria Costa, 1862 with a bust by Domenico Morani (first pier on the right), and Gioacchino Costa, 1852 by Camillo Pistrucci -son of the more famous Benedetto (third on the left).
The sanctuary is now entered through a 1930's neo-Baroque balustrade.
The Baroque altar dates from 1746, and was designed by one of the Franciscans called Secondo di Roma. It is a startling contrast to the simplicity of the nave. The slightly coved (convex) aedicule has bunched Corinthian pilasters in yellow and black-and-white marbles, and these are fronted by a pair of columns in red Sicilian jasper supporting a curved horizontal entablature which is yellow-red-yellow. On top of this a pair of stucco angels is venerating the Dove of the Holy Spirit in a gabled oval tondo, with a pair of putti on the gable supporting a rayed cross. The angels are by G. Frascari to a design by Lorenzo Masucci.
The wooden statue which serves as an altarpiece is much older than the aedicule, and is now dated to 1550. It was carved by another Franciscan, Diego da Careri, and shows St Francis in ecstasy accompanied by angels.
The pair of arched doorways flanking the altar, set diagonally and embellished with a pair of curlicues each, lead into the choir. There are two large statues of allegorical virtues over them, by Fra Secondo, and these depict Faith and Charity. They were installed in 1751. The two little putti who accompany them holding candlesticks are either sweet or sick-making, depending on your aesthetic sense.
The choir itself has its original early 17th century stalls in carved walnut, executed by the friars themselves. The frescoes are by Giovanni Battista Ricci da Novara, and depict The Holy Trinity, St Bernardine and St Bonaventure.
Above the door to the sacristy is a painting of Blessed Salvator Lilli by Alberto De Rossi, 1981.
The side chapels are described in anticlockwise order, beginning from the bottom right.
Chapel of the CrucifixEdit
The first chapel on the right is dedicated to the Crucifix, and was fitted out by Carlo Fontana before 1701. The far corners are chamfered, allowing for a curved entablature on each side supported by a pair of ribbed Composite pilasters in grey marble. These entablatures do not meet, and their ends are supported by a pair of columns in the same style in red camposanto marble with capitals in yellow Siena marble (capitals of columns or pilasters in coloured marble are unusual, because the ancient Romans preferred white). Above the gap is a lunette containing The Crown of Thorns and Nails in Glory.
The wooden crucifix, by a friar called Angelo da Pietrafitta, is on a light grey marble background. The vault is a saucer dome on pendentives, with an oculus containing a representation of God the Father surrounded by a stucco garland. Garlanded rays divide the cupola into a Maltese cross. The pendentives depict Franciscan saints, and the lunette on the left has a representation of a saintly Franciscan bishop (St Bonaventure?). The right hand lunette is a window. These frescoes were by another friar called Emanuele da Como.
The side walls have two monuments: Cardinal Michelangelo Ricci, 1697, and Stefano Brandi, 1794. The bust of the former is attributed to Domenico Guidi. Ricci was an important mathematician, but should not be confused with the Ricci familiar in work on tensors.
Between this and the next chapel is a memorial to Michele Angelo Maffei, 1793, by Giuseppe Mazzuoli, who has much more spectacular work on display in the Chapel of St Peter of Alcantara. Here, the bust sports a lush, curly wig in the fashion of the times. The winged skull below is also fun.
Chapel of St John of CapistranoEdit
The second chapel on the right is dedicated to St John of Capistrano, and was also designed by Fontana. It is worthwhile comparing the design of the altar here with that of the previous chapel. This one has bunched Composite pilasters in mostly black marble, with some pink, either side of the altarpiece and with a pair of columns in what looks like red Sicilian jasper in front. The round-headed altarpiece frame has a pair of curlicues on top on which a little pair of stucco putti sit.
The saint was directly involved in the campaigns of the Habsburg Emplre against the Ottomans and others, and this is reflected in the fresco cycle which is all by Domenico Muratori about 1750. The altarpiece shows the saint at the Siege of Belgrade, 1456, the right hand wall depicts the Siege of Vienna in 1485. The left hand wall depicts the saint preaching at Perugia, the lunettes show his birth and death and the vault shows his apotheosis. The form of the vault is that of a saucer dome with integrated pendentives, with the fresco covering the entire surface.
