|San Pietro in Montorio|
|English name:||St Peter's on the Golden Hill|
|Dedication:||St Peter the Apostle|
|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 et.al.|
|Address:|| 2 Piazza San Pietro in Montorio |
|Phone:||06 58 13 940|
San Pietro in Montorio is a late 15th century convent church on the Gianicolo overlooking Trastevere. The postal address is Piazza San Pietro in Montorio 2. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons.  There is an English Wikipedia page. 
The dedication is to St Peter the Apostle.
The appellation Montorio allegedly originated with the yellow sand of the hill, anciently named the Ianiculum after the god Janus. The developed etymology was that there used to be a sand-pit that glowed golden at sunrise and could be seen at a distance, hence the hill began to be referred to as Mons Aureus in early mediaeval times.
An alternative suggestion is that somebody found a substantial treasure of gold here.
The church has been erroneously identified with Santa Maria in Castro Aureo, which was actually where Santa Caterina dei Funari now is.
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 older sources, and it has been established with some certainty that the Apostle was martyred in the Circus of Nero, at the site of San Pietro in Vaticano.
The mistake can actually be reconstructed. The Acts of Peter, a late 2nd century apocryphal description of the Apostle's activity and martyrdom in Rome, has him being crucified head-downwards inter duas metas. This word meta puzzled later scholars, but originally referred to the turning-point for races in an ancient circus. There were two of these, one at each end of the spina or central reservation where St Peter was crucified for the entertainment of the spectators.
Near St Peter's there used to be an ancient pyramidal tomb called the Meta Romuli in mediaeval times (it was demolished in 1499), and this paired with the extant Pyramid of Cestius in the minds of educated mediaevals who called the latter pyramid the Meta Remi. The idea came about that these were the two metae in the ancient text, and that St Peter was thus martyred midway between them.
In 1455 Maffeo Vegio definitively settled the location as being on the Montorio, writing that Beatus Petrus passus est in Monte Aureo. Even within the context of the argument he was wrong, because the location of the church is not quite on a straight line between the two pyramids. Effective surveying came later in history. However, the mistake led to the Tempietto for which we can be grateful.
The first reference to the church and monastery is in the Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis, composed by Agnello in the early 9th century. In it, it is referred to as the monasterium beati Petri quod vocatur ad Ianuculum.
The origins of this monastery are wholly unknown, but a good guess is that it was a Byzantine-rite foundation of the 8th century -like many other monasteries in the city at the time.
The monastery here would have become a Benedictine abbey in the 10th century, and as such was one of the twenty such abbeys in the city forming a honorific confederation by the 11th century. The twenty abbots together had special rôles in papal ceremonies.
However, Benedictine religious life collapsed in disgraceful corruption in the early 13th century. All the abbeys except San Paolo fuori le Mura were suppressed and handed over to other religious orders, including this one which went to the reformed Celestine Benedictine order in 1280.
This new foundation failed for unknown reasons and at an uncertain date at the end of the 14th century (although the Celestines continued at Sant'Eusebio all'Esquilino until the Napoleonic period). Here, the monastery passed to the Augustinian Congregation of St Ambrose, also known as Ambrosians or Ambrosiani. This newly-founded congregation had been granted the basilica of San Clemente by Pope Boniface IX in 1403, so they would have come here at about the same time.
The Ambrosiani did not have a happy history, being eventually suppressed in 1643, and at Montorio did not even last thirty years. In 1430, the complex passed to a community of Benedictine nuns which itself disintegrated quickly.
in [], Pope Sixtus IV handed the disused church and convent over to a Spanish reform congregation of the Franciscans, called the Amadeans after Amadeus of Portugal who had founded the reform movement in 1459.
In 1481, the friars began to restore the convent, and decided to rebuild the church from its foundations. The identity of the architect is an old problem. Baccio Pontelli and Amadeo di Francesco (AKA Meo del Caprina) are the two candidates, but the candidacy of the former depends only on a remark by Giorgio Vasari which modern scholars do not trust. (To be fair, some think he might have been involved in the façade.)
