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San Marcello al Corso

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San Marcello al Corso

English name: St Marcellus at the Corso
Dedication: St Marcellus
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Type: Titular church
Clergy: Servite Fathers
Titular church Cardinal Agustín García-Gasco Vicente
Built: 4th century, rebuilt in 8th century and from 1529 until 1590
Architect(s): Antonio Sangallo the younger, Carlo Fontana
Artists: Antonio Raggi, Francesco Cavallini, Rinaldo Rinaldi, Daniele da Volterra
Contact data
Address: 5 Piazza di San Marcello /
00187 Roma
Phone: (06) 69 93 01

San Marcello al Corso dedicated to Pope St Marcellus, who was martyred in 309. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons.[1]


Legend claims that Pope St Marcellus (308-309) was sentenced by Emperor Maxentius to look after the horses at the station of the Imperial mail on the Via Lata, where the Via del Corso now lies. He was freed by the people, and hidden in the house of the Roman lady Lucina (see also San Lorenzo in Lucina). He was rearrested, and imprisoned in the stables.

A church was built at or near the site of the stables in the 4th century, and Pope Boniface I was consecrated pope here in 418. It was one of the tituli, the first parish churches of Rome, known as the Titulus Marcelli. The church was restored by Adrian I in the 8th century. This structure lies below the present church, and has been excavated. The excavations are not open to the public.

In 1354, the body of Cola di Rienzo was brought here three days after he had been killed in front of the steps leading to Santa Maria in Aracoeli, and hung up in the apse.

A fire on the night of 22 May 1519 destroyed most of the church - only the outer walls and the 15th century wooden crucifix from the altar, now in the Chapel of the Crucifix, survived. Money was collected to restore the church, but in 1527 it had to be used to bribe the soldiers of Charles V so that they would not plunder it. In 1529, it was given its present form by Antonio Sangallo the younger, inspired by a design by Jacopo Sansovino that removed the side naves and transept. The rebuilding process had a setback in 1530, when the Tiber flooded the area. It was finally completed in 1592. Later, a new façade was added by Carlo Fontana.

The church is served by the Servite Fathers, and the Order's Generalate is adjacent to the church.

The current titular of the church is Cardinal Agustín García-Gasco Vicente, archbishop of Valencia.


The concave Baroque façade from 1682-1686 is by Carlo Fontana. Three columns on each side flanks the doorway and support a curvilinear tympanon. Two palm leaves tie the lower level to the upper. The style has moved from the High Baroque into Late Baroque, anticipating the settecento-style. It is built in travertine.

Marcello in Corso

On the fasçade, there is a relief by Antonio Raggi from 1686. It depict St Philip Benizi refusing to accept a tiara, recalling the legend that the 15th century saint was elected pope but did not consider himself worthy of being the Vicar of Christ. There are also statues of St Philip Benizi and Pope St Marcellus by Francesco Cavallini; statues of Blessed Gioacchino (Joachim) Piccolomini and Blessed Francesco (Francis) Patrizi by Andrea Fucina and of the personifications of Faith and Hope in the tympanon.


The church has a single nave with five chapels on each side. The frescoes, one in the apse and one of the Crucifixion (1613) at the opposite end, as well as scenes of the Passion between the windows, are by Giovanni Battista Ricci of Novara.

Beneath the high altar is a marble memorial stone from the 3rd century. The front is decorated with 12th century opus sectile, and it contains relics of martyrs, including Pope St Marcellus.

The crucifix that survived the fire in 1519 is venerated here, in the Chapel of the Crucifix on the right side - it is sometimes moved to the sanctuary. At times of special intercession, such as the inauguration of Vatican II, it is carried in procession through the streets.

The coffered ceiling is a gift from the artist, Vitelli, and it depicts Our Lady's titles from the Litany of Loreto, with the Immaculate Conception in the centre. It was made in 1592.

In the nave by the entrance is the double tomb of Cardinal Giovanni Michiel (a nephew of Pope Paul II who was poisoned by one of the Borgias in 1503) and Bishop Antonio Orso (died 1511), the Cardinal's nephew. The tomb was made by Jacopo Sansovino.

The third chapel on the right, the Cappella della Madonna delle Grazie, has frescoes of scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin by Francesco Salviati, and a 13th century Madonna and Child set in a 15th century marble frame. The tomb of Cardinal Thomas Weld (died 1837, and his family is also in this chapel.

The next chapel was decorated by Perin del Vaga, one of Raphael's pupils. At the sack of Rome in 1527, he fled and left the chapel unfinished. After peace had been restored, Daniele da Volterra and Pellegrino Tibaldi completed the ceiling frescoes. They depict The Creation of Eve, St Mark and St John the Evangelist. On the altar is a 14th century crucifix and a relic of the True Cross. The tabernacle is from the 18th century, by Francesco Bizzaccheri.

The fifth chapel on the right has paintings by Aureliano Milani, c. 1725.

At the end of the right side is the tomb of Cardinal Ercole Consalvi (1757-1824), by Rinaldo Rinaldi.

On the left-hand side, the first chapel is dedicated to the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order. The altarpiece is by Agostino Masucci.

The second chapel has a painting by Girolamo Troppa depicting St Magdalene.

The third chapel is the Chapel of the Sorrows of Our Lady. This devotion is held high by the Servite Friars.

The fourth chapel on the left has frescoes by Taddeo Zuccari, and three busts of members of the Frangipani family by Allessandro Algardi.

The last chapel on the left is dedicated to St Philip Benizi, one of the great saints of the Servite Order. The altarpiece is by Pier Leone Ghezzi.

The baptistery has one of the oldest preserved baptismal fonts. It was made in the 4th or 5th century, and is deep enough to allow partial immersion. It was restored in 1912. The baptistry lies under the adjacent building of the Banco di Roma. It can be accessed from the church if you ask the sacristan to unlock the door, but it can also be seen freely from the bank's offices during business hours - they have constructed a light shaft above it, allowing a nice view.

Special notesEdit

The anniversary of the fire in 1519, and miraculous survival of the crucifix, is still marked on 23 May. Other important feasts that are celebrated with great solemnity are those of Pope St Marcellus on 16 January, The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order on 17 February, St Giuliana Falconiere on 19 June, St Philip Benizi on 23 August, the Exaltation of the Cross on 14 September and all saints of the Servite Order on 16 November.

San Marcello al Corso is one of the Lenten station churches, on Wednesday after the fifth Sunday of Lent.

Opening hours (may vary): 06.30-12.00, 16.00-19.00 daily

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