San Stanislao alle Botteghe Oscure is one of the two national churches of Poland, at Via delle Botteghe Oscure 15 in the rione Sant'Angelo. Picture of the church at Wikimedia Commons here.
The other national church is Resurrezione de Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo dei Polacchi.
The dedication is to St Stanislaus, martyr and patron of Poland. An unofficial name, often used in the sources, is San Stanislao dei Polacchi. You may find it referred to as Santissimo Salvatore e San Stanislao in older sources, and this is the name inscribed on the façade.
The Polish name is Kościół Swietego Stanisława w Rzymie.
The first church here was dedicated to Christ the Saviour, and is first mentioned in a document from 1174 found in the archive of Santa Prassede. There it is called Sancti Salvatoris Pensilis de Surraca, and subsequently was known by one or other of these two names. Pensilis, alternatively Pesulis or Pesoli, is of uncertain meaning. Surraca or Sorraca is thought to have been a local family of note.
The church was one of those founded at the end of the Dark Ages, when the large parishes of the tituli were broken up to make many small ones in the then built-up area. The circumstances of the foundation are completely unknown.
The late 19th century sources mention an epigraph kept at the so-called Palazzo Busiri in the Via Aurora, which commemorated a rebuilding of the church in 1285 by one referred to as Venerabilum Hieronimum, episcopum Prenestinum. Has anybody seen this recently? This edifice is now an apartment block.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the church began to be listed as Sancti Salvatoris de Apothecis Obscuris or Super Arcum Obscurum ("dark shops" or "dark arch). Former commentations speculated that this was because the site was in the arcades supporting the terraces of the Circus Flaminius, but this depended on an erroneous understanding of the location of the circus. It was actually further south. The site of the church is by the former eastern enclosure wall of the Theatre of Balbus, better known nowadays as the Crypta Balbi.
Foundation of Polish hospiceEdit
The parish must have failed in the 16th century, because Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) granted the church to the Polish Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius. His Latinized name is more familiar outside Poland, but his actual name was Stanisław Hozjusz.
He was in Rome during the Jubilee year of 1575, and was struck by how the Polish pilgrims had nowhere of their own to stay. So he initiated a project to found a hospice complex for Polish pilgrims and expatriates in Rome, and was granted the derelict church in 1578. Immediate financial assistance came from King Stefan Batory and his wife, Queen Anna Jagiełłonka to build the hospice and rebuild the church. Hosius died only a year later, but his secretary Stanisław Reszka took over and the church was finished in 1580 according to the inscription on the façade. The complex was completed in 1591. The consecration of the rebuilt church was in that year, when it was rededicated to St Stanislaus. The consecrator was Cardinal Jerzy Radziwiłł, bishop of Cracow, who is buried in the Gesù nearby.
18th century rebuildingEdit
The church was completely rebuilt from 1729 to 1735, the architect of the fabric being Francesco Ferrari and the supervisor of the interior decoration, Ignazio Brocchi. The hospital was also rebuilt, and the overall project was completed in 1757 although some of the decorative details in the church took longer. This project was sponsored by King Stanisław August Poniatowski who, in the event, was the last king of Poland. He appointed the bishops of Cracow as patrons, which proved important later.
The Poles only enjoyed their independence for a further thirty-eight years, for the Third Partition of Poland distributed their territory among their three more powerful neighbours of Russia, Prussia and Austria.
When the French took over Rome, they ejected the remaining Poles from the complex and turned it into an army barracks. Then, at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Tsar of Russia was given the title of King of Poland. The Papal States were also restored, but the Holy Alliance that then dominated mainland Europe was based on a strict legalistic understanding of the rights of rulers.
This meant that the church and complex passed into the possession of the Russian government. This converted it into the "Imperial Hospice of St Stanislaus for Pilgrims of the Russian Nation" (Ospizio Imperiale di San Stanislao per Pellegrini della Nazione Russa). According to the Poles, the church was used for Russian Orthodox liturgies and most of the sacred vessels and vestments were sold on by the administrator. The latter is believable, but the former needs evidence. It was illegal for non-Catholic Christian groups to worship publicly in Rome before 1870, although the Russian Orthodox almost certainly held private liturgical functions in the hospice.
