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San Salvatore in Campo

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San Salvatore in Campo is a 17th century confraternity church on the Piazza di San Salvatore in Campo, west of the Via Arenula in the rione Regola. The postal address is Via di San Salvatore in Campo 42. Picture of the church at Wikimedia Commons here.

The dedication is to Christ the Saviour (but see next section).


The church is in the possession of a diocesan confraternity which, according to the Diocesan website, has its headquarters here. Its full title is:

Arciconfraternita del Santissimo Sacramento e Congregazione di Maria Santissima sotto il Titolo della Neve (in San Salvatore in Campo).

However, since the last restoration in 2007 the church has been lent to a worshipping community of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church. This used to be part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, but separated when Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in 1993.

This church is part of the Oriental Orthodox communion. No Catholics should receive Communion here, even those of the Ethiopian rite. However, Ethiopian Orthodox expatriates may do so under the usual rules for communicating in their church. Please introduce yourself to the clergy before the celebration.

The Eritrean worshipping community has St Michael the Archangel as its patron, and refers to the church as San Michele.

It may be noted that the church has only been lent to the Eritreans, not donated. It remains a fully consecrated Catholic church. The Ethiopian Orthodox have their own worshipping community at Santi Gioacchino e Anna ai Monti.



According to Bl Ildephonsus Schuster writing in his Liber Sacramentorum 1923, the orginal name of this church was Sancti Salvatoris de Domno Campo. Schuster saw this as a reference to an abbot of the great Benedictine abbey of Farfa, active between 936 and 947 whose name actually was Campo. This is odd, because the man was a reprobate and plunderer who had allegedly conspired to poison his predecessor in order to loot the monastery's possessions. However, if he put his seal on the project to found a new church then it could have picked up his name regardless. The date is about right, as many small parish churches were being erected about this time (an enterprise virtually undocumented).

The abbey of Farfa had interests in Rome, and established a dependent monastery on the site of the Baths of Nero in this century. (Much later, this was to pass to the French to become the complex including San Luigi dei Francesi.)

Old churchEdit

The original building was not on the site of the present church, but was located on the other side of the Via di San Salvatore in Campo. Apparently it was a fairly substantial building, basilical with a central nave and aisles seprated by colonnaded arcades.

It occurs on the list of dependent parish churches attached to the basilica of San Lorenzo in Damaso, issued in 1186, and functioned as a parish church throughout the Middle Ages. The abbey of Farfa apparently kept possession, as the priest in charge at a visitation in 1566 said that the church belonged to it.

The same visitation included a rather rude remark about the parishioners, transcribed by Armellini in 1891:

Mi disse che quella parrocchia sono di 200 case, con gente assai vile e bassa e dishonesta, poichè vi sono assai meretricie et anno mescolato giudei.


In 1638 Pope Urban VIII ordered an extension of the Palazzo del Monte della Pietà, which entailed the demolition of the mediaeval church and its re-building on a different site to the east. It is surprising that the rebuilding took place, as the area was over-provided with parish churches even then.

The simple Baroque design was by Francesco Peparelli, who finished the project in 1640. Funding was provided by Cardinal Francesco Barberini.


The parish continued to function until 1823, when there was a major re-ordering of the parishes in the Centro storico. Many were suppressed, including this one. The church has been struggling to find a pastoral justification ever since.

The Arciconfraternita di Santa Maria della Neve (to use a shorter form of its name) took over after the parish priest moved out. It has leased the church out to various worshipping groups in the interim.

Between 1841 and 1856 the Missionaries of the Precious Blood were here, but the accommodation is inadequate for a convent and they established their headquarters at Santa Maria in Trivio instead. 

Apparently the church was closed owing to disrepair in 1887, but was reopened by 1903 when Diego Angeli listed it as functioning.

20th centuryEdit

In 1968, the church was used for a time by Una Voce which is an international umbrella organization of those seeking to preserve and promote traditional Roman liturgical forms in Latin. This undertook a restoration, but moved out in 1978.

At the beginning of the 1980's, the tenants were a group linked with the Neocatechumenal Way, the Centro Neocatecumenale "Servo di Javé".


Finally, at the end of the 20th century the edifice fell into serious disrepair and was effectively abandoned. Deconsecration was a real danger. However, there was a complete restoration which was completed in 2008.

From then, the expatriate Eritrean Orthodox community in Rome has made use of the building and it now probably sees congregations bigger that it has had since it was rebuilt.


Layout and fabricEdit

This is a small church with a single nave having three bays, and a shallow rectangular apse as a sanctuary. The nave has three side chambers to left and right, but only the central ones are chapels.

Because the site was constrained, the priest's accommodation is incorporated as a second storey over the façade, rather irregularly built.


The gable of the priest's house, with side chambers and a little gazebo, loom above the actual façade. The latter is effectively in two stories, but the elements are not rigidly separated.