The church with its façade was finished in 1494 with the help of donations from King Louis IX of France, but was only consecrated in 1500. Such delays were usually either the result of schemes for interior decoration dragging on, or of problems paying off the debts incurred in construction (a church must be free of debt at its consecration).
Pope Alexander VI did the consecration in person, perhaps owing to the Spanish connection (he himself was Spanish).
Then King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain put up the funds to construct a devotional chapel on the mythical site of St Peter's martyrdom, and Bramante was chosen as the architect in 1500. The result was the famous Tempietto, begun in 1502 and completed in 1512. This immediately became the focus of attention, more from architectural pilgrims than devotional ones as scholars were soon to rubbish the myth.
In April 1541, St Ignatius of Loyola was elected as General or canonical superior of the Society of Jesus, which he himself had founded and led. He refused the office, pleading incompetence, and asked for the election to be repeated. He was again elected, and warned by other members of the Society that his continued refusal might engender its dissolution. His confessor was a friar here, Fr Teodosio da Lodi, and so St Ignatius came here for a triduum (a three-day period of prayer and meditation) in order to decide what to do. After receiving the advice of his confessor, he decided to accept the result of a third election and was duly elected as General.
The friary became one of the most highly regarded convents in the city.
In 1568, Pope St Pius V oversaw a reform of the Franciscan order as a whole, with the promulgation of new constitutions. Part of this was a tidying up of several reform movements, and the Amadeans were required to amalgamate with the Franciscan Observants.
In 1605, there was a restoration paid for by King Philip III of Spain. This involved the laying out of the piazza in front of the church, with a revetting wall forming a terrace. A fountain (now gone) was in the centre of this, designed by Giovanni Fontana and incorporating the heraldry of Castile.
In mediaeval times, the only way to the monastery was via a driveway from a courtyard at the back of the church to the Porta San Pancrazio (this is now part of the Via Garibaldi). Part of the restoration was the provision of a carriage road from Trastevere, along the present route of the Via Garibaldi from Santa Maria dei Sette Dolori and up to the piazza via a very sharp and steep hairpin bend about where the present road starts curving to the right. (The present switchback is 19th century). To facilitate pedestrian access, a set of steps was provided from the Vicolo del Cedro to the new road, and a stepped ramp up the side of the hill which doubles back to the piazza. This is the present Via di San Pietro in Montorio.
The Observants already had their main convent at Rome at Santa Maria in Aracoeli. In 1626 the convent here was granted to the Italian Reformed congregation of Franciscans (Riformati), which remained in possession for the next 250 years.
Some time after 1748 (since it is not on the Nolli map of that year), the friars opened the little church of Sant'Antonio di Padova in Montorio at the bend in the pedestrian access route, and provided a set of Stations of the Cross on the ramps either side.
In 1797, at the start of the Napoleonic period, the altarpiece of the church was expropriated by treaty by the French. This was the Transfiguration by Raphael, and when it was finally repatriated it did not come back to the church but went to the Vatican Museums.
This was fortunate, because when the French bombarded the city in order to suppress the Roman Republic in 1849 they managed to hit the church's apse and campanile. The painting might have perished if it had still been there. The damage was made good in 1851. However the fountain in the piazza was also destroyed in the bombardment, and this was not replaced. Instead, a grey granite Doric column with a ball finial on top was put here instead.
One regrettable feature of the restoration was that the floor was re-laid in marble without regard to the tomb slabs already there. In 1664, Gasparo Alveri systematically recorded seventy-four inscriptions, but after the work only seven were left.
In 1873, the convent was expropriated by the Italian government, along with most others in the city, but the Spanish interest in the property led it to be deeded to the Crown of Spain in 1876. A project to turn the friary into an annexe of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of St Ferdinand (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando) was realized in 1881. This is now the Accademia di Spagna a Roma.
