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San Macuto

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San Macuto is a 16th century college church with a postal address at Via del Seminario 120 in the rione Colonna. The entrance is at Piazza del Macuto 120. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia article here.

NameEdit

The dedication is to St Malo, a 7th century Breton bishop. His original name can be rendered as Mac'h Low, which mutated into Macutus in Latin. Hence the Italian version of Macuto. 

Malo came from an alternative Latin version, Maclovius, which was nearer to the original.

The sources give many different variants on this name, since the saint was unfamilar to native Romans and it is a small historical puzzle as to how the dedication came about in the first place.

HistoryEdit

Parish churchEdit

The church has its first documentary reference in 1254, when it was a parish church dependent on the ancient titulus of San Marcello al Corso. As such it was certainly much older than this, and might have been founded in the 9th or early 10th century. There is, however, no record of this.

In 1279 the church was put under the administration of the Dominicans at Santa Maria sopra Minerva, indicating some problems with the parish leading to an inability to pay for a priest. Back then, it seems that the edifice was a small basilica having a nave with side aisles, rather like San Stefano del Cacco nearby. There was a small graveyard, as befitted a parish church.

Pope Leo X (1523-21) put the church under the administration of the Vatican Chapter, and this indicates that the parish had failed definitively by then.

BergamaschiEdit

In 1538, the church was granted to a confraternity of expatriates from the city of Bergamo. The Bergamaschi had it re-dedicated to their patron saints, and so it became known as Santi Bartolomeo ed Alessandro dei Bergamaschi or simply San Bartolomeo dei Bergamaschi

In 1560, a new façade was provided by Giovanni Alberto Galvani from Ferrara, but this must have been unsatisfactory. In 1579 the confraternity had the church rebuilt on a smaller scale, together with another façade -this is the present building. Onorio Longhi used to be named as the architect, but this is nonsensical since he was only eleven in that year. The façade is attributed to Francesco Capriani from Volterra.

JesuitsEdit

The Jesuits became neighbours of the Bergamaschi in 1605, when they bought the Palazzo Gabrielli-Borromeo for use as a seminary. The Seminario Romano had been founded in 1565 for the training of candidates to the priesthood for the Roman diocese, but it had been placed under the administration of the Jesuits from its beginning.

In 1729, the Jesuits were able over the church as part of the appurtenances of the seminary, despite the opposition of the Bergamaschi who were losing their Roman headquarters. In compensation, they were granted the premises of a psychiatric hospital south of the Piazza Colonna together with its church of Santa Maria della Pietà. This they rebuilt as Santi Bartolomeo ed Alessandro dei Bergamaschi by 1735.

The palazzo has also been known as the Palazzo Macuto since then. The Jesuits restored the old dedication to the church.

UncertaintyEdit

The Jesuits enjoyed possession of the church for less than fifty years, for in 1773 Pope Clement XIV suppressed them. The Seminario Romano moved down the street to the former Jesuit training college of the Collegio Romano, and the vacated property was given to the Monte di Pietà of Rome.

In 1796, the church and palazzo passed to Fabbrica di San Pietro. However, after the collapse of the Napoleonic system the Jesuits were revived in 1814. However, they had to wait until 1824 before they got the complex back.

Fortunately for them, the Fabbrica arranged a restoration in 1819 by Benedetto Piernicoli, in which the original flat wooden ceiling was replaced by a barrel vault.

Jesuits againEdit

The Society of Jesus converted the complex into a Convitto dei Nobili, or a school for the education of noblemen. The restored Papal government was rather desperately trying to return Rome to a pre-modern social structure, based on an educated nobility co-operating with the clerical administration and with the middle and working classes disfranchised. This proved a disastrous policy. After the Jesuits were briefly expelled by the Roman Republic of 1849 they re-established the school in 1851 but quickly gave up and closed it two years later.

The German-Hungarian College was then in residence, sharing the premises with the refounded Collegio Romano (later the Pontifical Gregorian University). The former moved out in 1883.