The devotional statue here is of St Rita of Cascia.
Hereabouts is a memorial to Cardinal Cesare Gherardi, 1625, and to Cardinal Francesco di Paolo Cassetta, 1922 by Riccardo Griffoni.
Chapel of the Holy FamilyEdit
The third chapel on the right is dedicated to the Holy Family, and was designed by Giovanni Corbelli in 1686. It is in need of restoration. The frescoes are by Giuseppe Passeri; the very shallow saucer dome shows Angels in Heaven, the left hand wall has The Dream of St Joseph and the right hand one, The Escape into Egypt. There is good stucco detailing here, with a wide swag of fronds on the archivolt of the entrance arch and little putti apparently holding up the vault fresco.
The altar has a pair of pink marble Composite columns supporting diagonal posts on which putti sit. In between the latter is a winged putto's head sprouting flowers under an incurved gable. The altarpiece is The Holy Family with God the Father by Stefano Legnani, 1685.
To the right is a statue of St Joseph, and to the left a little shrine containing a statue of Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners.
Underneath the altar are enshrined the relics of one St Leontia, who is depicted as a wax figure dressed up and lying in a glass box. The label states Corpus S[anctae] Leontiae, mart[yris], nom[en] pr[ovisum] ("The body of St Leontia, martyr, name provided"). This indicates that the individual was anonymous, having been exhumed from a catacomb. Her status as a matyr was, at best, a guess.
On the piers here are monuments to Nicola Grappelli, 1690, and Ulisse Calvo, 1690, with good busts.
Chapel of St Peter of AlcantaraEdit
The Cappella Rospigliosi-Pallavicini is off the right and end of the transept, and is a tour-de-fource in Baroque polychrome marble and gilding. The dedication is to St Peter of Alcantara, who would probably have been shocked by it because he was the founder of a very strict Spanish Franciscan reform movement with an emphasis on absolute poverty and penance (his friars always and everywhere went barefoot).
The design was by Nicola Michetti and Ludovico Rusconi Sassi, and completed in 1713. The altar features a pair of ribbed Corinthian columns in verde antico with gilded bronze capitals, supporting a split and separated segmental pediment with stucco angels in between. The altarpiece is by Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari, and features SS Peter of Alcantara and Paschal Baylon.
The elliptical cupola, with a lantern oculus of the same shape, is richly tricked out in gold and white, the stucco decoration featuring scrolls, shells and torches. A thick wreath of flowers surrounds the oculus, which contains the Dove of the Holy Spirit. The pendentives are by Chiari, and features allegories of the Cardinal Virtues.
The over-the-top memorials on the side walls are Baroque at its best. The design of the matching pair was by Michetti, and the sculptural work was by Giuseppe Mazzuoli. Each has a black marble sarcophagus with gilded bronze fittings, on a plinth of green verde antico and red Sicilian jasper with the epitaph in black marble. The sarcopagus is flanked by two white marble sculptures of female allegorical virtues, and above are two portrait busts in jasper tondi, on a background of alabaster, purple veined, verde antico and yellow marbles. The busts are guarded by a bronze skeleton with gilded wings -very Berniniesque. The left hand memorial is to Lazzaro and Stefano Pallavicini, 1714 with allegories of Fortitude and Justice, and the right hand one is to Maria Camilla and Giovanni Battista Rospigliosi, 1713 with allegories of Charity and Prudence. The skeletons are by Michele Garofolino.
Altar of St Hyacintha MariscottiEdit
At the end of the right hand aisle is an altar dedicated to St Hyacintha Mariscotti. She was a Franciscan tertiary nun at Viterbo who died in 1640, and who is the patron saint of religious leading unedifying lives. This is because she began her life as a nun while insisting on a luxurious standard of living, but converted and took on extreme penances. Despite being vicious with herself, she was very charitable towards poor and sick people.