The process of conversion entailed the deconsecration of the little church of Sant'Antonio di Padova in Montorio.
In 1891 the Reformed friars were subsumed into the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), which continues to have charge of the church.
The current titular of the church is Cardinal James Francis Stafford, archbishop emeritus of Denver in the United States.
The church has a special place in the history of Ireland, and has been the focus of interest in recent years.
The connection began with the Flight of the Earls in 1607, when Earl Hugh O'Neill of Tyrone (1540-1616), Rory O'Donnell of Tyrconnell and about ninety followers went into exile from Ulster in Ireland and eventually ended up in Rome. This marked the final and definitive collapse of resistence to the Tudor conquest of Ireland, and left the country under the control of the Protestant British for the next three hundred years.
The two earls, as well as the son of Hugh who was Hugh O'Neill, Baron of Dungannon (born 1562), Cathbarr O'Donnell brother of Rory and also two followers for certain were buried in a vault in the church. It s thought that a further four followers of the earls also came to rest here, and another Irish expatriate buried here later was Eugene Matthews, Archbishop of Dublin who died in 1623.
The elder Hugh died in 1616, his son in 1609 and Rory in 1608. These three were provided with ornate marble floor slabs. When the floor was relaid in the 19th century, apparently the Irish Dominicans at San Clemente intervened and managed to save two of them. The elder Hugh lost his, but a memorial slab was provided in 1989.
In 2007, investigations were made to try and locate the burials. Unfortunately, in the 19th century restoration the friars had cleared out some burial vaults for re-use, and dumped the bones and bits they had gathered in others. The former Irish burial vault had been leased to a family called Azzurri, and there were no identifiable sign of any Irish remains.
Layout and fabricEdit
Structurally, the church is a long, high rectangular edifice under a single pitched and tiled roof, with an attached polygonal apse which has its roof tiled in sectors. The division of the interior into nave, transept and sanctuary is not very obvious from the outside, but what you can see on the left hand side (the right hand side is occupied by the Tempietto cloister) is that the church has external side chapels of different sizes leading off the nave. There are four of these on each side, all small on the right but with two large ones on the left. The transept ends form two segmental apses beyond these nave chapels.
The fabric is in brick, which is rendered, except for the façade which is in travertine limestone.
The campanile was seriously damaged in the siege of Rome in 1849, but rebuilt in its original form in 1851. It is a tower insterted into the right hand wall of the presbyterium, beyond the transept apse on that side.
The fabric is brick, rendered in greyish stucco which is now in a bad state. The first structural storey is from the ground to a stone cornice just above the roofline of the church, and then comes a second low storey with blank walls and topped by a second cornice. Above this is the bellchamber, with an arched soundhole on each face having stone Doric imposts and keystone. Above is a full entablature with a third cornice, resting on the kestones, and finally a tall pyramidal cap with a ball finial now topped by a metal cross. The angle of the pyramid is so steep that it almost amounts to a spire.
The Renaissance façade is attributed to the school of Andrea Bregno or to Meo del Caprina, but there is no way of deciding the authorship unless someone discovers documentation.
It is preceded by a twin transverse stairway, built in 1605 and leading to a small patio in front of the single entrance. The solid balustrade of this is in rendered brick, but it displays four squat limestone blind pilasters. In the middle are two tablets declaring the 1605 restoration paid for by King Philip of Spain; the lower one has an ornate Baroque frame.
The actual façade is very simple, in high-quality limestone ashlar. There are two storeys, separated by a projecting cornice and with the second storey slightly lower. The corners of the first storey are occupied by a pair of thin blind pilasters, with no capitals but with pedestals.
The entrance has a strongly molded grey-veined marble doorcase with a heraldic shield within a wreath on the lintel. Above the lintel is a raised floating cornice embellished with egg-and-dart decoration, over a panel with vegetative decoration in relief. Above the cornice is a dedicatory inscription on a tablet with a molded frame, and above this is the royal coat-of-arms of Spain in relief.