In 1930, the University moved in turn and the complex passed to the Collegio di San Roberto Bellarmino. This is a college of higher studies for Jesuits, and it has been in sole possession since 1949.

ExteriorEdit

The church butts up against neighbouring buildings on both sides, and only the façade is visible.

The latter is a neat design, of two storeys. It has been recently cleaned, and is rendered in a butter yellow with architectural details in travertine limestone. It is thought that the original design by Galvani had some features retained by Capriani, specifically the two orders of pilasters.

The first storey is on a plinth, so the entrance is approached by a flight of stairs. There are two separated pairs of Doric pilasters standing directly on the plinth without pedestals, supporting an entablature with a blank frieze. The zone enclosed by the inner pilasters and the entablature has a narrow stone frame abutting on these features. The entrance has a molded doorcase, over the lintel of which is a tablet with a short dedicatory inscription: Deo in honorem S. Machuti. This was added by the Jesuits after 1729. Above this in turn is a triangular pediment on strap corbels.

The second storey has four Ionic pilasters on low pedestals, which support an entablature. Over the inner pair only is a small crowning pediment, with an elliptical oculus in its tympanum. The entablature is brought forward slightly below the pediment, and over the capitals of the outer pair of pilasters. There are five obelisk finials, three on the pediment and two at the outer corners (the lack of a central cross is unusual in Roman churches).

The central fenestration of this storey is called a serliana. This has a central round-headed window, flanked by two lower rectangular ones. The latter are framed by little Doric pilasters supporting cornice, and the former by a pair of foliated spandrels over which is a triangular pediment. The spandrels are bounded by a pair of curlicues, and the outer corners of the rectangular windows have a pair of ball-on-cube finials in relief.

InteriorEdit

Layout and fabricEdit

The interior is very simple, consisting of a rectangle of seven bays. Five bays make up the nave, and two the sanctuary. (Beware, the plan on the info-board outside the church is wrong.)

The bays are separated by pilasters without capitals, which support a cornice (not a proper entablature) on which rests the 19th century barrel-vaulted ceiling. The latter has transverse arched ribs springing from above the pilasters. Walls and ceiling are painted in a cream colour, without any decoration at all.

The fourth bay of the nave has an altar on each side.

(Note that Diego Angeli wrote in 1903 that the church has five altars, and that this error is being propagated online. He seems to have confused the church with the house chapel in the college, which did have four side altars.)

The sanctuary is bounded by a wooden balustrade on a step.

AltarsEdit

When the Bergamaschi had to hand over the church, they stripped it of all moveable fittings and artworks. So, when the Jesuits took over they commissioned Michelangelo Cerruti to provide three altarpieces which were installed in 1730.

The high altar has a pair of red marble Corinthian columns supporting an entablature with a black marble frieze and a slightly oversized segmental pediment. The altarpiece depicts Our Lady Appearing to St Malo, and interestingly the city of Saint-Malo features in the background. Above the pediment is the monogram of the Jesuits, IHS, in a gilded glory.

The left hand side altar has an aedicule in shallow relief, comprising two ribbed Corinthian pilasters in pavonazzetto marble supporting triangular pediment via a pair of posts (no entablature). The tympanum of the pediment has a winged putto's head. 

The dedication of this altar is to SS John Nepomuk and Aloysius Gonzaga, which is an unusual combination. The altarpiece shows them adoring the Sacred Heart, which is depicted as an organ in a glory without the figure of Christ.

The right hand side altar matches the left hand one, but the aedicule is all in stucco. It is dedicated to St Joseph, and the altarpiece shows his Apotheosis.

Access and liturgyEdit

This church seems never to be found open.

The feast-day of St Malo is 15 November, when there really should be a public Mass here. Have a look if you are in the city on that day.

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Nolli map (look for 823)

"De Alvariis" gallery on Flickr (exterior only)

Poloromano.beniculturali web-page with gallery (only photos of interior online)

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