|San Girolamo dei Croati|
|English name:||St Jerome of the Croats|
|Titular church||Josip Bozanic|
|Address:||132 Via Tomacelli|
San Girolamo dei Croati is the church of the Pontifical Croatian College of St Jerome, and the national church of Croatia. THe postal address is Via Tomacelli 132, but the main entrance is on the Via Ripetta south of the Mausoleo di Agosto. It is very close to San Rocco, and the two form a landmark pair on the Tiber at a point which used to be the Porto di Ripetta (a landing place on the river for cargo before the Lungotevere was built). Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons. 
The church is rarely open to visitors. If you wish to enter it, try contacting the adjacent Croatian College. It will probably be open on June 25th, which is Croatia's Statehood Day.
The church was first recorded in the 11th century, and was then called Santa Marina de Posterula. It fell into ruin in the 15th century, and in in 1453 the site was given to a group of Croatian clerical and lay expatriates by Pope Nicholas V, so that they could build a hospice and hospital. They were refugees from incursions by the Ottoman Turks into former Yugoslavia, an area which under the Roman Empire was a province called Illyria and later, in the Middle Ages, Slavonia. They repaired the church and re-dedicated it to St Jerome, their patron who had been born in Illyria (actually in a place called Stridon near the present Ljubljana in Slovenia). Hence, the church was named San Girolamo degli Illirici or degli Schiavoni. The expatriates were organized into a formal congregation, but in 1587 Pope Sixtus V had the church completely rebuilt for the Croatian-speaking community. He also established a college of eleven Slav-speaking priests called the Capitolinum to conduct the liturgy there. Notoriously, the remnants of a spectacular ancient architectural monument called the Septizodium on the Palatine was demolished to provide materials for the church's decoration.
In 1790 Pope Pius VI founded a seminary here for Croats, a separate institution from the Capitolinum. It functioned intermittently until 1901, when Pope Leo XIII combined the two into a new pontifical college. Non-Croatian Catholic Slavs, especially from around Kotor (the former Cattaro) in Montenegro, protested at its being named the Croatian college, so it was officially called the Pontifical College of the Illyrians. The Croats found this offensive, and Pope Paul VI finally changed the name back in 1971. The church has been named dei Croati since then.
The plan is based on a Latin cross, with a fairly short nave with aisles and a rectangular apse. The roof is pitched and tiled, and is hipped over the apse and transepts. The architect of the façade (if not the whole church) was Martino Longhi the Elder. It is in white travertine, with two storeys. The first storey has three
rectangular Ionic pilasters on each side of the entrance, with swags on their capitals and more swags and lion's masks in between them. In between each pair of these pilasters is an empty arched niche, with a blank rectangular (almost square) panel above and another one below. The doorway has a raised triangular pediment, with more swags on the lintel and a pair of volutes on edge at the top corners of the doorcase. The frieze of the entablature that the pilasters support has a dedicatory inscription mentioning Pope Sixtus V. The second storey has four ribbed Corinthian pilasters supporting an entablature and triangular pediment, the latter containing the coat-of-arms of Pope Sixtus flanked by gigantic swags. The friese of the entablature has a dedcatory inscription with the saint's name. In the centre of this storey is a large rectangular window with swags below and a winged putto's head above. In between the pilasters are lions either side of a stylized three mountain device.
This device, together with a eight-pointed star, occurs elsewhere on the façade and is an emblem of Pope Sixtus. Especially, the three finials on the gable of the pediment have this form.
There is a campanile attached to the far side of the left transept, which has a little cupola with a lantern finial.
The interior, as may be expected, is very richly decorated. There are three chapels on each side, formed by inserting cross-walls in the aisles. The nave ceiling is coved, and has a fresco of saints worshipping God's glory. The crossing has a false saucer dome, extremely lush in its decoration.
The college website has a large gallery with photos of the frescoes and pictures in this church, and the link is available below.
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