The second storey has a pair of Corinthian pilasters at the corners, supporting a crowning triangular pediment with the Spanish royal coat-of-arms in its tympanum. In the centre of this storey is a rather small rose window in the Gothic style, having eight mullions. The raised frame has beading.
The 16th century convent buildings survive to the north of the church, albeit much altered especially in the 19th century.
There are now two cloisters. The first, southern one is next to the church on its right hand side, and contains the Tempietto. This only has an arcaded walkway on its entrance side, to the right of the church façade. The other three walls have blind arcading.
The northern, second one has a two-storey arcade on all four sides, and is the centre of the complex.
There used to be a third cloister attached to the west side of the western range of the main cloister, with wings to north and south (the latter having an arcade), and a view out into the convent garden to the west. The southern wing of this cloister has been demolished after being virtually destroyed in 1849, but the garden mostly survives intact.
In the first cloister of the former Franciscan friary you will find the Tempietto, a chapel dedicated to the martyrdom of St Peter the Apostle. Its full correct name is the Cappella della Crocifissione di San Pietro Apostolo, but everybody refers to it by its nickname of "Little Temple".
It was built here because of the legend that this was the site of St Peter's martyrdom, but this myth has long since been abandoned.
Bramante was commissioned by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to build it in 1500, and he began work in 1502 or 1503. The completion date was 1509 for the edifice, and 1512 for the interior decoration. The building is inspired by ancient Graeco-Roman architecture, and is "a simple, perfectly proportioned miniature Classical temple, the first true Renaissance building in Rome". As a result it has a very high profile in the architectural sub-culture, and gets many discerning visitors.
St Ignatius of Loyola often came here to celebrate Mass, but the Tempietto is not of much devotional interest nowadays.
There have been restorations in the 17th century, when the crypt stairs were provided, and in the early 20th century when the dome was sheathed in lead. It was tiled beforehand.
In Classical architectural terms the edifice is a peripteral tholos, which means that it has a centralcylindrical room or cella with a dome on top, surrounded by a colonnade. Here, the colonnade has sixteen Doric columns on a ring plinth, itself elevated on three ring steps. The steps are interrupted round the back by a solid balustrade and some railings, which protect the drop into the area occupied by the stairs down into the crypt.
The columns have square imposts on their capitals and support a full entablature. This has a frieze which is decorated by alternate metopes and triglyphs, the former bearing Christian symbols. Tassels hang below the triglyphs into the architrave. The ambulatory of the colonnade is flat-roofed, and the roofline is guarded by a continuous balustrade with pinched balusters which stand on the cornice.
The cella has Doric pilasters on its external wall, mirroring the columns. Three of the cardinal points have rectangular doorways (the fourth is occupied by the altar), the diagonal points have windows and the other wall sections have eight round-headed niches with scallop shells in their conchs. The main doorway is large than the other two, is accessed by steps inserted into the ring plinth, and has a molded marble doorcase with a floating cornice. A dedicatory inscription on a rectangular tablet is above the latter.
The flat ceiling of the ambulatory is coffered, with rosettes.
The second storey, above the colonnade, amounts to the drum of the dome. It has sixteen blind pilasters (no capitals). edged with double molding. These support an entablature without an architrave, but with modillions (little brackets) on its cornice. Above the cornice is a very low attic plinth on which the hemispherical lead dome sits. This has a stone finial which is intricately decorated with heraldic shields and topped with a ball, the stonework here has eroded.
The exterior of the second storey has four windows at the cardinal points (the one over the entrance has heraldic stained glass). Four rectangular niches are at the diagonal points, and eight round-headed niches matching those below.
On the entablature of this storey over the entrance is a very ornate shield of the kings of Spain.
The Tempietto has two storeys internally, the upper one being the actual chapel and the lower one being the crypt. These have separate entrances, the one to the crypt being round the back.The chapel has eight Doric pilasters flanking the four windows, and these support an entablature with triglyphs on its frieze. Above the cornice is the dome drum, with four windows and four rectangular niches. The dome itself has eight wide ribs arranged to give a Maltese cross effect, with the background in blue with golden stars. It sits on a second cornice.