The wooden statue of her is by Fra Diego da Carreri. It is within a white marble round-headed niche with a split and separated segmental pediment flanking a putto's head with swags. This in turn is in an aedicule with a pair of Ionic columns in pavonazzetto marble supporting a triangular pediment.
Altar of St Anthony of PaduaEdit
At the end of the left hand aisle is an altar dedicated to St Anthony of Padua. The wooden statue is by Fra Diego da Carreri again, and used to flank the high altar.
Next to the altar is a memorial to Luigi Maria Cardelli, 1868.
Chapel of St AnneEdit
The fourth chapel on the left, at the end of the transept, is the Cappella Altieri or Paluzzi-Albertoni. It is dedicated to St Anne, mother of Our Lady, and the architect was Giacomo Mola, 1625.
This is the location of Bernini's late sculpture from 1674 of Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, a widow who became a Franciscan tertiary. She was buried here in 1533 with her husband, after giving away her fortune to poor people. She is a minor patron of the city of Rome.
Her white marble effigy shows her in ecstasy, while reclining on a bed placed on a billowing curtain carved from purple-veined white marble. Her dress is also very rumpled; Bernini was fond of demonstrating his genius in carving cloth. The work compares favourably with the more famous statue of St Teresa in Santa Maria della Vittoria. Modern publications describe the work as showing her on her deathbed -however, she was 59 when she died and the sculpture is obviously of a younger woman.
The sense of theatre is enhanced by the sculpture being located in a narrow niche behind the red jasper altar. The indirect lighting is from a window to the left. The niche widens out diagonally either side of the altar, and these diagonal walls have frescoes by unknown artists. The one on the right is an actual portrait of Blessed Ludovica, about 1540, and on the left is St Claire.
The pendentives of the vaults depict SS Agnes, Cecilia, Frances of Rome and Bl Ludovica, and the cupola fresco shows angels. These are by Gaspare Celio or his school, and the intention was to proclaim the equality of the last-named with the three other great female saints of Rome.
The statue is below the round- headed altarpiece, which has a gilded stucco surround with floating white stucco heads of putti attached. This is by Baciccia, and shows Christ, Our Lady and St Anne.
There is a small fresco of St Charles Borromeo on the left hand wall.
Chapel of St MichaelEdit
The third chapel on the left hand side is now dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, and used to be dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. However, the original Pietà by Annibale Carracci was "obtained" by the French during the Napoleonic period and is now in the Louvre. The chapel was restored by Paolo Belloni in 1882.
The relics of St Charles of Sezze are enshrined in a bronze urn beneath the altar here. The "Apostle of Trastevere" is a very attractive character, and remains popular in Rome. He has a new church dedicated to him -San Carlo da Sezze. One of the lunette frescoes shows a miraculous cure of a sick lady that took place through his intercession, and the other shows the famous event when the saint was wounded in the breast by a ray of light from the Blessed Sacrament. There are by Marcello Sozzi, 1882, as are the putti in the cupola pendentives. The cupola itself has stucco scrollwork in white and light grey.
To the right is a monument to Cardinal Orazio Mattei, 1687 with a bust by Lorenzo Ottoni, and to the left is one to Laura Franipane, 1687 with a bust by Andrea Bolgi. She looks as if she were a formidable character.
Chapel of the AnnunciationEdit
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to the Annunciation, with an altarpiece by Francesco Salviati. The fresco work in the vault is by Giovanni Battista Ricci, and is dominated by his magnificent Glory of the Eternal Father in the cupola vault. The pendentives show the four evangelists.
The three lunettes are each divided into three, and the outer panels show sibyls. The back two are the Lamian and Phrygian Sibyls, the left hand two the Libyan and Hellespontine and the right hand two both of the Cumaean, apparently. On the side walls are the Visitation and the Birth of Our Lady. These works are by Francesco de' Rossi.
The side walls have two epigraphs. The left hand one proclaims an indulgence granted by Pope Gregory XV, 1622, and is flanked by frescoes representing King David and the prophet Isaiah. The right hand one is a memorial to Bernardina de Rustica Castellanis.
