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Sant'Eligio dei Ferrari

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Sant'Eligio dei Ferrari is a 16th and 17th century confraternity church at Via di San Giovanni Decollato 9, which is in the rione Ripa. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.

The dedication is to St Eligius of Noyon.

The name is also to be found as Ferrai or Fabbri.


The original church was built in the Middle Ages, at an unknown date (first recorded 1302) apparently to serve a hospice run by Tuscan expatriates. At the end of its existence it was called San Giacomo d'Altopasso. In 1453 it was in ruins, and Pope Nicholas V granted it to the Università dei Ferrari, a guild of metalworkers. In 1513 this confraternity had the church completely rebuilt and re-dedicated to their patron, St Eligius. 

Meanwhile, in 1509 the goldsmiths had a big argument with the rest, because they resented being treated as equal to those who made things out of baser metals. As a result, they split from the association and built their own church, Sant'Eligio degli Orefici. This explains why there are two churches in Rome dedicated to this nowadays rather obscure French saint; there used to be a third, Sant'Eligio dei Sellai, used by the guild of blacksmiths or farriers and now demolished.

In 1641 the sanctuary was restored with stucco decorations by Giovanni Battista Mola and Giovanni Battista Ferrabosco. Then, in 1663 there was a major re-fitting in the Baroque style, and this is essentially the building that we have today.

However, the façade was rebuilt by Carlo Maria Busiri Vici in 1903 -the bright red brick that he used gives this away.


Layout and fabricEdit

The nave is a brick box with a simple pitched and tiled roof, and with three windows on each side. The presbyterium is lower and narrower, with an integral semi-circular apse. This is surrounded by ancillary rooms such as the sacristy, with roofs lower still.

To the left of the façade is the Confraternity headquarters.

The campanile is an open frame with two large arches, one above the other and topped by a little triangular pedimented gable. It is invisible from the street, but there is a view of it from the Campodoglio.


The Busiri Vici façade is a fairly poor piece of design, perhaps because he had limited funds available. It is in bright red brick, of one storey with four gigantic Doric pilasters in shallow relief standing on limestone plinths. These support an entablature with a molded architrave, blank frieze and projecting cornice with modillions. The crowning triangular pediment has modillions too, and a blank tympanum.

The molded doorcase has a triangular pediment raised on curlicue brackets, over an epigraph proclaiming the Confraternity's ownership of the church. Above this is a very large central lunette window, the molded sill of which is continued as a string course behind the pilasters.

The only interesting feature on the façade is a badly weathered bust of the patron saint, in a framed tondo in between door and window.



There is an aisleless nave, with a separate presbyterium. The side walls have blind arcades with three arches each, which function as side chapels. Within each arcade arch, above the altar, is a window. The separate identities of the chapels is accentuated by a pair of false piers on each side separating them, which do not actually support anything.

The decoration of the church is extremely sumptuous. The piers just mentioned have Doric pilasters in what looks like a purplish-pink marble on their inner faces. The archivolts of the chapel arches have little fresco panels, as does the frontage of the gallery over the entrance on which the organ stands. The walls flanking the windows are also frescoed.

The spectacular coffered ceiling is intricately carved and almost completely gilded, with some blue bits in the lacunae. The central panel shows the emblem of the Confraternity, including an anvil.

The triumphal arch is flanked by a pair of doorways with raised segmental pediments. The right hand one now contains a statue of the patron saint. Above these doorways is a pair of cantoria or opera boxes for solo singers and musicians.


The sanctuary has one bay, followed by an apse. The former has a barrel vault, and the apse has a conch forming a design unit with it. The bay has two windows inserted into the vault, and the apse three.

The vaulting, and the intrados of the triumphal arch, is lusciously decorated in gilded stucco on white, with a floral theme focussing on the Dove of the Holy Spirit.

The main altar has a pair of red marble Corinthian columns supporting a segmental pediment with the central section recessed and with modillions. Oddly, on top of the pediment is a pair of curlicues looking like caterpillars. The enormous round-headed altarpiece was painted by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta in about 1565, and features The Madonna and Child with SS James, Eligius and Martin. This painting deserves to be better known.

Side chapelsEdit

The side altars are a display of polychrome marble work, all but one having a pair of columns in red and white marble (or jasper?). Starting from the bottom right hand side, the side chapels are:

St Anthony of Egypt. The marble work features green and purple veined marbles, which contrast with the red columns. The altar frontal is alabaster. The altarpiece is a painted wooden statue of the saint in an arched niche; don't miss the little pig at his left, which symbolizes his famous temptations while alone in the desert. The date of the statue is about 1625 also.

The second altar on the right hand side features an anonymous 17th century altarpiece showing The Holy Family with the Infant St John.

The third altar on the right is described as having an altarpiece of 1777 depicting The Death of St Francis, but in 2013 had a Mannerist fresco fragment of Christ Meets His Mother on the Way of the Cross, obviously not fitting in its frame. Was the original stolen? The substitution was apparently made in 1989.

The third altar on the left has an altarpiece of The Crucifixion, a copy of a work by Scipione Pulzone of 1599.

The second altar on the left has an altarpiece depicting The Martyrdom of St Ursula, by Andrea Mattei of 1764. The altar has a pair of green marble columns, and a strongly coved entablature.

The first altarpiece on the left shows Ampelius the Smith, an obscure hermit, about to die and be taken by angels to Christ waiting above. The work is about 1730. As the inscription above makes clear, this work was a private devotion on the part of the Confraternity because this hermit was not beatified, and information on him is not easy to find. The altar must have been dedicated to someone else.


The church is only regularly open for Mass on Sunday at 11:00. If you turn up at about 10:30, you should find it open.

The location is rather out of the way, but the church is well worth visiting.

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Nolli map (look for 1047)

"De Alvariis" gallery on Flickr -exterior

"De Alvariis" gallery on Flickr -interior

Confraternity's website

"Romeartlover" web-page

Info.roma web-page

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