The entrance door is topped by an oval tablet with a curlicued surround, giving the name of the church. Above this is a segmental pediment broken into two halves, and with small volutes on the top breaks. Within this is a triangular pediment with the top broken.

On either side of the entrance is a gigantic pilaster strip running up to the main triangular pediment, the latter being broken at the bottom and containing a faded fresco of Christ. The capitals of these pilasters are triglyphs with tassels. On the corners of the façade are two other pilasters, which run up to Doric imposts supporting gigantic double volutes, which form sweeps starting at posts flanking the main pediment. A horizontal frieze of the same specifications as the central pilasters runs across the façade below the imposts, and two narrower ones connect the imposts to the central imposts. The panels thus created have narrow frames.

Above the blank frieze mentioned is a large rectangular window, with a segmental pediment above a swag in relief.

The façade used to be painted in reddish orange with the architectural details in ochre, but the 2008 restoration has left it rendered in very pale ochre yellow with architectural details in white. The external links have photos of the church before and after the restoration.


Layout and fabricEdit

The problems that the church had since the suppression of its parish has led to the loss of most of the interior decoration and fittings.

The structure actually amounts to a central nave with aisles of three bays. However, the side aisles are divided into self-contained chapels by blocking walls running from four rectangular piers to the external side walls.

These four piers have Composite pilasters in shallow relief applied to their inner faces (these are doubletted), and on those looking into the two central side chapels. A pair of doubletted pilasters also flank the counterfaçade, and occupy the faces of the piers of the triumphal arch. These pilasters support an entablature which runs round the interior, and which has a cornice and architrave but no frieze. 

This entablature runs round the interiors of the central side chapels, but over the other four side spaces where it is supported by horizontal trabeations. Three archivolts spring from the entablature on each side, those over the central side chapels being the ends of the chapel barrel vaults and the other four containing windows. The nave ceiling has triangular lunettes over these windows, with ribs.

The overall colour scheme is now in white on the ceiling panels, dark grey on the vault ribs and light grey overall.

The counterfaçade has a coved (convex) gallery with a wooden balustrade painted grey and gilded ball finials.


The sanctuary barrel vault shelters a window with its top curved to fit the vault. The vault itself preserves some of its original 17th century decoration, albeit in a poor condition. It is in paintwork imitating intricate stucco, with three panels. The centre contains the monogram IHS in a glory, flanked by four winged putto's heads, and the side panels show putti with the Instruments of the Passion.

The apse wall contains other panels of putti with Instruments, also the Veil of Veronica.

The altar aedicule has a pair of doubletted Ionic pilasters in red marble, supporting a segmental pediment with a broken cornice. Inserted into the break, and intruding into the tympanum, is a stucco glory containing the Dove of the Holy Spirit with putti. Two more putti are on the pediment, holding up a cross.

The round-headed altarpiece depicts The Transfiguration of Christ, and is an anonymous 17th century copy of the famous work by Raphael.

Under the altar were enshrined the relics of one St Candidus, an alleged martyr associated with the Ursum Pileatum (see Santa Bibiana).

Side chapelsEdit

The four smaller side chambers have not been chapels since the parish was suppressed. One of them, probably the bottom left hand one, would have been the baptistry. The top right hand one used to contain a picture of the Madonna della Neve, patron of the confraternity, but this was taken to Santa Maria in Traspontina in 1887.

The two surviving chapels each has an identical elaborate altarpiece frame, with a segmental pediment over a winged putto's head and urn finials. The right hand one has an 18th century depiction of Our Lady with Saints. The left hand one has a gilded wooden cross over a false verde antico tondo. Here there used to be an unusual crucifix with a metal corpus of Christ with two nails for his feet (usually there is only one), but the corpus was stolen in 1986.

Eritrean artworksEdit

The Eritreans have provided several icons of their own which are interesting contemporary artworks in their own right. Also, they have set up a curtain for the sanctuary as is appropriate to their liturgical rite.


The church is open for liturgical celebrations (see below).

Shoes and sandals are not permitted to be worn in the church. Some of the regular worshippers bring their own special cloth slippers, but visitors need to remove their footwear at the door.


The Eucharist is celebrated:

Sundays 11:00 and 18:00,

Thursdays 17:20.

The liturgy is celebrated according to the Ethiopian rite which, together with the Coptic rite, derives from the ancient Alexandrian rite or "Liturgy of St Mark". This was used by the Christians in Egypt under the Roman Empire. The Ethiopian rite is sometimes called the Ge'ez rite, after the language originally used which is an ancestor of Amharic as spoken in Ethiopia (it has the same status as Latin in the Roman rite).  

However, for nationalistic reasons the Eritreans here prefer to refer to their rite as "Coptic-Alexandrian" -this despite major divergences from the Coptic rite used in Egypt. The language used seems to be Tigriña (this observation needs to be confirmed).

External linksEdit

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