Sant'Andrea delle Fratte is a minor basilica, as well as an early 16th century parish, titular and convent church. It is at Via di Sant'Andrea delle Fratte 1 in the rione Colonna, just to the south of the Piazza di Spagna. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia article here.
The dedication is to St Andrew the Apostle.
The first possible documentary evidence of a church here is from 1192, when a church called Sant'Andrea inter Hortos is mentioned. This name refers to the gardens (horti) of the Pincian Hill nearby, and unfortunately there is doubt that the name refers to a church on this site. Later in the Middle Ages we have references to Sant'Andrea in Pinciis and a Capo di Casa, (the latter means "edge of the city"), but the first time that the name Fratte is used is in the 15th century. It means literally "bushes" (frutex is Latin for bush), and seems to commemorate an overgrown area which might have been an abandoned piece of land, some shrubby garden or the facing slope of the Pincian hill when it was still wild (like the slope of the Aventine overlooking the river now).
The church was probably rebuilt (or newly built on this site) in the 15th century, when there is a hint in the records that an Augustinian nunnery was established here. Then it was for some time the national church of Scotland as an independent kingdom (St Andrew is Scotland's patron). After the Scottish Reformation in 1560 the Scots completely lost interest in it, and for a while it was taken over by a pious confraternity dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament. However it was given to the Order of Minim Friars in 1585, and they still serve the parish which was simultaneously created.
The Scots later obtained another national church, Sant'Andrea degli Scozzesi, which they have given up also, and the confraternity settled at Santi Andrea e Francesco da Paola delle Fratte across the street (now demolished).
17th century churchEdit
In 1604 the Minims began an ambitious project to rebuild the church while building themselves a monastery. Unfortunately the money that they had available was minimal, and ultimately the church was never finished. Much of the funding of the initial stages came from the Del Bufalo family, which had a palazzo nearby. The first plan was by Gaspare Guerra, but work stopped in 1612. Fifty years later, Francesco Borromini was commissioned by the Marchese Paolo del Bufalo to work on the church in the years 1653 to 1665. He was responsible for the apse, the distinctive dome and the campanile. After his death, work was continued by Mattia de Rossi. However, money ran out again before the façade was completed.
The composer Alessandro Scarlatti was married here in 1678.
The façade was only completed in 1826, with the help of a donation from Ercole Consalvi, who was Secretary of State to Pope Pius VII and attended the Congress of Vienna in 1815. As a memento he was presented with a valuable snuffbox, and he sold this to raise the donation. (Snuff was well-known as the prevalent vice of Roman clerics in the 19th century.)
In 1842, a young French Jew named Alphonse Ratisbonne had a sudden and unexpected vision of Our Lady at the church, which led him to convert to the Catholic Church (he had lapsed from the practice of Judaism previously). Together with his brother he went on to found the Congregation of Notre-Dame de Sion, a religious family of priests, lay brothers and sisters dedicated to the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. There is a chapel in the church dedicated to this moral miracle, and it is used for weekday Masses (note that the pews in the nave are oriented to face it).
The church was made titular by Pope John XXIII in 1960, with Paolo Marella as the first cardinal priest. The next to last cardinal was Thomas Joseph Winning, who was appointed in 1994 and died in 2001, while the present titular is Ennio Antonelli, who was created cardinal on 21 October 2003.
The church has a plan based on a Latin cross. There is a nave with three main chapels on each side, which were formed by inserting blocking walls into what would have been the aisles. The transept is short, not extending beyond the exterior walls of the chapels on each side. There is a central dome, and a short presbyterium with a semi-circular apse. The campanile is attached to the left hand side of this.
To the south of the church is the convent of the Minims, which is built against the right hand transept. It occupies four sides of a square cloister with internal arcades on each side. Domestic buildings surround the monastery entirely, so that the exterior is not easy to examine.
The building material used for the church is pink brick. Only the left hand side of the exterior is visible, as the other side is occupied by the convent, and this lies along the Via Capo le Case. Here you will see the nave wall, which is a plain brick wall with three large lunette windows which light the main side chapels. There is a fourth, smaller window for the entrance corner. The cornice at the roofline projects, and is dentillated.
