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San Nicola in Arcione

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San Nicola in Arcione is a lost parish church which used to be in Via in Arcione, north of the Quirinal Palace and south of the Via del Tritone. This is in the rione Trevi.

The dedication was to St Nicholas of Myra.


In historical records, this church is also referred to as San Niccolò degli Arcioni which usesan old version of the name "Nicholas" in Italian. It was also known as San Niccolò a Capo di Casa, because in the Middle Ages it was at the edge of the built-up area of the city. The name Arcioni either comes from a nearby acqueduct, or from a noble family owning land locally.

There are ambiguous references in Papal bulls of 955 and 962 to a church dependent on San Silvestro in Capite with this dedication, but it is now impossible to be certain that the reference are to this particular church. The first unambiguous reference dates from 1163. In the reign of Pope Innocent XI the church was restored, and was definitely parochial from then on (it was also probably so before then).

In 1478 it was granted to the Servite friars, who rebuilt it to a design by Girolamo Theodoli and established a convent next door. The parish was kept going, and in the 18th century was prosperous enough for one of its confraternities to have its own oratory nearby. This was Santissimo Crocifisso Agonizzante in Arcione, owned by the Confraternita del Santissimo Sacramento in Arcione.

However, the parish was suppressed in 1824. The Servite friary was also soon closed, in 1827, and the church transferred to a confraternity dedicated to praying for the souls in Purgatory. A watercolour by Achille Pinelli of 1834 shows the church with an inscription saying Archiconfraternita Iesu Mariae et Iosephi. This indicates that the confraternity had arranged some restoration of the fabric.

The building was unfortunate in that the confraternity apparently failed, and left it with no friends or function. As a result, it was expropriated by the city and demolished at the beginning of the 20th century. A date of 1900 has been given, but the expropriation documents are dated 1907 and it is thought that the demolition occurred in the following year.

There seems no reason for the demolition apart from the wish to redevelop the site; the streets around it were not widened as a result. The new Via del Traforo was cut through the streetscape just to the east, but did not impinge on the church site -although it obviously added to its value as a commercial development possibility.


The Via in Arcione meets the Via del Traforio in a small piazza. On the north side of this is an early 20th century neo-Baroque block with its main frontage on the latter street; the side of this facing the piazza marks the line of the church façade. The left hand wall of the church ran up the Vicolo del Gallinaccio. If you look north along this street now, you can see that it is a straight line; there used to be a slight bend around the far end of the church, indicating that the church was older than the street.



This was not a very small church, despite being called a chiesuola in the sources. It had a rectangular nave, with a ceiling vault supported on two pairs of side pilasters. There was a transverse rectangular presbyterium slightly narrower than the nave, and then a deep apse with a semi-circular end.

The friary was to the east of the church. An entrance doorway led into a passage which in turn led into a courtyard in the shape of a right-angled triangle. All this is now under the Via del Traforo. The façade was of two storeys. The first storey had four Ionic pilasters, the inner pair of which were doubletted on the outside and the pair on the corners of the façade, on the inside. (Pinelli's depiction is not accurate here.) These pilasters supported an entablature with the inscripion already mentioned on its frieze, and a strongly projecting cornice. The entrance had a raised floating gable over a tondo containing a sculptural relief.

The second storey had four Corinthian pilasters, doubletted in the same way as those below. There was a large central rectangular window, over which was a scallop shell in relief sheltered by an archivolt formed by a curve in the architrave of the entablature above. The crowning pediment was double, with a segmental pediment inserted into the tympanum of a larger triangular pediment.

There used to be a fresco of St Nicholas by Francesco Rosa in the tondo.


There were three altars on each side. The ceiling vault was painted by Giuseppe Passari, and was mistakenly attributed to Giacomo Triga in the 19th century. It depicted The Apotheosis of St Nicholas. The main altar had an altarpiece by Pietro Sigismondi, depicting Christ and Our Lady with SS Nicholas and Philip Benizi, and this was surrounded by a fresco of putti also by Passari.

The side chapels are described in clockwise order.

The first chapel on the left was dedicated to St Anthony of Padua, and had an altarpiece by Andrea Sacchi as well as a painting of St Pellegrino Laziosi which was a copy of one in San Marcello by Domenico Rinaldi. The second chapel was dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, and had an altarpiece depicting St Francis in the Wilderness by the Cavalier d'Arpino. The third chapel was dedicated to the Baptism of Christ, and had a painting of that event by Carlo Maratta as well as one of Bl Gioacchino Piccolomini by Giuseppe Tommasi.

The third chapel on the right was dedicated to the Seven Founders of the Servite Order, and the altarpiece was by Francesco Ferrari. Here also was the tomb of Emilia Lezzani, a sculptural work by Ignazio Jacometti of 1847 which showed that young Roman lady being presented to Christ. The second chapel was dedicated to the Crucifixion, and contained a crucifix which was a copy of one in the Palazzo Albani. The first chapel was dedicated to St Lawrence, and had St Lawrence Arguing with the Tyrant by Luigi Gentili. Here also was a marble bust of Christ, sculpted by Cosimo Fancelli in the style of Bernini, and an elegant bas-relief memorial in the form of a medallion which commemorated Tecla Jablonowska, a Polish princess who died in 1820. This is thought to have been by Leandro Biglioschi.

External linksEdit

De Alvariis gallery on Flickr

Nolli map (look for 224)

Armellini (p. 265)

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