The four windows have arched niches above them which contain statues of the Evangelists. Two of these are topped by decayed fresco labels giving their names, which are in blue and dark red (the rest of the interior is in grey render). The altar has a statue of St Peter in an apsidal niche with a scalloped conch, within a double Doric archway (one archway set within the other).
The plinth of the statue has a bas-relief of the Crucifixion of St Peter, featuring a naked soldier with a prominent bare behind.
The sculptures are allegedly 17th century, by Giovanni Francesco Rossi.
The floor is Cosmatesque, a style which in the early 16th century was enjoying a revival in Rome. Note the aperture looking down into the crypt, which is part of the pattern. This seems to have been a devotional feature, as the corresponding hole in the crypt floor was taken to be the exact site of the crucifixion.
The crypt is now accessed by stairs round the back, but apparently was only accessible by ladder when the Tempietto was originally built. Unfortunately it is not accessible to visitors, but you can look through the doorway.
It is much more richly decorated than the main chapel. The flooris laid geometrically in polychrome marble, and the wall is revetted in polychrome in an ancient Roman style. There is richly detailed stucco work saucer-domed ceiling, in monochrome with figurative medallions and panels as well as much vine-scrolling. This work also covers the walls flanking the entrance, over which is a dedicatory inscription and a bas-relief of Our Lady with Franciscan saints.
The altar has a pair of grey marble Doric columns supporting a horizontal cornice, and contains a small statue of what looks like St Peter. The altar frontal is edged with geometric pietra dura work around a dedicatory inscription.
The central hole in the floor, the putative site of the crucifixion of St Peter, doubles as a sump to get rid of rainwater draining into here.
The nave has no aisles, but has four chapels off each side. These are entered through archways separated by tall Composite pilasters which look as if they are revetted in red marble (actually paint). These support an entablature, which has posts above the pilaster capitals and from which springs the ceiling vault.
The spectacular nave ceiling is structurally a cross-vault of two bays. However, it has been very richly decorated in monochrome stucco, with the design focusing on a large lozenge-shaped central panel formed by suppressing the transverse rib between the two bays that you would expect normally. This contains a cardinal's coat-of-arms, in a wreath surrounded by vine-scrolls and angels, while the side panels have wreaths containing winged putto's heads.
This stucco work is by Francesco Fontana, early 18th century.
The transept has a saucer cupola with integrated pendentives, and is coffered in lozenges containing rosettes. The coffering shrinks towards the central boss.
The crossing arch and sanctuary triumphal arch are identically designed. Each begins with tripletted pilasters with posts in the entablature above, and unusually above the posts are not the archivolt springers but a second pair of very dumpy tripletted pilasters from which the archivolts actually spring.
Just in front of the sanctuary rail, to the left, are two surviving tomb slabs of the Irish earls. These may well be covered in carpet, especially if a wedding is due. It used to be that you could ask a sacristan or priest to have the carpet lifted for you to view them, but such courtesies for casual visitors to Roman churches are now mostly in the past. Those seriously interested should make arrangements beforehand to avoid disappointment -contact details are here.
To be found is a modern commemorative slab to Hugh O'Neill, exiled Earl of Tyrone (1540-1616), and the two original 17th century marble memorial slabs to his son Hugh (born 1562), Baron of Dungannon and to Rory or Ruari, Earl of Tyrconnell.
The sanctuary has a single bay, and is extended by a five-sided polygonal apse which used to be the choir of the friars. This now contains the church organ.
This part of the church is 19th century, having had to be rebuilt after 1849. There is now no altar rail, and the high altar has no aedicule or altarpiece. It has polychrome marble revetting, and on the frontal is the monogram of Our Lady in gilded bronze, flanked by a pair of lilies in the same metal. The tabernacle on the altar is a good example of late neo-Classicism, being in the form of a miniature ancient triumphal arch.