This is fairly boring, but the dome and campanile are spectacular architecturally. They can best be seen from further up the slope of the Via Capo le Case. Both are the work of Borromini, and were left uncompleted in 1653. (Incidentally, the church you can see at the end of the street as you go up the slope is San Giuseppe a Capo le Case.)
The Marchese, who was paying for the work on the church, apparently wanted a standard elliptical dome which would have matched those familiar in the views of Rome, but Borromini wanted to have fun instead. What the nobleman thought of this is hinted at by the fact that the dome is in rough brick, and lacks the covering of brilliant white stucco which would have completed it. Obviously money was not made available for this. (Incidentally, there is no evidence from the brickwork that Borromini intended to use marble revetting to complete the work.)
The dome has a very high drum, and is formed from a cylinder having four arms on the plan of a superimposed Greek cross. Each arm has its outer face curved to match that of the cylinder, and its two sides coved or inwardly curved. This creates an overall playful curviness to the drum, typical of Borromini as an architect. The actual dome is a very shallow tiled saucer with four pitches. The ridgelines dividing these pitches run on to form the ridges of little pitched roofs covering the arms, and these rooflets are hipped.
Below the dome's roofline is a deep entablature which projects. It is supported by long attached columns, two up the corners of the arms and two tucked into the inner corners where the arms join the cylinder. Hence there are sixteen of these columns overall. The capitals have brick lugs sticking out of them, which indicates that they would have been in the Corinthian order if finished. in between the arms, the cylinder has four large, tall round-headed windows which light the interior of the dome, and each has a little canopy shaped like an inverted V.
Borromini's campanile is an absolute delight, and needs a pair of binoculars to do it justice. It has six separate storeys, of seriously differing heights and on a square plan. The first one is just blank brick wall, matching those of the nave and the end of the transept adjacent and ending with the same cornice as decorates them.
The second storey is bare brickwork like the dome, and is on a square. However, each corner of the square has a protruding arm recalling those of the dome. The first part of the storey is a very high plinth, then above that each arm is formed of a tall Corinthian column. The four columns support an entablature with a prominent projecting cornice. On each face of this storey is a large rectangular panel flanked by a pair of Doric columns supporting a fragment of entablature and a pediment. In a typical Borrominian touch, the pediment is broken at the top and the sides curled back.
The subsequent storeys have been finished in white. The third one is a rotunda on a plinth, with four pairs of Corinthinan columns. These are coupled, with small blank screen walls in between each pair. The columns support an entablature which forms a ring, and above this is a balustrade. In between each pair of columns is a rectangular soundhole. Binoculars will reveal that a human head is tucked into the side of each column capital.
The fourth storey is perhaps the most innovative. Four angel caryatids with wings folded about themselves support a cog-wheel entablature with projecting cornice. In between each pair of caryatids is a soundhole in the form of a small door, having a raised triangular pediment broken at its cornice by a horizontal elliptical tondo. Above this feature is a hanging swag.
The fifth storey has a plinth corresponding to the cog-wheel entablature below, and this plinth supports eight flaming torch finials (one on each cog). The storey itself is short and small, being a cylinder with four sweeping little buttresses supporting a shallow cornice in the shape of a circle with four rectangular protrusions. Between each pair of buttresses is a vertical elliptical soundhole.
The final, fantastic storey is formed of four curlicues brought together rather like four cobras raised and facing each other. They enclose a form shaped like an inverted truncated pyramid, but with the top and bottom edges curved. Each face of this form has the face of an ox, which is a reference to the family paying for the work (Del Bufalo). The curlicues support a spiky metal crown, and on top of all is a metal cross finial.
The façade is dignified, yet forgettable. It has two storeys, of brick with architectural details in stone or stucco. The brick of the second storey is pink, but that of the first storey is yellowish instead which forms an interesting contrast. The reason for this is that the first storey is 17th century, and the second 19th century.