The Russian government's position was that the complex was for all subjects of the Russian Empire, including Poles. However, nationalist Poles found this offensive and the result was the foundation of the church of Resurrezione de Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo dei Polacchi.
The Poles and Russians seriously did not get on in the 19th century, and the Pan-Slav movement did not help. Some Russians at the time claimed that the Poles were Germanized Slavs who needed to rediscover their ancestry by becoming West Russians, while some Poles replied that the Russians were Mongolized Slavs who needed someone to order them to drop their trousers before sitting on the toilet. The animosity led to the neglect and decay of both church and hospice.
The so-called Second Polish Republic was established in 1918 after the collapse of the Russian Empire, and successfully laid claim to the hospice and church. The first Polish priest in charge, Józef Florczak, began a campaign to restore the seriously dillapidated complex. This was continued by his successor, Stanisław Janasik, but the latter had to resolve uncertainty over the ownership of the property in a court case. The contending parties were the government of Poland and the diocese of Cracow, and judgment was made for the latter in 1928.
In 1948, the hospice was made the Pastoral Centre for the Polish Diaspora (Centralny Ośrodek Duszpasterstwa Emigracyjnego i Polonijnego). This was partly in response to the Communist takeover of the mother country, and the Society of Christ Fathers for Poles Living Abroad was later put in charge.
The hospice now flourishes, and the Christ Fathers now (2014) have thirteen priests in Rome. However, their headquarters are now at Via Piccio Pier Ruggero 55/B which is near Monte Mario.
Because the church is too small, the outreach to Polish expatriates and pilgrims in Rome now also includes events and liturgies at Sant'Alfonso de'Liguori all'Esquilino. Details of these (in Polish) are here.
Layout and fabricEdit
This is a small church, with a nave of three bays and a rectangular sanctuary with a segmental apse. There are no external side chapels. The small hospice complex occupies buildings to both sides of the the church, and you can see the crowned eagle of royal Poland carved on the frontages.
The exterior side walls abut on neighbouring buildings, and are invisible from the street. The have has a pitched and tiled roof which is lower than the façade, the sanctuary has a lower pitched and tiled roof and the apse also has its own roof lower still.
There is a very small campanile over the far right hand side of the nave, but this is invisible from the ground.
The 18th century façade is simple, with two storeys each having four pilasters. The fabric is rendered in light grey, with architectural details in travertine limestone. The first storey pilasters are Doric, and support an entablature which has a dedicatory inscription on the frieze: Templum S[ancti] Salvatoris et S[ancti] Stanislai, Hospit[ium] nat[ionis] Polonor[u]m MDLXXX.
The central portion of the façade, in between the inner pair of pilasters, is recessed slightly and so these two pilasters are doubletted at the corners thus created. The single entrance has a molded doorcase, over which is a blank framed tablet flanked by a pair of triglyphs with tassels. Above this in turn is a triangular pediment.
The second storey has Corinthian pilasters, with the same doubletting. They support a triangular pediment with a blank tympanum, no part of which is recessed. There is a large rectangular central window, set deep in an archway with dished sides and archivolt. The former have fronded stucco decorations, the latter rosettes. The window is flanked by a pair of Doric pilasters with recessed panels containing stucco chains of little bells, and these support a pair of curlicued brackets which in turn support an entablature over the window. On this are two fragments of a segmental pediment, with parabolic curves and curlicued inner ends.
There is a small nave of three bays, the first of which is occupied by the organ gallery over the entrance. The other two have a side altar on each side, four in all, and these are inserted into shallow arched recesses in the thickness of the side walls.
These arches have molded archivolts with the intradoses decorated with diapering, springing from Doric imposts. They are flanked by Ionic pilasters supporting an entablature which runs around the church interior, and this has a molded architrave and a cornice decorated with egg-and-dart.
The impost and entablature pilasters, as well as the frieze of the entablature, are marbelled in a lemon yellow colour which dominates the church's interior decoration.