The two large statues of angels on pedestals flanking the altar are 19th century, by rumour purchased rather than sculpted-to-order. To the sides of the altar are the two entrances to the choir, usually kept curtained. Over these are four bronze busts of apostles on pedestals.
The choir apse has two large windows, and in between these is a copy of the Crucifixion of St Peter by Guido Reni, executed by Vincenzo Camuccini. This replaced the Transfiguration by Raphael, which was taken to the Vatican Museums after its return by the French in 1809.
The cross-vault of the sanctuary bay and the apse conch are stuccoed to match the nave ceiling. The walls are painted to resemble stucco decorations and polychrome marble.
Below the altar are apparently buried the mortal remains of Beatrice Cenci, who was executed for the murder of her grossly abusive father in 1599. There is no memorial to her here. In fact, there seems to be some confusion as to where she was actually buried; the fourth chapel on the right is also mentioned.
The chapels are described in anticlockwise order, beginning to the right of the entrance.
Memorial to Antonio Massa
To the left of the entrance is a monument to Antonio Massa, 1568 by Giovanni Antonio Dosio. It has a good portrait bust, within a tondo supported by two seated putti. There are four Corinthian columns in red marble and two blank tablets in the same material, but for some reason the epitaph is lost. At the bottom is a charming relief of a pile of books, with an inkwell and hourglass.
Chapel of the Flagellation
The first chapel on the right contains a famous picture depicting The Scourging of Christ by Sebastiano del Piombo, dated 1518. This is not actually a fresco, as it is painted in oils upon the wall (not easy, as chemicals in the wall could have reacted with the oil used and turned it black). Piombo was also resposible for the work in the conch, depicting The Transfiguration of Christ, and also for the depictions of two saints, SS Francis and Peter.
It is thought that Piombo was inspired by Michelangelo.
Chapel of the Madonna of the Letter
In the second chapel on the right hand side you will find the icon of Our Lady of the Letter by Niccolò Circignani, Il Pomarancio about 1550. She is called La Madonna della Lettera because she is holding one.
This picture was originally in an open-air shrine (madonnella) in a street in Trastevere, until it was brought here on the orders of Pope Clement XI in 1714. Unfortunately, its time in the open air was not good for its preservation. The apse wall around it is apparently revetted in red marble (unless this is fake again), and bears two cut-out marble angels in shallow relief looking like two flying ducks.
In the conch of the apse is The Coronation of Our Lady in Heaven by Baldassare Peruzzi, a fine work and not to be overlooked. He also did the two allegorical Virtues over the arch.
Chapel of the Presentation
In the third chapel on the right hand side are three paintings by Michelangelo Cerruti: The Presentation in the Temple which is the altarpiece, The Immaculate Conception and The Annunciation. The aedicule has a pair of red marble Corinthian columns supporting a triangular pediment. The conch of the arch is blank, but over the arch are Sibyls by Peruzzi.
Chapel of the Crucifix
The fourth "chapel" on the right is dedicated to the Crucifix, but actually contains a side entrance. The crucifix is in the apse conch above, and below it are frescoes of Our Lady and St John making a Calvary. To the left is a memorial to Valentino Tognino, with his heraldry in fresco on the wall above.
Chapel of St Paul the Apostle
The fifth chapel on the right is the right hand arm of the transept, and is the Cappella del Monte. It is a semi-circular apse, matching the one opposite. The dedication is to St Paul the Apostle.
The chapel was fitted out by Giorgio Vasari, 1552 but the actual altar aedicule was apparently designed by Giulio Mazzoni. It is a Classically correct piece, in white marble with a pair of Ionic columns supporting a segmental pediment. The altarpiece by Vasari shows The Conversion of St Paul.