This first storey has six brick Ionic pilasters with swagged capitals, and the section of the frontage bearing the inner four (corresponding to the width of the second storey) is brought forward slightly. As a result, the outer pair of these four pilasters is doubled at the corners of this section. The pilasters support an entablature with a blank frieze and a projecting cornice with modillions, which are little brackets at regular intervals. The entrance doorway has a raised segmental pediment supported by corbels, and over this is the shield of the Del Bufalo family.
The second storey sits on a plinth which contains five recessed rectangular panels, three on the protruding central section and two at the aisles. The middle one has a marble tablet bearing an inscription recording the completion of the façade. Above the plinth, four brick Corinthian pilasters support an entablature with a dentillated triangular pediment having a blank tympanum. There is a sweeping curve to this storey on each side, although without volutes, and on top of the pediment is a dumpy little square pillar bearing a metal cross finial.
The friary is south of the church, and has its main entrance just to the right of the façade. There is a large rectangular cloister, arcaded on all four sides, and the main friary buildings are arranged around three sides. There is another wing on top of the cloister arcade next to the church, where the right hand nave wall is the back wall of the arcade. The cloister garth is laid out as a nice garden with orange trees and cypresses, and is accessible from the church. Nobody seems to care if you eat the oranges falling from the trees. It is a very useful place to chill out if you get tired of the crowds and the passeggiata in the surrounding streets.
The cloister walks are internal to the monastery buildings, and have arcades with Doric columns. On the inner walls of the walks is a series of 17th century lunette frescoes of the life and miracles of St Francis of Paola, the founder of the Minims. These are well worth examining, despite having decayed. The artists were Francesco Cozza and Antonio Gherardi.
The south cloister range, opposite the church, has an attractive little Baroque bellcote above the clockface with a slightly incurved gable. It is flanked by a pair of ball finials. The bell in this (which has gone) would have regulated the internal timetable of the monastery, unlike the bells in the campanile which announced the public liturgies.
The central fountain in the garden has the form of a pile of mossy boulders. This is a sudans fountain, literally meaning "sweating", and the idea is that the trickle of water dampens the rocks and so cools down the surrounding air. The most famous ancient one of this type of Roman fountain was the Meta Sudans near the Colosseum.
The passage to the cloister from the church has 18th century memorials to two princes; one is to Lorenzo a nephew of a sultan of Morocco, 1739 and the other is to Nicola Simone di Bavaria, 1734
Layout and fabricEdit
The nave is barrel-vaulted, and has three main chapels on each side entered through high arches as well as a pair of little chapels tucked into the corners on either side of the entrance. As mentioned, the chapels are separated by blocking walls. The decoration is rich. Swagged Ionic pilasters separate the chapel arches, and these support a nave entablature with a prominent projecting dentillate cornice. The pilasters supporting the triumphal arch leading into the domed transept are Corinthian, and just before them are a pair of doorways with raised triangular pediments. The left hand one leads out to the Via Capo di Case, and the right hand one to the cloister.
The marble floor was paid for by Prince Alessandro Torlonia in 1830.
The dome with its pendentives were frescoed by by Pasquale Marini in the 17th century. The main fresco depicts an empyrean, with the Host of Heaven acclaiming the Assumption of Our Lady. The drum has eight fluted Doric pilasters separated by four round-headed windows, and is painted in a cool pale grey. This focuses attention on the fresco, which has the intention of giving the impression that you are gazing into heaven. Note the lack of a lantern.
The fresco in the apse conch, also by Marini, depicts The Feeding of the Five Thousand, with the boy having the original loaves and fishes being presented to Christ.
The three large paintings in the apse depict the Crucifixion of St Andrew, the Martyrdom of St Andrew and the Burial of St Andrew, and were painted by Giovanni Battista Leonardi, Lazzaro Baldi and Francesco Trevisani respectively. On the side walls above the doorways are St Andrew Being Shown the Cross to the left, and the Flagellation of St Andrew to the right, but Giovanni Antonio Grecolini.
A pair marble angels sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for the Ponte Sant'Angelo are placed either side of the entrance to the presbyterium. They are the only angels for that project that were made by him, since the ones now on the bridge were made by his pupils. Like the angels on the bridge, these two carry symbols of Our Lord's Passion; the one on the right has the titulus or the scroll, and the one on the left has the Crown of Thorns. They only came to the church in 1729, when they were donated by Bernini's family which had its residence in Rome nearby.