The ceiling has a barrel vault which springs from the entablature, and which has side windows in lunettes. The stucco decoration is rich. There is a central fresco panel by Ermenegildo Costantini, depicting The Apotheosis of St Stanislaus. This artist was of the school of Marco Benefial, and was one of the last exponents of the Baroque style of painting in Rome.
The organ gallery has a solid balustrade in white and gold, with outwardly curving side sections. The central part over the entrance is supported by a pair of Doric columns made to look like verde antico, with gilded capitals. The window behind the organ, the one in the centre of the façade, has modern stained glass showing the Madonna and Child.
The entrance itself is flanked by a pair of wall memorials. That to Eustachy Adam Słuzka is to the right, and that to Marcin Katlewski is to the left.
The rectangular sanctuary has a segmental apse, which is entered through a high triumphal arch. The archivolt of this, of several orders of molding, springs from the interior entablature and is fitted under the curve of the nave vault. It is supported by a pair of piers in the same style as the nave pilasters, which have accompanying half-pilasters tucked into the corners.
The barrel vault is embellished with gilded stucco, and has a central oval tondo showing God the Father by Costantini again.
The aedicule of the main altar has two high Corinthian columns in what looks like green verde antico but is not, and these support an entablature with a frieze in the same material. Above is a split segmental pediment, with an angel and putto supporting a cross in the gap.
The altarpiece depicts Christ with SS Stanislaus, Adalbert and Hyacinth, and is by Antiveduto Grammatica. It is considered to be one of his best works. The tablet that Christ carries bears a Greek inscription, and this is thought to have been added by the Russians in the late 19th century. This altar is dedicated to Christ the Saviour, which explains why St Stanislaus has his own chapel in the church.
The side walls have a pair of tablets advertising the rebuilding of the church by Hosius, and the donation of sacred vessels by Queen Anna Jagiełłonka (the Russians sold or otherwise disposed of the latter).
The window above the altar has more modern stained glass, which also shows the Madonna and Child.
The four side chapels are described anticlockwise, beginning from the right.
The first chapel on the right is dedicated to St Casimir, and the altarpiece showing The Miracle of St Casimir is by Franciszek Smuglewicz. He was to have an important and influential career as an artist both in Poland and in Lithuania.
The second chapel on the right is dedicated to St Stanislaus, and the altarpiece showing St Stanislaus Raising Piotrowin From the Dead is by Tadeusz Kuntze who is often known as Taddeo Polacco in Italy. The little icon on the altar is a copy of the famous Black Madonna of Czestochowa.
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to Queen St Jadwiga. The altarpiece showing St Jadwiga Adoring a Crucifix is by Szymon Czechowicz 1725. On the pier to the right is a neo-Classical memorial to the noted mosaicist Giacomo Raffaelli, 1836; the sculptor is unknown. Info.Roma seems to think that Raffaelli did it himself.
The first chapel on the left is dedicated to St John of Kenty. The altarpiece showing him giving his possessions to poor people is by Salvatore Monosilio from Sicily, of the school of Sebastiano Conca. The little picture on the altar shows St Stanislaus Kostka receiving Communion from an angel, and is thought to be by Czechowicz.
The church is open (unofficial source):
Weekdays 6:30 to "7:30" (presumably after 7:15 Mass), 17:00 to 19:00.
Sunday "7:00" (might be earlier) to 13:00, 17:00 to 20:00.
Note the short and very early morning opening on weekdays.
The church stands right on the street and there is no vestibule, so it has been the practice to keep the entrance door closed during opening hours. This makes the church look locked up, so give the door a push to see if it is open.
Masses are celebrated, according to the church's website:
Weekdays 7:15, 18:30 (Saturday 18:00, first Mass of Sunday).
Sunday 7:15, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 18:00. The language used is Polish. Masses in Italian (or any other language) are not regularly celebrated.
These Masses can be well attended, and the church is small. You can sometimes see people standing in the street outside the door because the church is packed out. If you wish to attend Mass here, it is sensible to arrive early.
Church's website (in Polish, of course)
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