To the sides are memorials to Antonio and Fabiano del Monte, in the form of reclining effigies on sarcophagi which imitate ancient Etruscan funerary monuments. Above these statues of allegories of Justice and Religion, in rectangular niches with pediments. All these sculptures are by Bartolomeo Ammannati.
The apse conch is richly decorated with stucco and frescoes, and prophets sit about in a fresco above the arch. The balustrade enclosing the chapel is great fun, as it features a gathering of eight marble putti in front of the balusters, accompanying two bas-relief cameo portraits of a man and woman.
Chapel of St John the Baptist
The fifth chapel on the left, occupying the opposite arm of the transept, is dedicated to St John the Baptist and is the Cappella Ricci. It is a semi-circular apse as well, and was fitted out by Daniele da Volterra who sensibly reflected Vasari's work opposite.
The altar aedicule is in white marble (except for polychrome strips above the table), with a pair of ribbed Ionic columns supporting a segmental pediment and containing an altarpiece by Volterra depicting The Baptism of Christ.
In a pair of rectangular niches with triangular pediments flanking the aedicule are statues of SS Peter and Paul by Leonardo Sormani. Below these are two memorials to members of the Ricci family, in the form of sarcophagi.
The chapel balustrades with putti match the chapel opposite, except instead of cameo portraits there is the shield of the family.
Don't forget to look up here as well. The lunette between the crossing vault and the chapel arch also has a fresco, and the semi-dome of the chapel itself is again richly decorated with stucco and fresco work. Further frescoes of saints are on the arch pilasters. Unfortunately, the frescoes have not kept well. They have been attributed to one Leonardo Milanese who was of the school of Volterra.
Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows
The fourth chapel on the left is the Chapel of the Pietà, and is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. It is one of two large chapels off the left hand side of the nave, and is a cube with a proper hemispherical dome having a lantern. Inside, corner piers supporting the dome make the floor area an irregular octagon.
It contains very good paintings, and the interior is covered with excellent intricate stucco work including a cast of heavenly beings hanging about. The altar aedicule is more elaborate than those of the other chapels, having a pair of black marble Composite columns supporting fragments of a split segmental pediment, into which is inserted a fantastically framed tablet with its own triangular pediment
The altarpiece is The Deposition, 1617 by Dirck van Baburen, who also possibly executed the side wall frescoes depicting The Presentation of Our Lady and The Veil of Veronica. The former is an unusual composition, showing Our Lady as a young girl debating with the Temple scribes at Jerusalem over scriptural texts in Hebrew. The latter depicts the legend that St Veronica wiped the face of Christ carrying the Cross, and the cloth was left with a portrait.
Baburen was of the school of Caravaggio, and this certainly shows in the altarpiece.
The lunettes of the side walls have frescoes by David de Haen, another disciple of Caravaggio. They depict Christ in Gethsemane, and The Mocking of Christ.
The stucco work is attributed to Giulio Mazzoni, and is certainly good enough to be by him. It is all in monochrome. The interior of the dome has very wide, intricately decorated ribs around a widely framed oculus lantern, all inhabited by little putti. Over the entrance arch are two stucco angels holding the Cross and the Pillar of Flagellation, and the arch intrados has stucco reliefs of saints.
Chapel of St Anne
The third chapel on the left is dedicated to St Anne, the mother of Our Lady. The aedicule has a pair of black marble Corinthian columns supporting a segmental pediment with modillions. The altarpiece is a painting of St Anne enthroned with the Virgin and the Holy Child, attributed to Antoniazzo Romano. The depiction of St Anne holding Our Lady, the latter in turn holding the Christ-child, was a popular mediaeval iconographic image.
The side frescoes depict The Presentation of Christ at the Temple on the left, and St John Points Out the Lamb of God on the right. The conch of the vault has God the Father by Antoniazzo.
The pilasters of the arch have richly detailed pietra dura work in coloured stones, including bunches of roses. Above the arch is a fresco of two prophets enthroned and holding scrolls, with a typical early Renaissance landscape background containing etiolated trees.