On the pier between this chapel and the next is a memorial to Giuseppe Pallavicini, 1695 by Camillo Rusconi.
Chapel of the Immaculate ConceptionEdit
The first chapel on the left is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. The altar has a pair of fluted Corinthian columns in verde antico with gilded bronze capitals, and an altarpiece of the Immaculate Conception by Marten De Vos, 1555.
The left hand side wall has The Birth of Our Lady by Simon Vouet, 1620, and the right hand wall The Assumption of Our Lady by Antonio Mariana della Corgna, 17th century.
The artist of the dome fresco is unknown, and unfortunately the work has been badly damaged by damp. It shows The Coronation of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven. The pendentives show sibyls again.
Memorial to Giorgio De ChiricoEdit
There are two small doors in the back wall of the above chapel, flanking the altar. These lead to a room which has been fitted out as a memorial sepulchre for the famous painter Giorgio De Chirico (1888-1978) who invented the Metaphysical School. The simple epitaph reads Giorgio De Chirico, Pictor Optimus. Here there are three works of his: Self-Portrait, Portrait of Isabella Pakswer (his wife) and The Fall of Christ Beneath the Cross.
Above the entrance to the sacristy is an anonymous 17th copy of the Pietà by Carracci looted by the French.
The altarpiece in here is a 15th century crucifix, before which Bl Ludovica used to pray. The vault fresco is of St Michael the Archangel, and is by Francesco Corallo.
Oratory of the TertiariesEdit
Corridor to Cell of St FrancisEdit
The shrine of the Cell of St Francis is accessed via a corridor and a steep set of stairs.
Here are memorials to several members of the Anguillara family: Pandolfo, Francesco, Eleanora and Lucrezia. The first-named is dressed as a Franciscan tertiary, and might be the Pandolfo II Anguillara who helped build the first church. However, this is uncertain as he had a nephew of the same name.
Cell of St FrancisEdit
The Stanza di San Francesco should be accessible to visitors on asking.
The original cell that the saint occupied was enlarged in 1603 by knocking through the wall into a neighbouring cell. Then it was redecorated in the Baroque style in 1698, with wooden panelling all around the walls including above the altar. The work was by Fra Bernardino da Jesi.
Above the altar is a depiction of the saint, which is a 13th or 14th century copy of an actual portrait by Margaritone d'Arezzo, made in the saint's lifetime or shortly after his death. The original can be seen in the Pinacoteca Vaticana, part of the Vatican Museums. To the left is St Anthony of Padua, and to the right St Louis of Toulouse. On the side walls Our Lady and the Angel Gabriel of the Annunciation are depicted.
In 1708, the panelling around the altar was converted into a reliquary for allegedly more than 1000 relics including those from the Franciscan saints canonized by then. The work was by Fra Tommaso da Spoleto. The arrangement is mechanical, and if a handle is turned panels revolve to reveal the silver reliquary caskets. These are in the pair of wooden columns flanking the altarpiece, as well as behind SS Anthony and Louis.
To the right is a niche with a grating, containing a stone that is said to have been used as a pillow by St Francis.
Museum of St Charles of SezzeEdit
Above St Francis' cell is a room where relics of St Charles of Sezze are kept. His heart, said to have been visibly pierced by a ray of light during prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, used to be here but was stolen some years ago.
The church's website advises that the church is open:
8:00 to 13:00, 14:00 to 19:30 daily.
The Cell of St Francis should be visitable during these times. However, the Museum of St Charles of Sezze and the Memorial Chamber of Giorgio De Chirico can only be visited as part of a guided tour. An online booking form for a tour is available on the website.
Visitors are not allowed to wander around the church during Mass. Please note the times of Mass below, and plan your visit accordingly (unless you wish to attend Mass here, of course).
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:30, 9:00, 18:30
Sundays as above, plus 11:00.
Major feast-days are: St Francis 4 October, St Charles of Sezze 5 January, Bl Ludovica 31 January.