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Sant'Orsola della Pietà

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Sant'Orsola della Pietà is a lost church that used to stand at what is now the west end of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, at the approach to the bridge of the same name.

The dedication was to St Ursula.


The church is mentioned in the Mirabilia Urbis Romae, a 12th century pilgrims' guide, where it is said to be located in what used to be the secretariat of Nero. This does not make much sense, but excavations have revealed remains of what it thought to have been the Schola quindecimvirum sacris faciundis, the offices of the pagan priesthood responsible for certain games (ludi saeculares).

The church is listed in the Catalogue of Turin (c. 1320) as having three black monks in charge (habens tres monachos nigros). Most likely this refers to Benedictines, although Servite friars are another possibility.

In a bull from Pope Urban III in 1186, it is referred to as Sancto Urso in Ponto. By then, it was a long-established parish church. In the 15th century the name was changed to Santa Ursula, probably because St Ursus was not well known, and there was a mix-up of the kind that is common to the period. The St Ursus concerned was probably the Irish missionary who was bishop of Aosta in the 6th century, although another saintly Ursus was bishop of Ravenna at the end of the 4th century. A catalogue from 1492 listed the church as Sancti Ursi alias Ursulae, while by 1555 it is simply called Sanctae Ursulae.

It was rebuilt in the 16th century, and the reconsecration confirmed it as dedicated to St Ursula. It is chiefly remembered as being the first church in Rome at which St Philip Neri preached.

It was, however, demolished when the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Via Acciaioli and Ponte Principe Amedeo were built in 1886.


Before the new roads were built, the church was hidden away in alleyways between what is now called Via Paola and a lost street called Vicolo del'Oro which ran due east from San Giovanni dei Fiorentini. The main access was from the former street at the Palazzo Niccolini, and ran due south to widen into a rectangular open area running north to south. An arcade also running north to south divided this in two, and the entrance to the church was halfway down the western side of the west courtyard.

Now, the footprint of the church is covered by the large orange building containing the Taverna Giulia, just west of the bus station.


The plan was a straightforward rectangle, with a little square apse. The interior side walls had no pilasters, and apparently no side chapels or altars.

However, the interior was richly decorated. The walls were frescoed by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta, the ceiling by Taddeo Zuccari and the main altarpiece was by Siciolante also. This little church was a serious loss.

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