The second chapel on the left is the Cappella Raymondi, and is dedicated to St Francis of Assisi It was built by Bernini in 1640 for Marcello Raymondi, a Genoese nobleman. It is the other one of the two large chapels on the left hand side of the nave, and inside has a single bay with a barrel vault followed by an apse. However, if you look at it outside you will see that it is structurally on a rectangular plan with a slightly curved back wall. There is a web-page on it by "Romeartlover" here.
The aedicule in the apse is in white marble, and has a pair of ribbed Ionic columns supporting a coved (concave) segmental pediment with vine-scrolls in its frieze and a pair of winged putto's heads in its pediment. The altarpiece is a bas-relief sculpture of The Ecstasy of St Francis, by Francesco Baratta, which is lit by two carefully placed side windows.
The entablature of the aedicule is continued along the wall of the apse and out to the entrance archway. It forms posts over semi-columns which support the archivolts of the entrance arch and the apse triumphal arch, the semi-columns being in the same style as the aedicule columns.
The aedicule plinth is continued on the side walls in the same way, as a frieze with roses and small birds in relief.
The ceiling vault is in two sections, a cross-vault and an apse conch. The former shows The Apotheosis of St Francis in colour, and two medallions in monochrome showing scenes from his life. A further three monochrome medallions are in the conch.
The side walls have two charming marble memorials, similar in design. Each has a portrait bust in a round-headed niche, with the family coat-of-arms above. Below is a plinth with a pair of putti as weepers, and below that is a sarcophagus. On the side of the sarcophagus is a delightful relief scene of the Resurrection of the Dead, with lively skeletons emerging from their graves. The left hand memorial is to Francesco Raymondi, who is shown reading a book, and the right hand one is to Girolamo Raymondi who is shown turned to look welcomingly towards any visitor entering the chapel, hoping that you will pray for his soul.
The monuments are by Andrea Bolgi.
Chapel of the Stigmata
The first chapel on the left hand side is dedicated to the Stigmata of St Francis. There is only a very simple table altar in this small apsidal chapel, but the apse wall and conch have fresco paintings by Giovanni de' Vecchi. St Francis Receiving the Stigmata takes up the entire apse wall, flanked by depictions of SS Nicholas and Catherine of Alexandria, while The Funeral of Cardinal Dolera is in the conch. Cardinal Clemente Dolera had died in retirement at the convent in 1568, but was buried in Santa Maria in Aracoeli.
These frescoes were executed in 1594. The spandrels of the arch are occupied by another fresco featuring two female allegorical figures, one of them holding an icosahedron.
Monument of Giuliano MaffeiEdit
Just by the entrance on the left hand side is a memorial to archbishop Giuliano Maffei, or Giuliano da Volterra because he was born there. He died in 1505, and the memorial was erected by his friend Cardinal Marco Vigerio della Rovere.
This is a fine Renaissance monument, containing a recumbent effigy on a sarcophagus within an arched niche, which also contains sculptures of the Madonna and Child with SS Anthony of Padua and Bernardine of Siena, portrayed in a lively manner.
The church is open daily from 8:30 to 12:00. (Church website.)
There is a brief afternoon opening Monday to Friday only from 15:00 to 16:00, except on solemn feasts.
However, from 10:00 there is liable to be a wedding being celebrated in the church -so you are advised to make an early morning visit.
Another caveat -it has been noticed in recent years that the summer afternoon opening has been 16:00 to 18:00, but the church website does not seem to mention this.
The best way to visit is to walk up the stairs from the Vicolo del Cedro in Trastevere, turn left on the road, go past the junction and then up the ramp on the right. You pass a set of Stations of the Cross on the latter.
The Tempietto has different opening times. The following is from an unofficial source:
Open Tuesday to Saturday,
9:30 to 12:30, 14:00 to 16:30 (16:00 to 18:00 summer).
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Mass is celebrated on Sundays at 8:00 and 12:00.
Other liturgical and sacramental celebrations are advertised on the church's website here.