The high altar itself lacks a canopy, which is unusual. It is a rather heavy-looking piece in verde antico marble, with the frontal in veined red jasper. A modern altar allowing for Mass to be said facing the people has, rather incongruously, been erected immediately in front of it.
Unfortunately, the descriptions of the chapels online and in guidebooks are often confused and mistaken. Part of the reason for this is that there has been uncritical regurgitation of an 18th century description by Titi which was inaccurate when it was written.
You may notice that several of the chapels have a little painting of a popular saint or devotion on the altar, which does not relate to the actual dedication. This is common in Roman churches with an active pastoral ministry, where chapels are informally re-dedicated according to the expectations of the worshippers. Unfortunately, this often means that the actual altarpiece painting is neglected, dirty or badly lit.
The following description is anti-clockwise from the first chapel on the right.
Chapel of St John the BaptistEdit
The chapel in the near corner on the right hand side is dedicated to St John the Baptist and is the baptistery. The cover of the font is in the form of a wooden tempietto, painted by Jacques Courtois -Il Borgognone in 1674. On the wall hangs The Baptism of Christ by Ludovico Gimignani, with a painting by Marcantonio Belladonna to its right and one by Domenico Jacovacci to its left.
Just by the chapel entrance to the right is a memorial to 1752 to Livia del Grillo, sculpted by Francesco Queirolo, and to the left are memorials to Marianna Fischer and Margherita Fancelli Salandra, both of 1830.
Chapel of St Michael the ArchangelEdit
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, with an altarpiece by Ludovico Gimignani which was transferred to here when the original chapel of St Michael was converted to that of the Miraculous Madonna. This chapel here used to be dedicated to St Charles Borromeo, with an altarpiece of the saint by Francesco Cozza; the altarpieces have been confused.
The little picture on the altar is of St Rita of Cascia.
Chapel of St Francis de SalesEdit
There is a memorial to Cardinal Pier Luigi Carafa by Pietro Bracci (1700-73) on the left hand side wall; the drapery in yellow marble below the bust is very well done. On the opposite wall is the monument of Judith Falconnet (died 1856), with a white marble sculpture showing her lying on a sofa by Harriet Goddhue Hosmer. Other memorials are to Gioacchino Pessuti the mathematician, 1814, and Louis Veuillot, the "Emperor of Journalists", 1883.
The little picture on the altar is of Pope Pius X.
Chapel of the Minim BlessedsEdit
The chapel called the Cappella dei Beati del Primo Ordine dei Minimi is dedicated to two early beatified Minim friars, Gaspare de Bono and Nicola Saggio. The altarpiece featuring the beati with Our Lady is by Giuseppe Cades, whose parish church this was. The pictures on either side featuring St Rosalia show her with Christ, by Apollonio Nasini, and with Our Lady, by one "Orsola Noletti" allegedly.
The little picture on the altar is of St Maria Goretti.
Chapel of St Francis da PaolaEdit
The right hand transept chapel is dedicated to St Francis da Paola and was designed by Filippo Barigioni (1672-1753). The altarpiece of the saint is by Paris Nogari, and is older than the church. The gilded stucco angels holding the altarpiece are by Giovanni Battista Maini. The bow-fronted altar is richly decorated in polychrome marble.
Chapel of St AnneEdit
The left hand transept chapel is dedicated to St Anne, and is by Luigi Vanvitelli with alterations by Valadier. The altar is coved or concave, an interesting riposte to the bowed altar opposite. The altarpiece showing Our Lady with SS Anne and John the Baptist is by Giuseppe Bottani. There is a marble sculpture under the altar depicting a dying St Anne, by Giovanni Battista Maini in imitation of the Bernini sculpture of Ludovica Albertoni at San Francesco a Ripa. The sculptor was showing off his talent in carving rumpled cloth in marble.
The little picture on the altar is of the Sacred Heart .
