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San Pietro in Montorio

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San Pietro in Montorio

English name: St Peter's on the Golden Hill
Dedication: St Peter the Apostle
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Type: Titular church
Clergy: Franciscans
Titular church Cardinal James Francis Stafford
Built: 9th century, rebuilt 1481 - 1500
Architect(s): Baccio Pontelli, Meo del Caprina
Artists: Francesco Fontana, Bramante, Giovanni del Vecchio, Giorgio Vasari
Contact data
Address: 2 Piazza San Pietro in Montorio

00153 Roma

Phone: 06 58 13 940

San Pietro in Montorio is a church dedicated to St Peter the Apostle on the Janiculum overlooking Trastevere. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons. [1]


The appellation refers to the yellow sand at the Janiculum, which glows like gold at twilight. Because of this phenomenon, the hill was referred to as Mons Aureus in ancient times. The church has also been called Santa Maria in Castro Aureo.

A medieval tradition claims that this was the site of St Peter's martyrdom, and this is the reason why a church dedicated to him was built here. However, there is nothing to support this claim in ancient sources, and it has been established with great certainty that the Apostle was martyred in the Circus of Caligula and Nero, at the site of San Pietro in Vaticano.

The first sacred building here was a chapel from the 9th century, with a convent next to it. It was dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. In the 12th century, they were enlarged to house a Benedictine community.

The chapel and convent was handed over to the Spanish congregation of the Amadeites, a branch of the Franciscan order, in 1472. With the help of the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, they built a new church here 1481-1500, designed by Baccio Pontelli and Meo del Caprina.

In April 1541, St Ignatius of Loyola was elected General of the Society of Jesus. He asked that the election be repeated, and was again elected. His confessor Fr. Teodosio da Lodi O.F.M. lived in the monastery adjacent to this church, and St Ignatius came here for a triduum (a three-day period of prayer and meditation). After receiving advice from his confessor he decided to accept the result of a third election, and was duly elected General.

The church was granted to the Italian Franciscans in 1626, and they still serve it.

It was established as a cardinalitial presbyterial title in April 1587, by Pope Sixtus V. The first titular priest was Costanzo Torri O.F.M. Conv. The current titular of the church is Cardinal James Francis Stafford, archbishop emeritus of Denver.

Exterior - and the TempiettoEdit

The Renaissance façade is attributed to the school of Andrea Bregno or to Meo del Caprina. It is preceded by a twin stairway, built in 1605. At the back of the church, next to the apse, is a campanile. The apse and campanile were damaged in the siege of Rome in 1849, and restored in 1851.

Pietro in Montorio
Pietro in Montorio -Tempietto

In the courtyard of the Franciscan monastery you will find the Tempietto, a memorial to the martyrdom of Peter. Bramante was commissioned to build it in 1502 or 1503. It consists of a circular sanctuary surrounded by an ambulatory with 16 granite columns. The building is inspired by Graeco-Roman architecture. It was placed here because of a theory that this was the site of St Peter's martyrdom; the theory has since been abandoned. St Ignatius of Loyola often came here to celebrate Mass.

The Tempietto has two storeys internally; the upper one has an altar with a statue of St Peter as well as a Cosmatesque floor, while the lower one has rich stucco work on walls and saucer-domed ceiling.


The nave has a single aisle, which is divided into three sections by differences in the decorations. The central part was decorated by Francesco Fontana in the early 18th century. Frescoes in the nave are by Sebastiano del Piombo, dated 1518.

To the left of the entrance is a monument by Giovanni del Vecchio, a pupil of Andrea Bregno.

Del Piombo also painted the Scourging of Christ (1518) in the first chapel on the right side. It is thought that it was inspired by Michelangelo.

Still on the right side, in the second chapel, you will find the Madonna of the Letter by Niccolò Pomerancio and the Four Virtues by Baldassare Peruzzi. The Madonna of the Letter by Pomerancio was originally in an open-air shrine in a street in Trastevere, until it was brought here by Pope Clement XI in 1714.
2011 Tempietto altar

Tempietto, main altar.

In the third chapel on the right-hand side are three paintings by Michelangelo Cerruti: The Presentation in the Temple, The Immaculate Conception and The Annunciation. On the arch is The Sibyl by Peruzzi.

The fourth chapel has an altarpiece by Giorgio Vasari, painted 1552, depicting The Convertion of Paul. To the sides are the funerary monuments of Antonio and Fabiano del Monte, and statues of personifications of Justice and Religion.

On the left side, the first chapel has paintings by Giovanni de Vecchio: The Stigmata of St Francis, The Funeral of Cardinal Dolera, St Nicholas and St Catherine.

The second one, the Raymondi Chapel, was designed by Bernini. It is named after Francesco de Raymondi, who died in 1638 and was buried here. At the centre of his funerary monument is a bas-relief of The Ecstasy of St Francis.
2011 Tempietto floor

Tempietto, floor.

The third chapel on the left has a painting of St Anne enthroned with the Virgin and the Holy Child, attributed to Antoniazzo Romano.

Then follows the Chapel of the Pietà with very good paintings by Theodore van Baburen (The Deposition) and David de Haen, and stucco work by Stefano Maderno.

Above the high altar is a copy of Guido Reni's Crucifixion of St Peter, made by Vincenzo Camuccini. This has replaced the Transfiguration by Raphael, which was moved to the Vatican Museums in 1809. In a chapel (taking the place of an arm of the transept) on the left, designed by Daniele da Volterra, is an altarpiece combining fresco and stucco by Giulio Mazzoni, depicting The Baptism of Christ. In other niches by the apse are statues of Sts Peter and Paul, by Leonardo Sormani.

Below the high altar is an uninscribed sarcophagus with the mortal remains of Beatrice Cenci, who was executed for
2011 Tempietto lower altar

Tempietto, lower altar.

the murder of her father in 1599. In front of the altar are the tombs of four Irish rebels: Hugh O'Neill, exiled Earl of Tyrone (1540-1616), his son Hugh (born 1562), Baron of Dungannon and the brothers Ruari, Earl of Tyrconnell,and Cathbarr O'Donnell. They were forced to flee from Ireland in 1607, and came to Rome where they were received by the Holy Father. The tombs are often covered - they are sometimes even said to be lost - but it is possible to ask to see them. Talk to the sacristan or a priest and ask to have the carpet lifted.

Special notesEdit

The feast of St Monica is solemnly celebrated on 27 August. Franciscan feasts, such as those of St Francis (4 October) and St Clare of Assisi (11 August) are also solemnly kept here.

Normally open 09.00-12.00 and 16.00-18.00
2011 Tempietto lower ceiling

Tempietto, lower ceiling.

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