The epitaph of the Swiss Neo-Classical painter Angelica Kaufmann (1741–1807), a central figure among the expatriate artists of the late 18th century in Rome, can be seen to the left of the side door leading to the street. With it is a memorial to the painter Friedrich Müller, 1825.
Chapel of St JosephEdit
The fourth chapel on the left is dedicated to St Joseph, and the altarpiece is by Francesco Cozza again. Here are memorials to the French painter Albert Henri Bertin, 1832, as well as to Marchese Paolo del Bufalo, 1819 by Andrea Giorgieri.
The little picture on the altar is of St Teresa of Lisieux.
Chapel of the Miraculous MadonnaEdit
In the third chapel on the left, Alphonse Ratisbonne is said to have received an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 20 January 1842. He immediately converted to Christianity from Judaism and later founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, an order originally intended for the conversion of the rest of the Jews but now working for interfaith dialogue.
Hence, this chapel is called the Cappella del Miracolo, and contains a venerated icon of Our Lady as she appeared to Ratisbonne. She is depicted standing alone without her Child, in a slightly diaphanous white silk floor-length dress with cincture, wearing a veil and diamond-studded crown and trailing a heavy blue gown wrapped round her upper arms. Rays of grace flash from her fingertips, and she stands on clouds with bare feet. This is a good example of an individualistic depiction of Our Lady resulting from a private vision, and not at all corresponding with the iconic tradition. It looks as if a real-life model posed for Domenico Bartolini, the painter.
The altar over which this picture is enshrined is decorated with alabaster and black-veined white marble, and has four Corinthian columns of verde antico marble supporting a broken triangular pediment. Into the break is inserted a monogram AVM (Ave Maria) supported and venerated by little bronze putti. There are very many ex-voto offerings, mostly in the form of silver hearts, attached to the pilasters of the arch containing the chapel. To the left is a bust of Ratisbonne, and to the right one of St Maximilian Kolbe who said his first Mass here.
This chapel used to be dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, but he was moved to the other side of the church to make way for the Miraculous Madonna.
Chapel of the CrucifixionEdit
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to the Crucifixion and is also known as the Cappella Accoramboni. The crucifix is anonymous, about 1680. The side walls have two tondi with portraits of members of the Accoramboni family, 1663.
The carvings here of fruit in white marble on a black marble background are very good.
Chapel of Our LadyEdit
The chapel in the corner on the left just by the entrance is also dedicated to Our Lady. It has an altarpiece showing Madonna and Child with Saints by Avanzino Nucci, who also executed the Annunciation and Nativity that flank it. The memorial just outside is to Cardinal Carlo Leopoldo Calcagnini, 1746, and was executed by Pietro Bracci who was also responsible for the figure of Neptune on the Trevi Fountain.
The ceiling vault of the sacristy is by Giacomo Triga, and the crucifix over the altar is by Gimignano.
The one thing that is unique to Rome in this church is in the crypt, which contains a putridarium. Instead of burying their dead in coffins, the early friars used to sit them in this stone chair with a hole in the seat. The way it worked was that, as the corpse decayed, the resulting liquid would flow into a receptacle underneath and leave skin and bones. These could be dismantled and placed in an ossuary. Two questions seem unanswered: How did they keep the flies out of the crypt, and what about the smell in the church?
The church is open:
October to June; 6:15 to 13:00, 16:00 to 19:00.
July to September; 6:30 to 12:30, 16:30 to 20:00.
Times differ in summer and winter. The church has one of the busiest liturgical schedules of any in the Centro Storico.
From October to June, Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 18:00;
Sundays and Solemnities 7:00, 9:00, 10:30, 12:00, 17:30, 19:00.
From July to September, Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:00, 8:00, 10:00, 11:00, 19:00;
Sundays and Solemnities 7:00, 9:30, 11:00, 19:00.
In winter, Lauds and Meditation is at 6:25, the Office of Readings with Sext is at 12:30 and Rosary with Vespers at 17:10.
In summer, Lauds and the Office of Readings is at 7:30, the recited Angelus and Sext is at 12:00 and Rosary with Vespers at 18:10.
(Beware, images have been posted online allegedly of this church, which are of others dedicated to St Andrew in Rome.)